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The user manual as part of the customer journey

INSTRKTIV Blog - Usability

Customer journey

Customer journeys are all the rage at the moment. Organisations and marketing departments are really interested in the journey a customer takes before buying a product and, increasingly, afterwards too. A customer journey reflects the interactions a customer has with an organisation in the context of sales and service processes. It gives insights into the degree to which you have set up your customer process (Groen, 2012).

Do you want a compliant user manual for your machinery, electrical equipment, toys or medical device?

Have a look at our User Manual Templates

According to the peak-end rule (Kahneman, 1993), your business has to see to it that the most recent experience in the customer journey is a good one. This experience is the one that stays with the customer. And the manual, or rather the entire user-support apparatus, is often part of this experience. So then: what can you, as a business, do to improve this experience?

Here are 10 ways to improve the customer journey:

1.    Know your customer
2.    Offer them relevant information
3.    Choose your medium wisely (print, online, video, and so on) and according to how content is consumed
4.    Pay full attention to problem resolution, to outages, and to frequently asked questions
5.    Write short, instructive texts
6.    Use clear illustrations (IKEA style)
7.    Manage translations
8.    Take the tone of voice and the corporate identity into account
9.    Adjust the customer journey to the employee journey.
10.    Keep analyzing, keep optimizing

1.    Know your customer

Map who your customer is and how they move about. Is your customer the “local digital” type who’s going to install his whiz-bang new thermostat on the weekend? Or is it someone a bit older who wants to start doing Internet banking? Only if you have a clear picture of your customer can you develop a total experience and offer them full support. That’s how you give them the VIP treatment.

2.    Offer them relevant information

Not all information is relevant to all users. A manual offers user support and must help the user right when they run into problems or when something’s not clear. It’s important to choose which information out of everything that’s available is relevant to which user, such as someone who wants to install, maintain, or repair a product safely. The User Manual Template can help in this process. Also take any mandatory information into account when drafting your instructions, as might be required by legislation such as FCC or CE Marking.

3.    Choose your medium wisely (print, online, video, and so on) and according to how content is consumed

Think in terms of customer-focused procedures and not in terms of media. A customer doesn’t think, “media, media, media”: they want to get things done, and they’re expecting that to be possible over any medium. So make sure that all media carry information that’s relevant to the customer. Map out a sequence that from the client’s point of view will be logical and consistent, and set up transitions from one item to the next that will work well. The IEC/IEEE 82079-1:2019 standard for Information for Use allows most mediums.

4.    Pay full attention to problem resolution, to outages, and to frequently asked questions

Product users make a lot of mistakes. Correcting these can be really time-consuming. Research tells us that users spend between a quarter and half of the time correcting mistakes. Helping users correct mistakes is thus important. Reducing the chances that mistakes will be made in the first place, and supporting the user’s ability to recognise and correct mistakes, saves time and cuts down on frustration. Helping users resolve
problems has to be the basis for user support.

5.    Write short, instructive texts

Users are just not expecting a sea of words. So it’s a good idea to be brief and concise. Avoid the passive voice and unclear constructions such as implied subjects (“Having tightened the screws, the shelf is secure”). Try to use just the one verb in each sentence and keep your sentences short and to the point, with the main idea at the beginning. Controlled languages, such as Simplified Technical English (STE) can be a great help here. It consists of 66 rules for writing, a vocabulary of 900 permitted words, a list of forbidden words with synonyms that are allowed, and guidelines for producing client-specific terminology. Here are a couple of acceptable sentences: “Press Start” and “Set the main switch to 0.”

6.    Use clear illustrations

A picture paints a thousand words. Illustrations can replace an entire passage, or complement it nicely. For users, the most engaging images are those that help them understand the content quickly and well. Simplicity is key. An image must be well focused. Always put yourself in the user’s shoes. What do they need? Do they want a complete overiew, or to localise[?] a certain part, or to be warned about a risk?
Here are a few tips for making clear illustrations:

  • Leave out unnecessary details.
  • Don’t use any symbols the user hasn’t met.
  • Use a single drawing style.
  • Don’t switch from one perspective or from one scale to another for no reason.
  • Show processes and procedures moving from left to right and from top to bottom as users will expect.

7.    Manage translations

Everybody’s got their favourite examples of terrible, often hilarious translations. “Pepsi—It’s a New Generation” became, in Thai, “Pepsi—It Brings Your Dead Ancestors Back to Life.” Technical translations are often seen as an expense that should be cut down on. But in fact what is important is to manage translations well, so that both the quality and the costs are kept under control. For instance, you could build a

translation memory with your translator. That will help cut costs and promote consistency. And create a list of terms or a glossary. This is a list of established terms that can be used, along with their translation. Which is better, “manager” or “director”? Which is better—“manager” or director”? Should you say, “Enter the text in the To: field”, or “Type the text and press Enter”? Setting up a list of terms or a glossary makes the translator’s work easier and helps produce the desired results.

8.    Take the tone of voice and the corporate identity into account

As a business, you’re building a brand name. You want to offer you customers a total experience. Brand identity is really important here. That’s how a business communicates what it’s all about. A consistent look and feel creates a full, positive overall picture. The tone of voice also has an important part to play here. It can make the difference between connecting with your customers and just leaving them cold. Thus, for instance, you might decide to use a bit of techno-speak here and there within the documentation proper, but not in the user-support section.

9.    Adjust the customer journey to the employee journey.

Creating a fantastic customer experience is possible only if the customer journey is also translated into an employee journey. This is the internal conversion of the customer journey and shows how employees can make the customer journey happen.[I’m not quite getting this] For instance, it is a good idea to make sure that if the customer contacts the helpdesk, they don’t have to wait an eternity and the help-desk staff know enough to be able to help the customer. The figure below shows an example of a customer journey that is not in line with the employee journey.

10.    Keep analysing, keep optimising

Is your business still getting a lot of calls to the helpdesk? Then your processes could probably stand some improvement. Even before the go-live of your user support, make sure you have a plan to gather and analyse
data and to come up with steps towards optimization. If your organisation doesn’t take steps in response to feedback you get from your customers, you’re just not taking your customers seriously. Keep updating your product and your user support—innovation is key. This is called service design, and it makes the interaction with the customer more meaningful and more personal.

Ferry Vermeulen
The founder of INSTRKTIV, Ferry is working on his PhD in product innovation. He would like to help users becomes experts in the products they are using. He loves cooking, travelling, and music, especially electronic music. You can find him on LinkedIn, and Twitter. Read one of his latest articles about CE Directives.

Who is Ferry Vermeulen? Director at INSTRKTIV GmbH

Founder of INSTRKTIV and keen to help users become experts in the use of a product, and thus to contribute to a positive user experience. Eager to help organisations to reduce their product liability. Just loves cooking, travel, and music--especially electronic. You can also find him on:
Profile PageLinkedin, Instagram and Twitter!

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