No matter how flawless your product is, customers will always need a helping hand to navigate through its features and use it optimally.
If customers have to call or email you every time they have a question and wait for hours or weeks for a response, it will only add to their – frustration and disappointment!
Your hard-earned customers slowly turn into serial switchers in the hope of a seamless, hands-on support experience.
Quick support available 24×7 is what your customers need to be successful with your product.
Creating an instruction manual can help you here.
An instruction manual is a comprehensive online document comprising detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to use a product and overcome all problems coming in the way.
This blog uncovers everything you need to know about an instruction manual – what it is, why it is important, and how you can create an instruction manual for your customers.
What is an Instruction Manual?
An instruction manual is an online information guide that provides customers with step-by-step instructions on how to use a product properly and troubleshoot problems as and when they arise. Built with user manual software, this document assists end-users at each step, helping them get up to speed with the features and functions.
Being cloud-based, the instruction manual can be referenced at any time by customers to learn about the product and make the most of it.
Why is an Instruction Manual Supremely Important for Product Success?
While most businesses have learned the importance of instruction manuals, many are still looking for enough reasons to adopt them. The reason is pretty simple.
You know your product in and out. That’s why it is as simple as a pie for you.
But, this is not the case with your customers.
As first-time users, they need someone to guide them at every step. While you can’t help each and every customer through the entire onboarding process, your instruction manual can.
Based on the concept of a customer self-service portal, an instruction manual ensures that customers receive the support they need anytime, and from anywhere they want. Whether it is eight at night or 5 in the morning, customers can refer to the manual whenever they need to decode a feature, solve a problem or simply enhance their knowledge about the product.
Support provided via emails and calls is nowhere close to the high speed offered by self-service, and that’s why customers prefer an instruction manual over any other form of support.
Also, if research is to be believed, a surprising 81% of customers like to take matters into their own hands before contacting a company for assistance.
This is another reason why it’s crucial to equip customers with an instruction manual so they can be their own boss – learn about the product at their pace and address issues at their convenience.
Uninterrupted self-service support leads to a better product experience, resulting in ultimate customer delight!
Top Benefits of an Instruction Manual
Learning about a product and using it can feel exhausting to customers, especially if there is no one to guide and support them. A well-built instruction manual provides customers with a helping hand so they can navigate through all complexities of the product and use it effectively to achieve their goals.
Writing an instruction manual can bring you a bunch of benefits, such as:
1. Helps in Customer Onboarding
First-time users need constant support to be able to use your product properly. This is where the instruction manual helps. It walks customers through each and every step involved in setting up, installing, using, and maintaining the product. From the time of customers onboarding or purchase a product and install it to when they start using it, the instruction manual is always there to guide them in the right direction.
2. Makes Customers Independent
With a 24×7 accessible information resource right at their fingertips, customers are bound to fix problems on their own. Calls and emails become secondary options that are preferred only if the online instruction manual cannot solve the problem. As customers start solving issues on their own, their dependence on your support team starts decreasing. Over time by constantly referring to the manual, they turn into product experts who can independently weather all challenges coming their way.
3. Reduces the Inflow of Support Tickets
Without an instruction manual, there is a high chance of customers contacting your support staff even for trivial matters. This can clog up your agents’ inboxes, making it impossible for them to give equal attention to all tickets.
On the contrary, problem-solving gets easier and quicker when customers have a reliable information resource at their disposal. Customers then approach you only for complicated matters they are not able to handle independently. This reduces the inflow of support tickets, and gives agents the time and space to focus on serious customer problems.
4. Protects You From Legal Troubles
Misuse of the product by customers and the resulting repercussions can put you in legal trouble. An instructions manual can help you avoid this. It states the risks associated with the product and explains how to use it correctly to avoid consequences. A simple tag or pop-up notifying readers about the harmful effects of misusing a particular feature or mishandling the product keeps your customers safe and keeps the legal issues at bay.
5. Supports Sales
If you want to highlight your product’s best features and functions and use them to attract prospects, an instruction manual is a perfect place to start with. Since it has all the essential information about your product – what it is, what problems it solves, and how it can be used, sales staff can use this as a reference to a good customer service guide and generate more sales.
Furthermore, if the manual is optimized for search engines, chances are potential customers might bump into it online. In that case, they might consider giving your product a try if they find it relevant to their needs.
What to Include in Your Instruction Manual?
Typically, an instruction manual covers a product from end to end. It comprises all essential information that customers might need while working with the product. The idea is to leave no scope for confusion and provide customers with complete clarity around how your product works.
Since customers refer to the instruction manual for quick, actionable advice, it’s ideal to include all relevant information such as:
✔️ Description of the product and the problems it solves
✔️ Frequently asked questions and their detailed answers
✔️A detailed explanation of its features and functionality
✔️ Step-by-step instructions on how to use the product
✔️ Use cases of the product
✔️ Potential risks
✔️ Safety warnings
✔️ Common problems and how to fix them, and much more.
Pack all this information together to build an instruction manual that makes customers’ lives easier.
How to Create an Awesome Instruction Manual
Creating a document as comprehensive as a novel but obviously better structured and more engaging can take weeks or even months. Not every company has the resources to build such a heavy information resource with a small team.
If you are worried about the same, fret not, as we are here to spill the beans on how to create an instruction manual of impeccable quality and design in just a few simple steps.
Without wasting any time, let’s get going.
1. Create a Plan
They say when you fail to plan, you plan to fail. This rings true in all aspects of life – managing your career, finances, education, and even when you are creating an instruction manual.
Building a strong plan gives you the added perks of minimum confusion and maximum clarity, so you can take every step with confidence. While planning the entire process of content creation, remember to ask yourself a bunch of questions, like:
- What is your ultimate objective behind creating the instruction manual?
- How lengthy do you want the manual to be?
- What content do you want to add to your manual?
- Which major customer problems will your manual be focusing on?
You can add more to this list of questions. The answers will help you build a plan that is in perfect alignment with your vision.
To get the most relevant answers to such questions, the first step is to step into your customers’ shoes. Consult with your product and customer support team as they regularly interact with customers. They can get insights into what product features you should focus on and which challenges bother customers the most.
2. Keep Customers at the Heart of the Process
Since customers are your target audience, it’s crucial to keep their needs and expectations into account while creating the instruction manual.
You know the product inside-out, but your customers don’t, which is why they need your manual’s help. Making assumptions about what customers know and what they don’t is definitely going to land you in trouble.
When it comes to writing content for customers, there is one ground rule you should never forget: customers have zero knowledge of the product. Base your content around this simple rule, and you are more likely to not miss anything important.
While some customers may need help only with difficult issues, others might require assistance for even the most basic things, such as setting up the product. Your instruction manual should be competent enough to help all customers, regardless of their knowledge level.
3. Build an Outline for Your Instruction Manual
Before you and your team go all in and start writing, decide on the outline of the manual.
You know what content the manual should contain. But throwing in all information without a proper structure will do more harm than good. It will make navigation a real pain, making customers gravitate towards other routes to get the support they need.
Outlining a structure for the manual is therefore paramount.
Break down the content into broad categories and their subcategories. Decide what content each category should display. Ensure that all sections flow smoothly, from the most basic or the most important topics to the complicated ones.
4. Let Your Teams Work Together
Customers count on you for help. They expect you to provide them with the information they can trust and use without a shadow of a doubt.
This clearly demands a serious, collaborative approach where key employees across departments join hands and bring the best of their knowledge to the table.
Multiple teams working in collaboration minimize the risk of errors and streamline the entire content creation process from start to finish. Collaborative working doesn’t only mean dividing the work. It also means spotting mistakes in others’ contributions and providing solutions to fix them. For example, while contributors can write content from scratch, editors can vet it before it is passed on for publishing.
Read More: Manage multiple project
When employees work in harmony, the quality of content and speed with which it is created shoots up and you are able to put together the manual in less time than expected.
Here is a short video that reveals more information on how to help your team work collaboratively while creating such manuals.
5. Start Writing
Once the plan is built, and the team is set, the next step is to start creating content.
The chief purpose of an instruction manual is to guide customers through how a product works and help them put it to maximum use. Therefore, what kind of content you write and how you write it are two essential things to consider during the process.
Writing everything from scratch can be exhausting, but don’t worry. These days, you have a quick solution to every problem.
Various instruction manual tools are available on the market today that offer modern features, including an online editor for easy content writing, designing, and management. For example, ProProfs Knowledge Base is one such instruction manual creator with an intuitive interface and powerful editing capabilities. It comes with an online editor that works as seamlessly as MS Word and has a plethora of formatting and styling options to choose from.
When you start creating content for your manual, remember these easy hacks for better output:
- Use an instructional tone to educate and guide users
- Write short, easy-to-follow paragraphs
- Use bullets to write step-by-step instructions
- Have headers and footers on each page
- Avoid fluffy, irrelevant content
- Get to the point quickly
- Present information in easy-to-digest chunks instead of lengthy articles
HighQ’s instruction manual has the best of all these elements. Take a look.
Here is the home page that gives a glimpse of the key sections of the manual.
This page shows good use of headers and bulleted points. Complex information is presented in a format that’s easy to follow and read.
6. Check the Content & Fix Errors if Any
While writing articles, each team member should keep a keen eye on any possible errors and fix them before the content goes live.
To ensure this happens, your instruction manual content strategy should deploy a rigorous review and approval system that brings more transparency to content creation and allows the team to seek help from subject matter experts.
This curtails the chances of mistakes to a great extent. So rest assured, as customers are likely to receive error-free content that they can use confidently.
The review system is quite straightforward. While writing articles, your team members can set a status for each article, depending on its stage. For example, if a writer is still working on an article, the status can be – In Progress, and if an article is completed, it can be given the status – Ready for Review.
Besides, writers and editors can even set the custom status for articles where they need specific help from specific people in the team.
Once an article goes through the entire review cycle, it can be published.
7. Analyze, Update, & Repeat
Is your work done after the business instruction manual is out in the market for customers? What if customers don’t find the manual helpful after a couple of months?
There is a possibility that the development team makes some technical changes to your product that aren’t recorded in the manual, or more and more customers face similar issues which the manual is not able to resolve.
The result? Customers don’t find the manual helpful anymore.
How will you ensure that your instruction manual delivers the right help even after days, months, or years of creating it?
That’s where reports step in. Reports give a bird’s eye view of the various aspects of your instruction manual, such as:
- Keywords displaying accurate results and those giving incorrect information
- Articles that are of genuine help to customers
- Articles rated poorly by customers
- Most read articles
- Total number of searches made
- Broken links, and much more.
Utilize this wealth of information to create new articles on topics customers are searching for, revise the existing content, and make it fit for customers.
Get answers to all your questions regarding reports in this video.
Instruction Manual Templates to Get You Started Right Away
Now that you are well-versed with the steps that can lead you to an awesome instruction manual, it’s time to look at the role of templates in this entire process.
An instruction manual template is designed to take the pressure off your shoulders and free you from at least the basic tasks, such as setting a structure for the manual. The template offers a ready-made design, which you can obviously tailor to your needs, pre-defined sections, and some dummy content.
Another crucial feature of the template is that it is white-labeled, which means you can add your company’s branding – name and logo, to the template so it resonates with your brand.
This is what it looks like:
Deliver a Flawless Product Experience
While a good product makes customers’ life easy, a great instruction manual makes their life easier.
Discovering new features, learning the nuances of the product, and using it to solve problems – a well-structured instruction manual helps customers do this and much more. Besides being an asset for customers, it is also a relief for agents, as they are saved from those repetitive questions and get to work only on serious customer issues.
To create a technical manual for your product, start by laying out a plan. Once you have a plan, decide what you will include in the manual. Bring your team members under one roof, assign them specific roles, and start creating content. While writing articles, ensure that each one of them is reviewed by multiple people before they go live.
And finally, keep improving and updating your manual’s content so that it stays relevant to the changing customer needs.
Follow the above-mentioned steps and deploy Knowledge Base software to put together an instruction manual that your customers can’t resist.
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