Getting customer reactions

Subject: Getting customer reactions
From: Alexander Von_obert <avobert -at- TWH -dot- MSN -dot- SUB -dot- ORG>
Date: Wed, 4 Oct 1995 12:18:00 +0200

Hello Mark,

* Antwort auf eine Nachricht von Mark Levinson an All am 02.10.95

ML> From: Mark Levinson <mark -at- sd -dot- co -dot- il>

ML> I suggested to my boss that a representative from our
ML> documentation
ML> department should venture out into the field to talk
ML> to real users and interview them about the manuals and online
ML> help that they're receiving from us.

an excellent idea! Anyone should do that anyway and I hardly see anyone better
suited to do so than a technical communicator:

- Has communication skills
- Knows a lot about the product
(on a broad overview and from the outside -
not dependent on all those little blocks you encounter during developement)
- Works on LOTS of things the customer sees directly
(I advocate to let the documentation departement design at least
prototypes of the user interface of software. If you want to know
more, send an empty message to onlchecklist -at- twh -dot- msn -dot- sub -dot- org)

ML> Not that I necessarily expect to go touring the world to
ML> research
ML> what our users are doing, but maybe I could at least get an
ML> expense-account lunch out of town and a little real-world
ML> wisdom
ML> if I can prove that the practice is not unprecedented.

In the eighties I wrote service manuals for medical electronics. I managed to
go out to some hospitals with a service technican. It shurely influenced my
view on my manuals.

ML> Alternatively, what other tactics are companies using to
ML> analyze
ML> how users react to their documentation?

One of my customers, a larger software company here in Germany, has an
extensive test program for its new software package (there are already a few
100 manYEARS in it): As soon as there was any usable functionality in the
program, they had five installations at potential customers. Every few
months they invite about eight potential users of that package to their
facilities to do some testing.

But I must confess: This company is a special case as even the competition is
not interested in the bankrupcy of that company. They set the standards in
their field and the competition simply has to offer systems according to these
standards a bit more polished and a bit cheaper.

ML> Who's using one-way-mirror labs?

Microsoft seems to do things in this direction. Some journals do it, but
simply to test usability.

ML> Who's getting indirect feedback via marketing or
ML> support?

My experience is that you hardly get any.

ML> Who's relying on reply cards? What other methods are in use?

At least for some time, Hewlett-Packard had reply cards in their manuals and
even offered prices to all sending in these cards. But from what I know about
German HP facilities, they hardly get any cards. And if they get, they come
from a very selected group.

BTW: If that messages manages to reach the mailing list, I can read TECHWR-L
through the newsgroup bit.listserv.techwr-l and post directly to the list. I
shure Eric Ray will glad to help you set up the same for you.

Greetings from Germany,

|Fidonet: Alexander Von_obert 2:2490/1719
|Internet: avobert -at- twh -dot- msn -dot- sub -dot- org

| Standard disclaimer: The views of this user are strictly his own.
| From TechWriter's Home, Nuernberg Germany
| phone 49+911+591530, FIDOnet 2:2490/1719

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