People Really Do Read Product Instructions
Have you ever bought an item that required assembly and found the product instructions woefully inadequate? Perhaps they consisted of a small paper sheet folded eighteen times and hidden in the packaging only to be discovered when you started looking for help after the project went wrong.
Maybe the how-tos contained indecipherable drawings or diagrams that appeared to have been created by someone who had never actually seen the product. Poor translations are notorious for complicating matters. (Though they can provide comic relief in the heat of a difficult project when emotions are running high.)
Does Your Company Overlook How-Tos?
How-tos for assembly, installation, operation, upgrades, compatibility issues, rebates, trade-in promotions, and return procedures often seem to be an afterthought. In some cases, they are absent altogether or buried five links deep in a website. Many large companies spend millions on impressive cross-channel marketing but don’t provide useful product how-tos. Why the disconnect? The attitude, “Nobody reads the instructions, anyway,” is simply not true.
This post contains online comments made by customers who were not happy with furniture assembly product how-tos. Poor instructions, however, are not limited to the ready-to-assemble furniture category. They can be found in all types of markets and industries.
It is not my intention to disparage any product or company, so I have changed or removed the names. These comments were found at apartmenttherapy.com
Instructions Are Part of the Product
Here is a comment from a frustrated customer that clearly defines the primary issue with bad instructions; the instructions are expected as part of the product, and are an essential element of the customer experience:
“Part of a product is its instructions. The fancy packaging clearly denotes this as a DIY-oriented product. Therefore, the instructions should be appropriate for DIY types like me who have never done this before.”
Poor How-Tos Are No Better Than None At All
“My first impression was that the desk’s directions were seemingly missing steps, and were written in some ancient alchemical code.”
“Thanks to instruction defects on (Company Name)’s 6′ Dishwasher Connector, the installation was significantly lengthened.”
Consumers tie their product and company experience to the assembly and set-up of your products. Many times we focus on the usage of the product after it is assembled. Poor instructions can color a customer’s experience right from the start, thwarting any positive momentum you might have achieved.
Bad Instructions Create Bad Customer Experiences
“I think the most difficult time I’ve had with something was a barbeque. It took over 6 hours! That one was the instructions’ fault.”
“I also spent about TWO! WEEKS! struggling to figure out how to put together a metal vanity rack that goes around your toilet. The instructions reversed where the long and short screws were to go, AND it was impossible to put together even with revised instructions.”
“Recently my front door knob just came loose and the whole thing fell apart. The instructions were useless! …basically just pictures of putting the knob on the door. It didn’t say what to do with all the little springs and all the other little pieces that went on the handle. I spent hours working on it and went to bed without it.”
What is the chance that these customers will return? Not likely. Worse, however, is that these negative experiences have become part of the discussion on the web regarding these products. Customers are 3 times more likely to share a negative customer experience, emphasizing the importance of good instructions.
Liability: Actual Injuries Associated With Poor How-To Documentation
While gathering examples for this article, I discovered that poor product instructions can cause more harm than customer frustration. Hopefully, these instances are extremely rare, nevertheless, they should serve as a warning. Legal departments take note: here are descriptions of injuries linked to product assembly nightmares:
“I am trying to type this with one hand and a broken hand as a result of my most frustrated recent effort at assembling a piece of furniture.”
“I ended up crushing my foot and having to go to the emergency room. The nurse laughed when I told her it was an (Company Name) injury. She said she’d seen quite a few of those in her time!”
Product How-Tos and Overall Content Strategy
Companies who fail to deliver adequate product how-tos are missing a key marketing opportunity. Well thought-out product instructions help achieve many important marketing objectives:
Create positive customer experiences
Encourage repeat sales
Conserve customer service resources
Reinforce brand identity
Strengthen customer loyalty
How-Tos Used Before The Sale
Thus far, this post has discussed the role of product how-tos after the sale – but why limit their application? Savvy marketers use product how-tos before the sale, as well. Steptap allows companies to capture “How to…” and “How do I…” searches performed by prospects who have not yet purchased the product but are looking for the solution it provides.
The self-serve generation seeks product and company information on their own terms. Product how-tos are a simple, yet powerful tool to secure and convert prospects at the critical time when they are ready to engage.
The Soft Sell and the Upsell
Well-crafted product how-tos highlight and explain product features naturally, without the hard sell that turns off many prospects. What about upselling? When a buyer is reading your product how-tos, they are golden – a captive audience giving your product their full attention. By featuring compatible or related items from your product line, product how-tos drive upsells. There is never a better time to introduce them to all the other cool stuff you carry.
Create Exceptional Product How-Tos With Steptap
Steptap is a platform for creating product how-tos that transcend the historically humble content niche. Steptap product how-tos meet the key criteria:
- Easy to find
- Break long processes into manageable steps
- Written at a level that can be easily understood by all of your customers. (If you sell to a highly-educated customer, you should still err on the side of simplification)
- Can be downloaded, printed or accessed electronically
- Available in multiple places: your online store, resellers’ websites, packaging, social media sites, brick-and-mortar store shelves
- Are updated to reflect product changes
- Can be saved and quickly re-accessed
- Are translated accurately
- Can be easily shared or re-posted by the customer
- Can be viewed on a mobile device
- If necessary, can be used hands-free
Extend the Reach of Your Existing Documentation
Your company probably has a body of product documentation. PDFs, user manuals, customer updates, white papers, live chat transcripts, FAQs, and employee training docs are a rich source of content that can be used to create product how-tos thereby extending the ROI and reach.
See How Product How-Tos Have Evolved at Steptap
To learn how to create product instructions that rock, visit steptap.com. Set up a free account with just a couple clicks and create your first product how-to in minutes. Add images and video for how-tos that create a hassle-free experience for your customers.
Steptap how-tos, (called steplists) can be posted to your online store, embedded in your blog, featured on your company Facebook page, shared on Pinterest, added to your YouTube channel, or downloaded from a self-generated QR code.
Each steplist is a Google-indexed searchable page that links directly to your website (or anywhere you want). If you use the nifty timing feature, customers can play the steplist on their smart phone or iPad and set up your product hands-free. The steps, complete with pictures, diagrams or video, will advance automatically as your customer completes each step in the process.
Instructions Worthy of Your Product
At steptap.com, you can build your own instructions or hire our team of how-to experts to create compelling step-based directions that complement and blend seamlessly with your existing marketing content.
Check out this Steptap how-to for changing your oil How To Change Your Oil. Hover over the product name under the Required Items section at the beginning of the how-to to see how a prospect can purchase the product or receive more information. Press Begin under the steplist to see how it advances through the steps.
You can manage your library of product instructions on our site and update each as needed due to changes in product specs, promotions, return procedures, or regulations.