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helpstuff blog - November 2008

helpstuff blog

Helping end-users since 1981

Archives for: November 2008

11/24/08

Permalink 03:08:12 pm, Categories: User Assistance, 412 words   English (US)

Helping your customers ((i) Inspired by Seth Godin)

"How to answer the phone" was Seth Godin's blog entry today, and this one struck a nerve...not because we make customers go through nine prompts when they call us (we answer the phone if we're here and, amazingly enough, don't answer it when we're not here)...but because lately, it seems like every time I try to help someone out by answering a survey, I'm told after answering two questions that I'm not the target market.

As Seth says, "The only reason to answer the phone when a customer calls is to make the customer happy." In his case, after he finally made it through the nine prompts, he was told that he needed to call back after 10 am. Wouldn't it have been so much better to get that information first?

In my case, someone was researching information on a technical communication subject. No problem...I'm glad to help and I'll take your survey. I click the link and get...

  • Screen 1: Read the quick introduction and click Continue.
  • Screen 2: A qualifying question (think along the lines of "Do you have green eyes?").
  • Screen 3: A message ("You do not meet our qualifying criteria.").

I don't have a problem not meeting the criteria. What I do have a problem with is not being told what the criteria are ahead of time. If they had said that they only wanted green-eyed survey takers, I wouldn't have clicked the link.

Now maybe what they wanted to do is get everyone to take their survey so that they know how many non-green-eyed people had applied. (I have no way of knowing if they want to aggregate this information or not.) But if that was part of their goal, they could have asked a couple more questions...maybe "Would you consider wearing green contacts?" or "Does anyone in your house have green eyes?" They should have been able to come up with a few questions so that those of us with eyes of blue or brown or whatever aren't irritated.

Because right now? I am irritated that I was asked to help out when I wasn't the target market. And the next time this company posts a survey, I'll be less likely to help out, which means that they lose my input for future surveys that might apply to blue-eyed people.

I guess you could call this one of my new pet peeves. Do you have any? (We can cover grammar in another post if you'd like!)

11/16/08

Permalink 09:43:41 am, Categories: Announcements, 159 words   English (US)

New Tribes ebook is now available

Seth Godin's Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us was released in October, but way before that, he created a Ning network called Triiibes[1], where those interested in the concept could meet and talk and even work together.

The Q&A is the second project that the tribe worked on and I'm happy to say that I was part of it. Thanks to Megan Elizabeth Morris, who may have gone without sleep that weekend but made sure we finished by deadline, and to the other 150+ people who donated their time and efforts. Even though most of my stuff was at the end (editing), it was great working with everyone. It's a wonderful feeling when a project like this comes together.

Seth announced the ebook's release this morning on his blog.

[1] The online group is Triiibes because a) Seth found that tribes.com was already taken and b) it takes a minimum of three people to make a tribe.

11/09/08

Permalink 02:45:29 pm, Categories: Social Media, 786 words   English (US)

Do you tweet?

I've seen questions popping up in various places about Twitter. What is it? What's it good for? Why use it? So my first thought was to write a blog post about it.

And then all sorts of other folks got the same idea ;-) So I'm going to give you an introduction and then a bunch of links for other articles that provide more information.

Twitter is considered a "micro-blogging" service because of the size of the posts, commonly called "tweets": 140 characters. (If you type more than that, anyone who gets your tweets will receive multiples.) Why 140? Because SMS (or text) messages max out at 160, and those remaining 20 characters are used for things like the sender's name and timestamp.

If you look at the Twitter site, you'll see that it wants you to announce what you're doing. But as many people have stated, it's more than that. People tweet what they're doing, where they're going, who they're going with. They reply to other tweets (but publicly, which means that everyone can follow the conversation). Some folks use it for business...for example, I've set up a broadcast Twitter account for @helpstuff where I tweet things that are happening in the online Help world. Some folks combine business and personal. Some folks only use it for personal information.

But why use it at all? To me, it's a way to see what's going on in my friends' lives and to meet new people. More importantly, it's a way to find out what's going on in areas I might not normally investigate or that I'm curious about.

When I think of Twitter, I picture me at a large conference exhibition hall. All around me are numerous conversations...some personal, some professional, some a combination. Some folks are sharing information they learned from someone else. Some people I know, some I don't, and some are friends of friends. But unlike an expo where I might be hesitant to walk up and listen (or even jump) into a conversation, that's just what I do with Twitter.

For an extroverted introvert, this is the best of all worlds :-)

Once you set up your (free) account, you start following people. I follow what might be considered an eclectic group: friends, other Help authoring/online doc consultants, consultants in other fields, and people I probably would never meet or talk to otherwise. And as you follow people, they start following you. You can jump into the middle of conversations or start one.

How much you tweet and what you tweet about is up to you. Who you follow is up to you. How much you read is up to you. So Twitter doesn't have to take over your life...it enhances it based on the content you're interested in.

What if you want to eavesdrop on conversations but not take part? You don't have to join Twitter...just go to the individual pages of people you're interested in and read their tweets. (For example, my pages are at http://www.twitter.com/CharJTF and http://www.twitter.com/helpstuff.) At the bottom of the page is an RSS link that you can use if you prefer to see what's going on that way. If I've replied to someone, you'll see @name and it will be linked. Click the link to then read that person's tweets.

Or instead of reading individual pages, you can aggregate content with FriendFeed. (My personal feed is at http://friendfeed.com/charjtf and I have an aggregated feed at http://friendfeed.com/charjtf/friends.) So you could set up your own FriendFeed that pulls the information you want to keep up with.

If you do get a Twitter account, most people install some kind of application that grabs your tweets. I use TweetDeck, which is an AIR application that lets me group tweets...for example, I have columns for All Tweets, Friends, Replies, and Direct Messages. I can also create custom searches...for example, I have a custom search set up that lets me know if anyone has tweeted about helpstuff or hat-matrix.

Now for some links:

So whether you tweet or not, now you know what all the fuss is about :-) See you in the Twitterverse!

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