As consumers, most, if not all, of us can relate an experience where lack of knowledge caused some sort of harm. That speeding ticket… an extra interest penalty… those additional service fees… and on to the more egregious examples of late where liking a brand means you give up the right to sue. We all know of some silly examples of the opposite, like the tag you’re not allowed to remove from the pillows you just bought. But more often than not, we find that we don’t have a satisfactory course of action because we didn’t have the knowledge we needed up front. Annette Franz recently wrote an excellent blog post, “Do Customers Need a Safety Net?” which brought up this issue as part of addressing the woefully poor customer experience in financial services. Which begs this latest poll question–whether and when should tech comm and customer experience professionals take a role in dealing with consumer protection issues.
An increasing number of plain language advocates in our professions would suggest there might be a role, but I often find that our focus on tools and mechanics (style guides and structured authoring for example) blinds us to the overall challenge and strategic importance of what is often not thought of as a tech comm issue. I regularly hear and see tech comm pros complaining about a lack of access to users (substitute “customers” there), while CXM pros advocate understanding all the customer touchpoints with a company. Silos and departmental turf wars notwithstanding, some of these same pros shift responsibility with excuses about it being the job of marketing, or not wanting to rile the legal folks. Which are both valid points in many cases. Very few technical writers or customer experience consultants have law degrees, and missteps can cost a company dearly.
So where should tech comm and CXM stand when it comes to crafting strategy and responding to emerging issues around consumer protection? Should we not take a role because of the risk arising from the fact we aren’t legal or branding SMEs? Should we be proactive about addressing potential issues by ensuring that the language of EULAs, the text of warranties, and the official response of the call center be consistent and usable? Somewhere in the middle? Take a minute to vote in the poll, and add a comment on your experience either as a consumer or as a professional… both viewpoints are critical to understanding how customer experience management and the role of tech comm will continue to evolve.