Re: Customer Site Visits

Subject: Re: Customer Site Visits
From: WandaJane Phillips <wjp -at- WRITELIVELIHOOD -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 2 Apr 1998 13:20:36 -0500

WHOA, you're going TOMORROW?!
When I made customer site visits, I had the following schedule:
- send requests outline purpose and structure of visit (2 months prior) -
okay you don't need this
- send questionnaires to participating customers, gather background
information on participants, what role they play in the organization, how
they use the software (ie, developer, administrator, end user, searching
only, etc.), also determine their language of choice and the language of
the docs they use
- according to the responses, create an agenda and question set for each site
- at the meeting, ask to tour the site, particularly the offices and areas
where people actually use the software, then at a meeting re-iterate the
purpose and structure of the meeting, go over questions, question/answer
period (where they asked me questions), then on to offices to explore the
software and manuals with them (explore tasks identified as difficult in
the first questionnaire sent out), while going through the process ask them
*what would you do here? how do you look for help? what do YOU call that?*
and so on
- summarize the results, report back to the customers to ensure that I
captured THEIR perspective
- keep running

At 10:55 02/04/98 -0500, Evelyn Slowik wrote:
>I am a tech. writer for a company that develops virtual prototyping
>software for the automotive industry. Tomorrow morning our writing
>staff of three is going make customer site visits to get feedback on our
>user manuals. We want to find out how our customers use the
>documentation and how they would like us to improve it for future
>releases. Have any of you ever gone on such a site visit? Our writing
>group is looking for advice to maximize this opportunity. What
>questions should we ask, what should we avoid?
>Thanks for your input.
>Evelyn Slowik

Good luck, I generally found the customers were thrilled to have such a
visit and an opportunity to shape the product, even the documentation <g>.

A lot of the questions to ask and questions to avoid depend on time and the
product. Most of the interview questions were extensions of the
questionnaires. I tried to balance open and closed questions (for example,
have you ever used the xyz function? yes/no do you have trouble using the
xyz function? yes/no has it produced the results you expected? yes/no have
you read the documentation for xyz? yes/no what is YOUR impression of the
purpose of xyz? blah blah blah)

I had a blast, even in the places where things didn't go well I learned a
lot about how people used the software and the documentation. I was able to
improve the documentation nine-fold (arbitrary number) for the product. The
documentation still needs a hundred-fold improvement, but
one-step-at-a-time for me.

/* Write Livelihood - Documentation that solves problems
/* WandaJane Phillips wjp -at- writelivelihood -dot- com
/* Visit our web site at

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