Getting customer' responses

Subject: Getting customer' responses
From: "Dimock, Dick" <red -at- ELSEGUNDOCA -dot- ATTGIS -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 3 Oct 1995 08:39:00 PDT

Big companies don't necessarily have funds for customer research.

We are a group of fifty covering the old NCR, now ATT GIS, large computer
product line.
Our Boss is an old experienced writer and doc person. He has laid it upon
us to get out
and commune with the users. Indeed, such activities will be mandatory, and
formal goals
for our Performance Reviews.

We have a large User Group that puts on an annual 3-day conference at which
ATT brings
out the new dogs and ponies. Perhaps I should reword that. Anyway...

Dox has always had a booth at these conferences. We always run a user
survey, either by
fill-in form, or by interview. Last year we pulled in about 200 response
forms. That is at least
200 users talked to in some manner. We have some little goodie reward for
filling out the
form - last year it was a poster suitable for a tech-weenie office wall.

This month, we will be interviewing verbally, and rewarding each participant
with a super
cool interactive multimedia product presentation on three diskettes. The
response will
probably be large.

Our Good Leader has stated that funds WILL be available for individual
travel to customer
sites for research interviews. We will try to set up such meetings with the
participants in
our conference survey.

Given the uncertain times of AT&T, and the fact that our annual budget STILL
has not been
approved, I will not be holding my breath waiting for travel funds.

In the less-moneyed past, we have managed to get writers out to customers
sites perhaps
every other year. If we can combine a writing research with a user research,
we try to do
that. For example, the writer doing a complex Installation Guide has gone
with the Beta (Alpha??)
engineering team to observe how well the Guide was written. He got valuable
feedback from
the customer as well as our own installers.

Another writer last year got approval for a customer visit to get feedback
on several manuals
she had worked on. She was away three days, and came back with some good
info on
reorganizing our book set.

As most doc groups do, we also include Reader Comment forms at the back of
each manual.
These are indeed flower petals dropped into the Grand Canyon. In my ...
ahhh... decades of
TWing, I have seen several feedback forms returned. Control Data was pretty
good, but the
audience was Field Engineers, and they returned corrections. Perhaps 10 in
my four years there.
Cray Research was dismal, with about five Field Engineer feedbacks in 14
years. Teradata/NCR/
ATT GIS is also dismal, with one feedback form in five years, but that from
a customer reader.
It is almost not worth the paper to print them feedback forms. I suppose it
makes it look as if
we really DO care. Well, we DO! Rather a one- way caring, I guess.

We have thought of incentives to prompt feedback forms, but our limited
budgets always kept
the reward goodie in the Ridiculously Cheap category, so none of that was

We shall see how our Good Boss's excellent intentions can be implemented. I
won't get a
trip, unless it is to a site installation job. I can get my Field Engineer
feedback here and via
email and phone.

Obviously, the better we know our audience, the better we can help them. By
no means can
we depend on Developers/Engineers to know the user, nor can we depend upon
Sales for
information. Gotta dig it out.

Has anyone used a Bulletin Board for posting the latest online files and for
getting responses?
This was another idea we had that died of poverty.

Regards to all,

Dick Dimock Who is about to turn the radio on for the VERDICT

AT&T Global Information Solutions, Which assumes I am really working
now, in Sunny

El Segundo, CA Which is on the periphery of the tension area,
but near
enough. Cars on the freeways seem to be riding a
little low in the rear, as if weighed down by munitions.

The freeways through
downtown LA were pretty stiff this morning when I came
through. The courthouse is swarming with police,
sightseeing ghouls, and the ever popular German
Shepards, bless them. Place your bets. I may wind up
leaving very early for home today. Then again, this may
simply be another fun-filled workday in El Segundo CA.
Richard -dot- Dimock -at- ElSegundoCA -dot- ATTGIS -dot- COM

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