The current edition of Autocar (14/12/11) contains an interview with David Woodhouse, head of Ford’s London Strategy Concept Group, a semi-secret team that looks at emerging consumer trends.
From the article:
Woodhouse said “One of the rising trends is the search for authenticity. How does it (the product) tell you what it is?” Woodhouse points towards the trend for simple, but beautifully engineered, fixed-wheel bikes….He believes every component on such bikes is an example of the authenticity that will mark the tastes of future customers.
If Woodhouse is correct, then how do you ensure a product has authenticity, and what role does the Technical Author play in all of this?
Essentially, the ‘customer experience’ (every situation where the customer uses the product or engages with the company) needs to be consistent, credible and communicate the ‘message’ the company wants to send out. The values of the product need to be also reflected in the post-sales experience, and the User Assistance in particular.
This is more than making sure the ‘look and feel’ of the documentation matches other forms of company communication. It could mean the user guides need to speak in the same ‘voice’ as the rest of the organisation. It could mean it needs to function (act/react) in a manner consistent with rest of the organisation.
If Woodhouse is correct in predicting the increase in the importance of product authenticity, then ensuring User Assistance is at the same level of quality as other ‘customer experiences’ may become a bigger and bigger issue for technology companies.