Is Your Product Team Still Flying Blind?

October 6, 2022
Baochi Nguyen

User manuals are a neglected source of actionable product insights

In 1924, Kimberly-Clark invented Kleenex as a way to use up surplus bandaging materials from World War One, and marketed the tissues as a means of removing cold cream or makeup. 

Consumers loved the new product — but it gradually emerged that most were using the tissues not to remove makeup, but to blow their noses. It wasn’t until 1930 that Kimberly-Clark finally cottoned on and changed its marketing to reflect the way consumers actually used its product. Sales of Kleenex promptly doubled, and the rest is history: today, the tissues are used by more than 170 million Americans each year. 

That’s the power of understanding your product — but even today, companies struggle to figure out how customers actually use their products. In fact, many product teams are flying blind, without the vital intelligence needed to unlock value for their customers.

In search of new insights

What makes product insights so hard to capture? Well, it’s one thing if you’re selling software, and can track user behavior in real time. When it comes to non-digital products, product teams have little more insight into user behavior than they did a century ago.

For most non-digital products, feedback loops are sluggish at best. Pre-launch focus groups and QC testing can only get you so far: in the real world, consumers quickly find new ways to use products, and encounter challenges that designers never foresaw. 

In the social-media era, that’s a big problem: companies often find out about problems when their products start generating bad buzz and negative reviews, and by then the reputational damage has been done.

To troubleshoot emergent challenges before they become a PR problem, product teams need clearer real-time insights into how their products are actually being used. Fortunately, a new resource can accelerate these insights and deliver the rapid intelligence that product teams need. 

What is this vital asset? Simple: it’s your user manual. 

A new channel

That might sound nuts: by definition, your product documentation reflects the things your team already knows about your product. How can that become a source of new product intelligence?

The key is to look beyond traditional paper manuals, and turn your product documentation into an interactive digital channel for customer engagement. Now, when your user runs into trouble, they can hop online — or, better yet, scan a QR code affixed to the product itself — and quickly find authoritative information and how-to guides to resolve their problems. 

That’s better for the customer — but it’s also a rich new source of data for businesses. Every interaction with your digital support hub tells you something about how customers experience your product, and your team can mine that data to develop a smarter and more responsive product roadmap. 

If an automaker learns that motorists are constantly trying to figure out how to pop open the hood, for instance, it can use that intelligence to create a more intuitive dashboard layout or better interior lighting options. A powertool-maker, on the other hand, might notice queries relating to battery life, and add a charge indicator or quick-change battery packs to its products. 

Intelligent design

The key here is that every time your customer seeks support, they’re flagging a pain point that your product team needs to know about. That’s a powerful source of product insights, and it can help you create a data-driven roadmap that truly aligns with your customers’ needs — if you’re able to detect that signal and put it to use.

As Kimberly-Clark found back in the 1920s, listening to your customers is the key to unlocking your products’ full potential. To achieve that, companies need to look beyond paper manuals, and start using digital support tools to capture product insights. 

At Conveyer, we’re developing the engagement solutions companies need to develop a smarter, more data-driven product roadmap. Get in touch with the Conveyer team today — and gain a new window into how your customers experience your products.