RE: The Perfect Productivity Metric

Subject: RE: The Perfect Productivity Metric
From: "Smith, Martin" <martin -dot- smith -at- encorp -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 10 Jul 2000 21:17:03 -0600

Edwin Skau wrote, regarding my suggestion that companies keep track of
customer questions and solutions, "Wake up and smell the real world Martin,
it doesn't resemble coffee in the least. Many calls for help are made by
people who would not take the trouble to read the documentation. If you
don't believe me, check out the queries on this list sometime. As far as
productivity metrics go, that one's a bummer. The only statistics you'll get
are on the number of lazy morons that have bought your product."

I simply must disagree. Furthermore, any company arrogant enough to refer to
me the customer as a lazy moron is not going to earn my continued support. I
am not suggesting that one measure the productivity of a technical writing
department solely based on the calls to technical support. I am, however,
suggesting that keeping track of customer feedback may provide insight into
ways to improve a product and its documentation.

If a company regularly disseminates information to customers over the phone
or via email but makes no effort to record the questions coming in or the
information going out, I would assert that such a company is letting
valuable information slip away.

The best companies that I've ever worked with as a consumer listen to the
customer base, evaluate the feedback they receive, analyze trends, and
incorporate that data in the decision making process. Why else do companies
often sponsor usenet news groups devoted to the products they produce. They
do so because that forum allows them to find out what their most advanced
(as well as their most frustrated) customers are doing with the product.

As Andrew Plato already wrote, the only metric that matters is the
profitability of the company. If your customers are frustrated and unhappy,
they won't continue purchasing upgrades. Best to improve the user interface,
improve the on-line help, and improve the documentation.

Another thing that I often do to assess our documentation is attend training
classes on our products with our customers. During these classes I listen
intently to any comments that our customers make during the course. I make
note of anything they find confusing. I pay attention to the questions that
they ask and ensure that the answers to those questions find their way into
the documentation.

In short, I actively gather as much data as I can first hand from real
customers in order to assess the quality of our documentation. Want a metric
to determine whether you are producing a quality product and quality
documentation. Ask your customers. Often. And pay attention.

Martin




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