How Much is Lost Productivity Costing You?

Usability and User Experience (UX) are hot topics in the product development sector right now. The concept is that if you improve design, workflow, and other user-facing aspects of your product, leading to a better user experience, you will increase customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, and predictably, revenue. This is something technical communicators have understood and been working on for along time. When customers buy more products, because their user experience is consistently good with products from that source, companies understand the health that brings to their bottom line. However, there is hidden value in improving product usability (how the product enables users to complete their tasks): productivity. When workers slow down, have to troubleshoot, have to call user support, can’t figure out how to complete their task, and need to consult documentation, they are losing productivity. When it takes multiple people to solve a software- or process-induced problem, that is productive time stolen from the business. If you think of a ballpark $100 per hour (wages, benefits, overhead, etc.) per employee, delays start to add up quickly. Poor products and processes can cost businesses tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. The more a system is mission critical…

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Failure to Fix Causes Stress

In tech comm, we often talk about “customer support liabilities”, i.e., product issues that make a customer call for support (which is expensive for the company). Task-oriented design, usability, and good user testing can prevent these costly flaws in a product. In addition to the expense of paying for technical support, there is lost productivity and greater user frustration which companies frequently don’t figure into their analysis of their bottom line. Here’s an example of a fixable issue that causes people a LOT of problems. A large western college has an online testing system that only works in Internet Explorer. (That’s problem #1.) The only correct way to exit the testing system is to click the small Logout link in the upper right corner. If you close your browser, exit using the X in the corner, your computer crashes, you close your laptop, or exit the system in any way other than with the Logout link, the system _locks you out for a minimum of two hours_. This also happens if there is another login to the testing system on your account from a different machine. Supposedly, this is a security “feature”, but in reality, it is a huge problem…

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Business Hiatus — Good Idea or Bad?

Coming back from an enforced hiatus with my business I was musing about whether this was an opportunity or a setback. While there wasn’t much I could do about it at the time, worrying about it would have made things worse. Worry is never recommended. Most business owners have enough to worry about, without fretting about things over which they have no control. Going offline with one’s business can create additional problems — loss of mind share and market share as well, lag in keeping up with the competition, and an inability to figure out where to pick things back up. But sometimes an absence from the marketplace is a good thing. It can force you to become more innovative as you attempt to make up any lost ground. It may also give you a chance to recharge your batteries, so to speak. The caterpillar has to go into a cocoon in order to become a butterfly. Perhaps businesses need a time out now and then to morph into something more wonderful.

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