Customers come in different forms and shapes. We all have been customers at some point of our life. Our experiences vary from fruitful to bitter in taste. We play both the roles~ sender (publishing documents) and receiver (user) in our society. Our familiarity with the product decides the range of output and results in gratification.
I have seen customers (including me) ridiculing companies for poor documentation. It leads to high call volumes in support centers. I will share my experiences to help you understand the matter.
When I was an undergraduate, I joined an Insurance company as LA (Life Advisor). My job responsibilities were: making phone calls, arranging meetings, pitching products and closing a sale. I can guarantee you that; insurance industry badly needs to look after its policyholders. We all have insurance policies, how many of us have actually read and decipher the grey matter?
Policies are mis-sold to achieve targets. Customers find it difficult to understand complex statements/clause and agents do not help the cause either. Promises made before the policy inception fades away when customers come to know the real facts. Who is responsible? The customer or the agent. We can argue that; if you are buying a product, you should read the pros and cons. Do we follow such principles?
Experts who write policy documents do not interact with agents or customers. They adhere to the industry and regulatory guidelines. Customers (receivers) face the heat and leads to public outcry. Few of my customers told me that, they have not read beyond third page of the thirty-page policy document!
I accept their claim: insurance policies are long, but they contain solid and vital information that we often ignore. Cases are won and lost based on policy facts.
The point I am trying to make is that information dump may not work in such cases; life and health insurance companies should propose a different way to pass the message. Can Quick Information Guide or Document Reloaded book help?
My professional career began with Convergys (India) as a customer support executive. My job responsibilities included receiving calls, solving queries and meeting -stiff targets. I catered to North American customers, who called to make their payments (car, home, medication, and others).
I have faced variety of customers: abusive, hearing-impaired and genuine. All they wanted is answer to their question. I take a learning while writing manuals, answer to the point. Some of them narrate the entire story for their non-payment, while others accept their mistakes.
While writing document, it becomes difficult to imagine, what an end user will do with the product. I believe technical writers have to bring their artistic and scientific skills to picture. Finding answers to questions is the reason that we write manuals and online help.
I observed that when I used long sentences over the phone, customers were unable to comprehend. On the other side, when I used short and crisp sentences, they understood the crux of the matter. Ambiguous sentences and lack of search ability leads to confusion and customers lose patience.
My Team Leader once told me, “You sound robotic”. I could not agree more, after listening to the call. The rate of speech on all my calls was same, without any variations. He further went on to say that despite the flaw, you are very effective because “you hit between the eyes” when speaking, that is, answering to the customer’s need.
We can argue that customers are always right or vice-versa. To understand the dilemma, you need to put the end user shoes and start running. As writers, our job is to provide next level user experience.
Interact, Communicate, and Understand (ICU) the need of different people/departments to improve your writing process.
Feel free to share your experiences.