Someone in the reading audience is probably asking, “How on EARTH can a review of a meal delivery service relate to technical writing?” To which I would say: 1) You know me by now, I’ll find a way; and 2) YOU try filling a blog about the same topic twice a week and see how well you do finding new things to say! To get this game started, though, you can assume that meal prep requires some instructions–recipes, if you will–and yes, I consider recipes technical writing. As it happens, my Hello Fresh had connections to customer service, logistics, and documentation. Lucky you!
Technical Communications and Meal Delivery
This whole business started because my father sent me a gift card for Hello Fresh, a semi-prepped meal service (I’ll explain the semi-prepped bit later). Anyhow, I started the process online, inputting the coupon code, and found that it didn’t work. I retyped it twice to make certain my fingers were behaving themselves, then sought help through their online customer service.
I have no idea how big Hello Fresh is or how many people they have on staff (or where), but they responded quickly. Through their chat app, I explained my problem to the representative (rep) and gave them the code from the gift card. I explained that the coupon was for $80 off my first two orders or some such thing.
The rep apologized, refunded the money I’d put on my card, then put my order in with the discount applied. I found this an excellent, prompt handling of service recovery, so good for Hello Fresh.
I mentioned that the meals Hello Fresh provides are semi-prepared, meaning that they provide all the ingredients (minus pots, pans, utensils, and minor things such as salt, pepper, and water). In this case, unlike meal prep at home, where the quantity of ingredients they sell in the store is usually more than you need, Hello Fresh provides only the amount you need, saving you money on items you don’t necessarily need elsewhere. They also deliver three meals for two or four people once a week. That’s a fine example of “just in time” (JIT) logistics, with the customer receiving only the materials they need, just when they need them.
What does JIT logistics have to do with technical writing? My first job at the Department of Defense was supporting a company that handled petroleum, water, and power system logistics. Among other tasks, they were paid by the U.S. Army’s logistics department to maintain, refurbish, and deliver petroleum (fuel) and water systems wherever the Army needed them. When they shipped individual equipment sets (say, a fuel bladder and pump), they also would need to include all the tools, equipment, parts, instruction manuals, and spares necessary to assemble, operate, and maintain the system in the field. The process was called “kitting” because they were putting together full kits needed to assemble a piece of hardware. Like the Army’s logistics group, Hello Fresh has individual components (meals) packaged separately and properly labeled so you know what goes with what:
There are plenty of technical writing opportunities in the logistics field, whether it’s petroleum, water, or home meal delivery, including writing proposals for doing the work, developing the user documentation (instructions, recipes), and developing the bill of materials (BOM). This brings me to…
I was pleased with the Hello Fresh instructions. On a slick, double-sided 8.5×11-inch flyer, they displayed the completed meal on one side, the preparation instructions on the other:
As a tech writer and, more importantly, as an end user, I appreciated the effort that went into making the process as simple and easy to use as possible. Mind you, there are services that are even simpler, with meals arriving fully prepared, but for those of us who enjoy cooking, the Hello Fresh process was user friendly.
You can find other examples of technical writing in the environment around you. They provide an opportunity for you to evaluate how effective it is, what you could do to make it better, and identify ways you can apply the usability features of tech writing you find around you to your own work Keep observing, and bon apétit!