The Communication Circle, LLC
When you ask for help in an Office 2003 application, you get a task pane over on the right with a section at the top called “Assistance” containing a Search box and a link to a Table of Contents. The next section highlights several new or popular articles on the Microsoft Office Online site, plus links to the Web assistance, training, communities, and downloads. At the bottom of the pane, a “See Also” section provides links to What’s New, Contact Us, and more.
If you type in a query at the top, you get a set of results “from Office Online,” the Microsoft site dedicated to content about Office. Underneath the title of each suggested article is a grayed-out row of breadcrumbs, indicating where the content appears in the overall table of contents. If you click the title, a “help” topic is downloaded from the site into a new pane, or an article launches a new browser window.
Similarly, if you choose the Table of Contents in the original task pane, the top level of content, downloaded from the Web, replaces everything else in the pane, and when you dig down and choose a topic, a second pane opens, containing an article from the Web. (The original pane, with the table of contents still open, slides left to make room.)
Each article ends with the question, “Was this information helpful?”
If you click Yes, you get this message:
Thank you for your comments. Please note that while we cannot respond to all comments individually, Microsoft continually makes improvements based on suggestions and feedback from users. Have a question? Contact us.
So even if the user is satisfied with the information, Microsoft invites contact—in many ways.
If you click Contact Us, though, you do not get an email form as you might expect. You go to a Contact Us page on the Web, urging self-help via the Assistance site, other Office users in Office communities, or the Knowledge Base. You can also get professional support, some of which costs money. Then you are invited to give traditional feedback: reporting a problem with the Web site, or making a suggestion on a product or feature. And finally, you are told that you may suggest new content for Office Online in four categories: new templates, Help articles, training courses, or clip art and media. That’s a lot of ways to make contact!
If you keep scrolling down, you even see articles describing how the feedback process works. The first link, “Learn more about how Office Online collects and uses your feedback,” takes you to a page titled, more attractively, “You talk: We listen and respond.” Very encouraging!
That article starts off in a conversational style, which is intermittently interrupted with group-speak. “Yes, we do listen to your feedback. Low ratings and your comments are the primary criteria we use to determine whether and how to improve an article or topic to increase customer satisfaction.” (Of course, most of us cannot tell the difference between a topic and an article, and some of us may feel stiffed when we are lumped together with the great horde of “customers.” So the tone does veer toward insider jargon, at times.)
But then comes the key point:
General comments such as “Nothing was right about the topic,” or “This article stinks,” are not specific enough for us to take action on, whereas a comment such as “The