Design your customers’ product experience with an Instruction Journey.


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We should never miss an opportunity to surprise, delight and inform our customers. We all know this is true. So why do so many consumer goods companies annoy, irritate and disappoint the people who buy their products moments after unboxing by providing near-useless instructions?

The answer to this is often that instructions are often overlooked as a key customer touchpoint. This is clearly underlined by the fact that, in the consumer products space, 40% of all after sales contact is related to bad instructions.

In marketing, the “customer journey” is used to describe the process of interaction between your company or brand with your customers. This journey is used to identify touchpoints and design experiences.

As it is our aim is to help companies help their customer we developed a tool we call the Instruction Journey to highlight the process which your customers experience with regards to product instructions. This Instruction Journey highlights the stages in the customer journey which relate to the information needed and instructions required.


Let’s break it down:

– customers want to get pre-purchase information about your products. It’s easy to find basic information online, but real product use experiences are often scarce. Offering potential customers access to good instructions can help them make a well-informed buying decision. This leads to happier customers.

Pre-Use – once your customers have ordered the product they can’t wait to use it. Once the box has shipped, getting the instructions in advance can help them get prepared. We call this the pre-use instruction phase. Although they haven’t got their hands on it yet, they can already start in-depth learning and instructing themselves about the product.

First Use –after unboxing comes first use. Good instructions are key at this point as most customers want to get started straight away. Give your customers a great first user experience by guiding them well in their very first steps.

Advanced Use – at a certain point, customers want to do something more advanced with your product. This requires deeper instructions about how to use these features.

Changed Use – there are many products on the market that get updates (software, for example). Others need servicing or parts need replacing. When this happens, things change and customers need help handling this.

Maintenance – products need to be maintained properly to ensure optimal product experience. Frequent servicing or parts that need timely replacing. When this happens, you actively want to connect with your customers to prevent product defects, claims or service calls.

Troubleshooting – where is that (bleep!) manual when I need it? That is often the first question when troubleshooting. Your customer faces an issue with your product and can’t solve it without help. In that case, easy to locate and good instructions help prevent helpdesk calls, product returns and customer frustration.

How to use this: It is important to understand that these different phases exist when designing your instructions. The needs of customers are quite different in every step of the Instruction Journey and you need to take that into account. This not only has an impact on content, it also influences the channel and mechanism you use to bring your instructions to users. We call these activation tactics and they vary with each step as well. The aim is to get the right instructions to the right user at the right moment.

In the orientation phase this might be a deep link in an e-commerce platform. In the advanced use phase, it could be image recognition of the device that the user has questions about. The ultimate goal is to create an instruction journey that helps customers seamlessly in all stages of product usage. And if possible, surprise, delight and inform them at the same time as well.

We think this a great way to purposefully design a product support experience that works. Let us know your thoughts!

Download you copy of the Instruction Journey here.

Willemijn Schneyder, RM
Why do so many overlook the fact that the product instruction manual is a key touchpoint in the customer's experience? Unfortunately most manuals are just boring technical product descriptions and the first thing which people throw aside after getting a rough idea of how the product works. I want to change that and that is why I am on a mission to simplify the world by making any new task easier to do. A customer experience evangelist! Rocking the World of Instructions!


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