Nerves kick in as I weave my way past rows of fat people munching on fried chicken and simultaneously shoving coins into slot machines. I’m looking for Caesar’s Palace Conference Center but all I can see is a giant bust of Nero and rows of busy blackjack tables. It’s 8am.

At 9am, having eaten my own way through a Vegas breakfast buffet the
length of a tube carriage, I’m ready to present six hours of brand new
material onhow to write cost-effective customer care copy at Jakob Nielsen’s Usability Week.

This is a credit-crunch friendly course, expounding the virtues of investing in those often overlooked bits of text on websites and email that can actually show enormous ROI if given a bit of attention. So we’re talking transactional and order confirmation emails, sign-up pages, reassurance text around forms, security messages and FAQs.

While my course summary on the NN/g website clearly states that this is a highly practical session, that hasn’t stopped a Russian and two Swedes signing up for the day-long copy workshop.

The Swedes, of course, turn out to have a better grasp of English than most Brits, ask brilliant questions and transform the day with their enthusiasm for what better web text might do for their scheduling software sales. The Russian mostly spends the day typing a CMS spec for his colleagues back in Moscow.

Also in the class is a Kiwi, who sells iPhone apps and has a fantastic grasp of how to write web-friendly, benefit-driven copy. The only trouble is his partner – who writes a lot of the text on their website and  iTunes page -isn’t quite up to speed yet…

Most interesting debate of the day is where we work out how to give customers bad news via email. For example a scenario where customer service can only be delivered by email and not by phone.

We agree that the best way to manage expectations is to be upfront and apologetic and to focus on the inherent benefits of what you can deliver. Which might go something like this:

‘We understand you’d prefer to speak to us on the phone and we’re sorry we can’t offer you this service yet…However we’re really good at fixing things via email and if you give that a try, we promise we’ll work with you until the problem is solved. You can email us round the clock and you’ll get a personal reply within 2 hours

I also furthered my one-woman mission to eradicate the phrase ‘denotes mandatory field’ from websites around the globe. Most satisfactorily, last time I had this rant (at AdTech) the editor of a travel website emailed me afterwards to confirm that removing this from a sign-up form had resulted in an uplift in sales. As the Americans would say, who knew? 

Actually I did. And on that smug note, I weave back through the casino, resisting the lure of the roulette table to go and mug up on tomorrow’s ‘Building a Brand Tone of Voice Online’ session and have an early night. How pathetically un-Vegas…