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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Tech Comm Certification

In March 2012 I achieved a world first: I was awarded the designation of Certified Professional Technical Communicator™ (CPTC™) by the Society for Technical Communication Certification Commission. This certification is on a par with MCSE, PMP, CMC, CPA and other professional designations. It indicates that I have met the criteria for certification as an expert in my profession of technical communication. The road to Certification for technical communicators has been a long one. Forty years in the making, we now have acknowledgement of our skills and abilities in a way that is meaningful to employers and clients. Because the profession encompasses so many aspects of technology and communication, it took a long time for technical communicators themselves to reach consensus on what capabilities should be evaluated during the certification process.

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