Nicki (the CTO) and I have always been about automation and self-service. We are right on the edge of GenX and Millennial and are addicted to being able to order and use whatever (call it WidgetX) at 2am on a Tuesday morning without interacting with a sales person. I want to be able to find all the information I want about WidgetX in support forums and videos without calling a help desk.
We've talked internally about this concept extensively and we've come to agree that our greatest influence was as customers of iiNet in the early 2000s during the Michael Malone days. You could just get so much done on the iiNet site without talking to a team member and the support section was open to access.
We both loved this approach to support and automation. I'd suspect it was predicated on needing to achieve scale profitably. I don't know if it was driven by Michael himself, but we certainly refer to it as his approach.
Many years later I must admit that we've used this model for sales and support model for every company we've run since probably 2008. It was probably not luck that we've since always worked with companies with services suited to this model.
I really hate concept of "5 simple rules for X" but here are some things we follow:
Public Support Content
Make your support content public. This content is so valuable to people outside your organisation and acts as a great representation of your commitment to empowering your customers. It also has the added benefit of increasing your public content footprint for search engines. On the flip side, this approach can destroy potential customer confidence in your business if your business only has five articles.
People Don't Really Read
People are busy and skim content. Themes and key messaging are important. It feels like 90% of sites these days are crammed with so much text and or stock imagery that makes you dismiss them immediately. Actually saying something genuine and compelling is more important that filling in all the boxes of the latest WordPress theme you just downloaded. Vision, Mission and Values statements.... everyone wants to go a great job, extol great values. It is a given. Is this content necessary anymore? Give me a few pictures of the people in charge and what they have done and what they believe in any day over the MVM content.
Stories are Gold
We've been through Google, SEO, CPC, events, swag, whitepapers etc. In the end we find that telling genuine stories are the best form of marketing and getting evangelists. Opening the kimono and showing what data centres look like, new servers, building networks and laying sub-sea cables (ref Bevan Slattery and James Spenceley) and talking about projects works for our technical customer base.
Click Now, Action Now
People want more control and interaction than ever, this is what we loved about the early iiNet days when no-one else was doing it. Buy a DSL service and track its progress. It was revolutionary at the time, but the concept still remains today and is at the core of every service Zettagrid delivers.
Core Services Only
We actually have a large business that sells a vast range of services, but you won't see them on every single site. We've made sure that each of our business has really one purpose. Keeping the message simple means the customer can understand what you can offer rather than getting confused with lots of services.
We still have a long way to go to get to where we want to be in terms automation and customer empowerment (and the goal posts change every day) but we often refer back the old iiNet days.