Like accompanied surfing, researchers basically just watched people doing their job and looked for patterns in successful and unsuccessful use of help and support. The help and support covered manuals, online help, and helpdesks amongst others.
...the documentation was only part of the picture of how people do their work. Perfect documents don’t help users succeed unless the [development] team accounts for all these other factors. Because they made these site visits, the teams came up with some changes that showed great promise for improving users’ success.
Being involved in development, training, support and customer liaison I see the consequences of decisions made at each stage: how development decisions and training effectiveness determine the level and nature of support required; how the quality of training and support provision affects how people perform in their jobs and therefore our ongoing relationships.
When these functions are independent of each other decisions are taken that are right for one team only, or based on a misconception of how end users use (or want to use) a tool.
Docs in the real world - article by Carolyn Snyder for uie.com