Customer training manuals are an important part of onboarding. While there’s customer Success, FAQs, and more, customer training manuals offer in-depth answers to a customer’s questions.
Building out a customer training manual for an entire product can be a daunting process. However, with the proper project management, you can build a manual that will make it easy for your customers to start using your product.
Importance of a Customer Training Manual
Your customer training manual is the one source of truth for your customer to get answers on your product. Whether you offer it in the form of a printed book, a digital file, a help center, or a combination of those, providing your customers a manual is a basic part of training. While there is always ongoing learning throughout the application, a customer training manual is an autonomous supplement to ongoing training.
After your customer has finished onboarding, they are still going to have questions. The manual is an easy way to encourage them to learn on their own. It’s always accessible for customers to self-educate. A customer can access their training manual to find an answer to a question that they might have, or to learn more information about something they’d like to explore in the future. In fact, this self-learning method is found to be often more effective at becoming proficient at a task.
Customer training manuals are also often less of a hassle for a customer. They have related information, which serves as a great starting point to learn more about a concept.
Formatting Your Customer Training Manual
There are three main ways to provide your training manual to your customers: through print, digital, or as blended content.
Books don’t have batteries and they don’t need wifi or a cell signal to access. So, they’re great for field employees who don’t always have access to technology or a signal.
Print is also easier for users to bookmark and annotate. Learners can write short notes in the margins as they read, easily bookmark pages, highlight passages, etc.
Print also has many different formatting options. Customer training manuals can be formatted in a variety of ways, from high-end binders to half-sized spiral notebooks. With so many different formatting options, you can choose the format that works best for your audience.
Digital has its own strengths. Unlike print, additional materials can be embedded within the customer training manual: hyperlinks to related material, sound files, and more. Supplemental material can create a more well-rounded learning experience.
Digital customer training manuals are also easier to update. You will only have to edit a page and publish it, as opposed to the more expensive and time-consuming reprinting of an entire manual and distributing it.
While both would have indexes, digital has the added bonus of keyword searching. Customers looking for a specific answer or sentence can scan an entire section for the word they’re looking for or search the book for a specific passage in seconds.
In the modern era, you don’t have to choose between print and digital. Many training teams give their customers the best of both worlds with a printed manual to keep at their desk and a digital version for easy search. That allows you to optimize the manual for knowledge transfer.
While more individuals are reporting being more and more comfortable reading information digitally, digital-only reading has the detraction of scrolling’s “disruptive effect.” This means that, as the user scrolls through the page, they routinely break concentration when they try to find their place again. Thus, the learner isn’t completely focused on reading and comprehending the text.
In fact, print-only reading comprehension was found to be significantly better than digital-only.
There are, of course, benefits and detractions to both formats. The most comprehensive learning happens when both are leveraged.
Building Assets for Your Customer Training Manual
When creating yours, it’s important to first lay out the learning objectives. This helps you work backward to write the material to achieve these objectives.
The material you create should be as simple and jargon-free as possible. If you do need to use complex terms, make sure you define them. It’s also important to avoid “boring” writing. Break up big blocks of text with diagrams or images. Or, if your brand voice allows it, inject humor into your writing.
Your style of writing reflects your brand voice, which is also important. Brand voice is the tone and style of your company’s writing. Is yours positive and helpful? Or is a sassy tone more what you’re going for? Tone and style attract different types of consumers and elicits different emotional responses. It’s important to think about the ones you want to create and attract.
Your design should follow a similar format to your brand voice. It should also be user-intuitive, meaning customers should be able to find the information they’re looking for with minimal effort. Additionally, the text should be easy to read and any hyperlinks or video should follow a natural flow. Nothing should be designed in such a way that it’s jarring to the reader unless intended. A poor design is often a poor reflection on your company.
A final important consideration is other training delivery formats. Will your training be an in-person class, a webinar, or an on-demand video? The one you choose should reflect how consumers interact with your product. The training manual is only a small piece of the puzzle, so it’s important to make sure it supplements the other ways you are delivering your training information.
Customer training manuals are important for the entire customer onboarding experience. For more information, check out our learn more below.
Your customer training manual is an important piece to your customer training puzzle. Learn why blended content is important for customer training here!