Product information – who is the master of the house?

As a manufacturer you can take back control over your information.

Product information – who is the master of the house?

You are probably familiar with the following situation: You have bought a new appliance and want to start using it. But something doesn’t go as planned. You lack the essential information that shows you how to do it properly.

Maybe you have looked at the printed manual and found no solution. Or maybe you are not the kind of person who looks at manuals. Either way: What is the next step that many members of my generation (and probably any member of Generation Y) would take to find a solution? Exactly: They consult the internet.

Product information from third parties

Numerous forums and of course YouTube offer countless contributions from users who want to show other users how they have resolved specific problems. In this sheer quantity of information, the helpful information provided by the manufacturer can quickly get lost, or it may not even be available in that world. Instead of obtaining information from the manufacturers’ knowledge sources (as they used to), users now obtain their information from third-parties.

Is this good or bad? That is a difficult question to answer. On the positive side, at least the users can find information and ultimately achieve their aim.

But does this user journey ensure that users ultimately connect a positive result with the product and its brand? And is it not possible that a YouTube clip by someone who knows less about the product than they think will propagate an incorrect procedure, so the user does not even achieve their aim? 

Might this process even cause damage to the product or place the user in a dangerous situation?

These are questions that product manufacturers and brand owners should consider. I believe that product manufacturers and owners of strong brands should not relinquish control of information about their products entirely to the internet community. Don’t get me wrong: The internet is great, and product reviews are an important way for users to find their way around the jungle of providers. But in the end it is always the developer and creator of a product who knows best how users should resolve specific problems, and who if in doubt must take responsibility when things don’t work. 

How do we as manufacturers gain control of the information?

It is actually quite simple. We must inform our users so well that they don’t even think of checking Google. That certainly means different things for different products. In many cases our ideas about smart information are helpful here. That means we break information down into small, easy-to-comprehend units, equip them with sufficient metadata to allow their situation-based provision, and then provide them proactively to the user.

In the case described in the introduction, that could mean that the appliance or an assistant on a mobile device would help the user put the appliance into service, would notice when something goes wrong, and would provide the correct instructions until the product functions to the user’s satisfaction. They could then ask if everything is okay, and then take their leave from the world of the user with a friendly sentence...

As a result, users always receive the information they need and receive optimal support throughout the product’s service life – and from the manufacturer instead of from YouTube. We thus create satisfied users who are likely to choose a product from their favourite brand for their next purchase, and who will tell their friends and colleagues about their positive experience.

Lars Kothes
Blog post Lars Kothes