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Live from LavaCon: It’s Amazing What You Can Learn When You Actually Listen to Customers

It’s Amazing What You Can Learn When You Actually Listen to Customers, by Jon Ann Lindsey, Google

Jon Ann works in consumer help centers. She’s trying to get a handle on the quality of translated content, so she had experts review customer service emails and help articles across 11 countries, and the findings were surprising: they thought they knew their customers, but they got a lot of insights.

Good intentions are not sufficient to solve our (content) problems -Mary Parker Follett (with help from Jon Ann Lindsey)

Example: There are some adorable penguin photos that we love in the states! They hated them in other countries.

  • In an instructional text, people found it jarring and annoying
  • In Dubai, they didn’t even recognize them
  • In Japan they said “it’s not appropriate for Help, where the user is having difficulties”

Google has 5,000 articles per Help Center, 65 Help Centers, 44 languages. This is a big deal. So they decided “if we’re going to learn about consumers, we’re doing it big.”

They hired a company to hire all the articles, do surveys and questionnaires, and evaluate for:

  • Voice and tone
  • Readability
  • Terminology
  • Humor/cultural references

When Google came in, they then did workshops in each market to learn more from the users. The consultants facilitated, so the Google team was there to listen. And they listened and learned.

  • In Thai, since there are no spaces between words long sentences are a WAY bigger issue
  • In Indonesia, since they don’t have tenses so a long sentence becomes much much longer

Across all markets, one issue stood out. The biggest issue was that they were overly repetitious. They’d never heard that before.

Being empathetic is understanding that people don’t want to be in your help section. So you can best help by getting out of their way.

Marli Mesibov

Marli is a content strategist with a passion for the user experience. Her work spans websites, web applications, and mobile. Marli is the VP of Content Strategy at the UX design agency Mad*Pow, and she serves as managing editor at UX Booth, a publication about all areas of user experience. Marli is a frequent conference speaker, and has spoken at conferences including Content Strategy Forum and LavaCon. She can also be found on Twitter, where she shares thoughts on content strategy, literature, and Muppets.

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