A poorly written user manual or a confusing orientation seminar can compound a customer's disappointment with a purchase. To ensure that your company's customer communication tools are up to par, take a tip from a professional publisher of training materials and seminars. Sealund Associates, located in Clearwater, Fla., has adapted the "beta test" routine popularized by software companies to guarantee its customers completely debugged presentations and training manuals.

"If our manual is going to be used by bank teller trainees, we hire a person from a temporary agency, with at least the education level and background a teller might have, to work through our material and see if it's easy to grasp," says Barbara Sealund, founder and president. The company depends on temp agencies for "substitute customers," too, and keeps a list of independent contractors whom they tap for the reality checks. Putting the company's materials through such a quality check costs Sealund approximately $300.

This is just one of several quality-control tests that Sealund Associates uses before handing over its materials to a customer. After debugging the material, an instructional designer makes sure that all the principles of adult learning are used and that the process runs smoothly. An officer of the company also reviews the total package to ensure that the customer gets top-quality materials on time.