CloudBees Cross-Pollination: Documentation and Support

My manager Tammy mentioned at our team meeting there was an opportunity for technical writers to rotate with the support team. This enables us technical writers to learn more about the CloudBees products and real-world examples of customer issues. Having been at CloudBees for only a few months, I took advantage of the opportunity to learn more about CloudBees CodeShip. While jumping at the opportunity, I really did not know exactly what  was going to happen. I raised my hand to volunteer without getting any details and said yes. I do this quite often and sometimes it gets me into trouble.

What I’ve learned on my journey as a technical writer is that it is imperative to know as much as possible about your product—no matter what your role is in the company. I couldn’t think of a better way to learn about our customer than work side-by-side with customer support. Although I’m a technical writer, I spent most of my career writing code and solving software problems.  I wondered if I would be drawing from my past experience as a software engineer during the support rotation.

I was excited to be paired with Michelle Fogwell, development support engineer, who is based in the Raleigh office with me. Before getting started with the rotation, Michelle and I discussed goals for the support rotation. Our goals included:

  • How to talk to customers

  • How to research technical issues

  • Capture  how documentation plays a part with our customers

I didn’t know what to expect on the first day of my rotation. Would I be on the phone with customers all day?  Would I be troubleshooting all day? Would I meet face-to-face with customers?

My first day, the customer support team gave me access to Zendesk, the tool that they use to view customer issues, and Michelle showed me how to view customer issues in Zendesk. Before my rotation, I used to refer to the customer as a CloudBees CodeShip user. Now, I put names and companies to our CloudBees Codeship customers.

Next, Michelle gave me an overview of her daily tasks. We reviewed several tickets, and she told me her approach to answering customer issues.  

  • Ask the customer for clarification of the problem if needed.

  • Research the problem.

  • Look for documentation to support the answer.

One of the things that really stood out to me was that customer support refers to product documentation to give a well-rounded answer on most tickets. (I always knew that it was important for our documentation to be accurate, but it really hit home to see that Customer Support is using our own product documentation to satisfy customers.)

After looking at several customer issues, Michelle and I talked about the needed knowledge to accurately answer users’ questions. We both were surprised about the amount of knowledge needed from other products and industry knowledge. For example, a user needs a solid understanding of Docker to understand CloudBees CodeShip Pro.

During the rotation, we took some time to review Docker. Using a Docker tutorial, and with Michelle walking me through, I built an image, ran it as a container, scaled my app to run multiple containers and distributed my app across a cluster. Learning Docker was an added bonus during my rotation!

To gain more CloudBees CodeShip product knowledge, we set up a CloudBees Codeship Pro project for testing. We stepped through the Getting Started Guide for CodeShip Pro. Michelle answered my questions and helped me with any roadblocks that I worked through while setting up my project. After learning about Docker and creating a CloudBees CodeShip Pro project, Michelle gave me several customer issues to work on. I applied her approach to respond to customer issues. I realize how important documentation is to the product.

My support rotation was a valuable experience. I learned much more than I anticipated. I was able to understand what our support team does day-to-day and see what the customer struggles with most. This experience has lead to regular check-ins with Michelle to make sure I always understand customer struggles so I can write better documentation based on customer use cases.

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