Re: Documentation feedback

Subject: Re: Documentation feedback
From: Beth Agnew <beth -dot- agnew -at- senecac -dot- on -dot- ca>
To: Sarah Bouchier <Sarah -dot- Bouchier -at- exony -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 28 Dec 2006 08:42:28 -0500

Make friends with your marketing department, the sales people, and the customer support people -- anyone who talks to customers on a regular basis. The marketing department is valuable to you because they are supposed to be asking customers what they need and what they want. They might have a focus group (small group of customers) you could talk to, or to whom they could put questions on your behalf. They might also help you with a survey, and they would certainly (or at least they should) have a customer database. They should know who the "friends" of the company are among the customers, meaning the users of your product who are most pleased with it. Talking to customers who are already kindly disposed toward your company and products is a good first step, because they will tell you the truth and care about what you are going to do about it. Marketing should help you contact a few customers to get the information you want.

The sales people should be able to tell you what customers are asking for in the marketplace. Ask them to ask about documentation. How important is the documentation to their prospects. Have they ever lost a sale because the documentation didn't seem to meet the customer's needs (it happens)? Do they know they can use the documentation as a sales tool? When they start mentioning documentation to the customers, the customers will often have an opinion about the things that bug them about manuals. That's an opportunity for you to do some prevention as well as education.

Customer support should be able to tell you what problems customers are having with the documentation. That is, if they are asking customers whether they've tried to find the answer in the docs before calling tech support. I always try to get customer support to tactfully remind customers that the manuals have most of the answers they need. If you can get access to the typical problems customers are calling in with, you can then cross-check with your documentation to ensure these issues are explained clearly enough and in sufficient detail. That's indirect feedback, but just as valuable.

Sarah Bouchier wrote:

What do you find is the best way of getting feedback from customers on
your documentation?

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Documentation feedback: From: Sarah Bouchier

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