19 Nov 2013

Poor Instructions Lead to ‘Product Rage’

We’ve all struggled with the manuals for a new piece of technology or flat-pack furniture, but there’s nothing quite like the sinking feeling that hits you when searching for the English language section of a manual only to find that it’s the section you’ve been looking at all along.

If cryptic clues get your blood boiling and leave you needing a translation service in order to simply programme the clock……don’t despair, the phenomena is more common than you think.

‘Product rage’ – the sense of frustration people feel when they are unable to understand instruction manuals – leads to arguments in homes throughout the UK.

According to a recent study commissioned by Xerox, one in 10 people are driven to household arguments when failing to fully comprehend instructions that accompany a new product. And this doesn’t just affect the sense of harmony at home, it can also threaten the safety of the objects the instructions are trying to describe.

Around 5% of the 2,000 Britons polled by YouGov admitted to having smashed their new purchase in a regrettable fit of pique after admitting defeat from an instruction manual.

More than a third (37%) of those questioned said that confusing product instruction often causes an angry bubble of rage to percolate up inside them. However, it seems that it is women who lose their cool the quickest when confronted with unclear directions.

In fact, the survey found that women have higher expectations and less tolerance for confusing instructions than men. Around 40% of women admitted to getting angry at confusing product instructions. This compared with a figure of 34% for men.

And it seems that when it comes to some women, a problem shared is a problem…..transferred. Figures show that women are twice as likely to start an argument with the people they live with as a result of their frustration.

But at least women are more likely to try and read the instructions, a quarter of men say they have tried to put together an item without even referring to any guidance. The figure for women is 20%.

Julie Hesselgrove, Group President, Xerox Communication and Marketing Services (CMS), said: “We have all been guilty of being exasperated when we don’t entirely understand something. However, it is the companies’ responsibility to ensure their customers have a range of tools to completely understand their new product.

“Having confusing instructions is like having a TV with a broken remote – yes you can still use the product, but it’s harder work, less enjoyable, you can’t use all the functionality, but you still paid full price.”

If one thing has been learned from this research, it is that customer relations can be greatly improved by providing comprehensible product instruction manuals.  And on a purely commercial consideration, a third of customers said they would be less likely to go back to a firm that they know includes incomplete instructions with their products.

This issue is particularly acute for consumers over the age of 55. Almost half (46%) said they consider the quality of product instructions when making a purchase.

Ms Hesselgrove adds: “Brands need to take note that customers are experiencing product rage and should be able to offer a combination of easy-to-follow material, online guides and videos that also appeal to all customers.

“Offering your customers the tools to understand your product in an interactive and interesting way makes a difference to brand loyalty and repeat business.

“Ignoring this will only affect their brand and bottom line.”

TranslateMedia offers professional manual translation to help companies avoid the customer experience issues arising from poorly translated product manuals.


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