Re: RTFM? Really?

Subject: Re: RTFM? Really?
From: Mike Starr <mike -at- writestarr -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Fri, 26 Sep 2014 12:34:32 -0500

So, maybe instead of RTFM, we should just say RTFD (Read The F***ing Documentation) and separate the delivery method from the fact that there actually is adequate documentation even if the customer doesn't bother with it.Nancy's got a really good point. We do the best we can to provide whatever assistance we can to our customers. How we deliver that assistance is secondary to actually getting our customers to consult that assistance. It doesn't matter whether it's on paper, a PDF, online help or whatever... if our customers fail to avail themselves of what we've created for them, they're going to pick up the phone.

If enough customers call that a company needs a call center staffed 24/7/365 that's an additional expense that we'd like to avoid or at least minimize. Some calls can't be resolved by telling the customer to RTFM because some products actually have design flaws whether it's software or hardware. However, hopefully those calls are a minimum percentage of the calls we receive.

But the fact is that in many cases, the vast majority of calls can be resolved by getting the customer to RTFM (no matter what delivery method we use). No matter how good the FM is or what delivery mechanism we choose, it's like pulling teeth to achieve acceptance and use of the FM among the customers. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.

I'd just about finished this screed when I took a look at Tony's followup... Tony said:

Customers want out of the box functionality, with some power-user

That's fine for one-trick pony products but when the product is an incredibly powerful and complex product with a lot of options, it's a whole different ball game. Products of that nature require comprehensive documentation. You can't just do a quick-reference that tells the customer how do do a dozen or so simple procedures. You need to give them reference material that explains how the (e.g.) 20 different controls (radio buttons, drop-downs, etc.) on a specific dialog box affect how the process they want to accomplish is performed... how those variations in control settings affect the results. Many will say to simplify the product but if the marketplace demands that level of power and complexity (and more importantly if the competition is providing it), that's not always a workable option. I've worked with products with that level of complexity and routinely beaten up the programmers and engineers when there's a better way to present options to the customers but even that doesn't always get the customer the information they need if they don't consult the documentation.

Best Regards,

Mike Starr, Writer
Technical Writer - Online Help Developer - WordPress Websites
Graphic Designer - Desktop Publisher - Custom Microsoft Word templates
(262) 694-1028 - mike -at- writestarr -dot- com -
President - Working Writers of Wisconsin

On 9/26/2014 11:53 AM, Nancy Allison wrote:

The RTFM discussion concerns only calls that come in. It does not
concern, or quantify, the calls that did not come in because people did
indeed consult the manual, got the answer they needed, and therefore
did not call.

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Re: RTFM? Really?: From: Nancy Allison

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