TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:Re: Users and what they ... From:BurkBrick -at- AOL -dot- COM Date:Tue, 7 Jun 1994 10:39:30 EDT
>When I can't do that, I go to BOTH sales/marketing AND product support.
The company I worked for had a sales/marketing department, but it consisted
of only salespeople (mostly outside).
>The sales people (if they're any good) know why people
>are buying the software (or at least why the company
>wants them to buy it and how successful that is).
This was the crux of my problem. The salesmen looked at the electronics as
"throwaway" items in a project. For example, a combustion controller (list
price was about $3000) for which I did the manual was often provided free
because the furnace job it was going on was worth 100s of thousands of
dollars (I'm trying to remember the typical $ value of some of these systems;
I think the biggest job they had was in the $1MM area). The salesmen (and
they were all men), for the most part, were not comfortable with the
electronic equipment, and I think they only sold it because it looked
high-tech. Most of them didn't understand the advantages of it, and were
suspicious of its ability to withstand the rugged environment. They preferred
adjusting valves to trusting these electronic devices.
Anyway, the upshot of all this is that the salesmen really *didn't* know the
advantages of the equipment, or problems that people were having. I pushed
for creating sales literature _for_the_salesmen_ - stuff to sell our salesmen
on these products - but no one else thought it was important enough to spend
the time on.
>The product support people know what isn't working or
>is hard to understand, because they're on the front lines. I also include
>both of these departments in my routing, so they can see how well I
>incorporated the information they gave me.
If these guys had ever been in-house (they were usually on the road most of
the time), this would have been a great option.
At another company, I had a different problem with in-house support people.
They refused to track support calls (their manager thought it was a waste of
time). I was trying to get fairly objective information from them, but
instead often heard about the problem of the morning, or what they thought
was the worst problem. Unfortunately, this was usually the customer who
yelled the loudest, and not a representive sampling of actual problems.
I like your idea about selling usability testing. You're right - it's what I
normally do in the course of writing about it. Haven't had to sell in a
while, but next time I do, I'll start incorporating it.