Rants from the Frozen Tundra
A friend of ours from the land of baby seals* was inspired by our blog Turning Bad Consumer Reviews into Good to send us a couple of rants regarding Big Mistakes he sees CE manufacturers consistently make. A modest man who shuns the limelight, “X” declined our invitation to be a guest blogger and asked us to relay his thoughts on the value of Tech Support and Owners Manuals. And we shall.
* Just for the record, we love Canada and Canadians. Really. A lot.
Rant #1 - Tech Support
Judging by the number of companies that outsource tech support (sometimes offshore), we can tell that the MBAs in charge look at it as a cost center rather than an asset. Dumb. As well as a means of making unhappy customers into brand advocates for life, high quality Customer Support can be an important source of market research data. Smart marketers interview customer service reps on an ongoing basis, especially after new product launches. Enlightened companies include line-level tech support people on new product development teams. In one company we worked for, Customer Service was part of the marketing department. Marketing kept in close contact with the service reps to understand what kinds of questions consumers asked pre-purchase, the kinds of set up and use issues arose post-purchase and of course keep everyone aprised of failure modes. The knowledge gleaned from customer service helped us be more effective marketers. In our view that’s exactly the way it ought to be. Are you taking full advantage of this valuable resource?
Rant #2 - Manuals
Oh, but our friend X was just getting started; his ire was sky-high on the topic of product manuals. And we could scarcely blame him; we have seen our fair share of absolutely incomprehensible manuals. X pointed out some easily correctable gaffes.
The first is don’t rely exclusively on printed manuals. Print is expensive, especially if you opt to print multiple languages and/or in color. Most brands don’t print in color because of the high cost, yet many of the most important points to get across relate to color – such as red and black terminals, color-coded channel markers and so on. Print is hard to change. How many times have you noticed embarrassing errors after thousands of manuals have been printed? Most of the time marketers are forced to produce manuals well before the product is in production, fully tested under real-world conditions and firmware has been finalized - hardly the ideal time.
Our pal X suggests putting manuals with a searchable index on USB sticks. We think the best bet is to have PDF (color!) or HTML manuals on your website. Choose a medium that your staff has the tools to easily edit. One of us was faced with a manual dilemma in 2011 with the introduction of a new product in a new category. We knew that our odds of getting the manual 100% perfect on the first shot was nil, particularly as we suspected that firmware updates were probably going to be needed after the first production run. Our solution was to print a simple color Quick Start guide that described, mostly with images, basic set-up and operation. On that document we directed users to a specific URL where they could get the full manual. We used MS Word to write an in-depth and illustrated color manual that we then converted to PDF. We edited the manual and updated the file on the web page several times to make sure that our customers had easy access to the most up to date information at all times.
Our mystery Canadian friend had a further suggestion that brands include product catalogs in with manuals, particularly if your manuals are on electronic media. Yes we know, product catalogs quickly go out of date, but we think the benefits of exposing consumer to your other product categories outweighs the downsides. Your best bet for tomorrow’s sale is today’s buyer.
Lastly there is the issue of language. The world has shrunk and all brands are competing on a global scale to some degree or another. Even if you think your market is only North America, keep in mind that this is a three-language continent – English, Spanish and French. And by the way, it is a matter of law that products offered for sale in Canada must be bilingual (FR & EN). But a badly translated manual could hurt your brand image. We are sure you have seen manuals written with poor English grammar – makes a pretty poor brand impression; doesn’t it? Be sure that translated text is written by or at very least proof-read and edited by a native-speaker who is familiar with typical CE jargon. We don’t care that your nephew Bernie claims to be fluent in a foreign language, if that language is not his first and if he didn’t grow up in that culture, he is very likely to to get it wrong. Use native-speakers only and never use web-based translation tools.
About CE-Marketing Pros
We’re a full service marketing/advertising agency specializing in helping consumer electronics brands and retailers compete more effectively. Former marketing executives with two of the most successful CE brands, Al Ballard and Paul DiComo help brands STAND OUT in a crowded and confusing CE marketplace.
WE KNOW CE.