Thursday, July 3, 2014

Don’t Judge A Book by Its Cover

Think of a component on an automobile that is necessary throughout the vehicle’s life, yet gets used only when something goes wrong. What if I told you that this component is part of every vehicle that rolls off an assembly line—yet, sometimes, mysteriously, it goes completely missing? That every OEM takes a different approach to this component’s design, and that, in fact, sometimes its design is influenced less by the engineering group than the legal team, or the marketing department? Obviously, this is an unusual and important component, and you’d think that, as an industry, we wouldn’t stand for such a scattershot design process! But we do every time we print an owner’s manual. With this in mind, Carlisle recently investigated the world of owner’s manuals through surveys, benchmarks, and independent research.

Owners’ manuals are not just government mandated components that must be included with new vehicles. Drivers actually use them, and they use them for years! As part of our survey, Carlisle found that manual usage may drop over time, but even when a vehicle is ten years old, drivers still use their manual nearly twice a year:

You might say, “Well, duh, that’s no surprise. Of course, drivers use the manuals over a vehicle’s lifetime. They’ll obviously have questions about their vehicles, and what other options do they have?” Actually, there are quite a few ways drivers can find information today, especially when it’s at our fingertips in seconds through the internet. Yet, drivers still prefer to use their manuals first:

You might think: “Well, if drivers actually use their manuals, I guess we should care what’s in them, right? So, what did Carlisle learn about that?” That’s a good question, with many answers. Some manuals are based on graphics; some on words. Some have lots of warnings; some have barely any. Some are in black and white, some have color. It turns out that each OEM conveys information to drivers in a different way.

“So, everyone makes these differently! But who is everyone…?” Everyone is, literally, everyone! Most OEMs don’t have a single group that makes an owner’s manual; many different parts of the organization influence the content. When asked, “How much influence does each of the following groups have over owner’s manual content”, this is how ten OEMs responded:

“Ok, I get it, but does any of this really matter?” Yes! Drivers of different brands don’t view their owner’s manuals equally; drivers from some brands report being more satisfied with their owner’s manual than others. Almost half of all drivers from some brands are very satisfied with their owner’s manual, while less than a quarter of drivers from some other brands feel the same way:

Bottom Line: An owner’s manual is much more than a book in the glove box. It serves as the most common first point of contact between an OEM and a driver who is having a problem. Do not make it an afterthought or overlook it entirely. With a little focus and attention to the content and design, the owner’s manual can distinguish your brand in the driver’s eye.

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