Quality of Communication Channel: Operator’s Manuals

Quality of Communication Channel: Operator’s Manuals

In tonight’s post, our guest writer Ryszard Chciuk continues with his series on the quality of the communication channel with key information on Operator’s Manuals.

When writing about the quality of the communication channel, I meant the definition of service quality worked out by Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and Berry in 1985:

  • Service quality is the degree and direction of a discrepancy between customers’ service perceptions and expectations

To improve the quality, we have to close gaps causing the discrepancy between customer expectation and his perception of service. The main gap is:

  • Not Knowing What Customer Expects

The content of a dealership website shows if that gap is big or large. In other words, is the communication channel quality on a decent level or not? My previous post was about the availability of specification sheets for older machine models. Today I am presenting my point of view on the availability of Operators’ Manuals on a dealer website.

If you monitor discussions on construction equipment operators’ forums, you realize that an Operator’s Manual is rarely present in the operator cab. Your field technicians can confirm. A manual is lost somewhere or stacked in somebody’s drawer in the office.

Please imagine, I am one of many customers who bought, a few years ago, a machine made by a manufacturer you are representing here as a dealer. I have lost both a hard and a digital copy of an Operator’s Manual. Does your parts department keep these documents in stock for all models of machines you sold in the past? Can I buy an Operator’s Manual I need from your parts department as easy as filters? Is your price and delivery time on a decent level? Do you know why I buy that publication from very suspicious sources on the internet?
As your favorite customer, I would like to download an electronic copy of the manual from your website, free of charge. I am going to explain here my desire.

Why an Operator’s Manual is so important for a machine user?

  • It contains safety instructions. Do you care about your partners’ safety?
  • The manual is the only source of information about the machine’s intended use.
  • It explains the meaning of dozens of colored lamps, icons, and messages on the dashboard.
  • It instructs an operator about the meaning of several work modes of hydraulics.
  • In the operation section, they find descriptions of levers, pedals, buttons, switches, and other controls.
  • There are instructions for transportation, storage, and handling a machine in different weather conditions.
  • There is a chapter about troubles and actions concerning running out of fuel. There are also precautions for towing. There are tips on starting a machine with a discharged battery.
  • There is a list of maintenance tasks to be done by an operator daily, weekly, or when required.
  • There is also a list of periodical maintenance tasks every 250, 500, 1000, 2000, 3000, and other intervals specific for that model.
  • It says which tasks will have to be done by authorized service personnel with special tools.
  • There you will also find: consumable parts list, recommended brands and quantities of fuel, coolant, and lubricants, lubrication chart, tightening torque for bolts and nuts, tire sizes and pressures specifications, machine dimensions and weights, working ranges, lifting capacities, operating specifications, machine description including specs of the main components, available optional attachments, how to locate product identification plates, the meaning of information on warning decals, information about compliance with international safety directives, the data of noise emission and vibration levels.

Now you know how important is an Operator’s Manual for your dear customer, so you should understand my arguments for delivering digital copies of operator’s manuals free of charge:

  • During my fifteen years with Volvo CE dealer, we sold spare parts for dozens of millions of USD, including only several copies of operator’s manuals. Their price, set by a manufacturer, was several times higher than a Nobel prized literature, perhaps due to the more oversized format and weight. The availability of manuals for previous models was meager. Finally, nobody even asked the authorized dealer for the offer. Could you please check what part of your dealership parts sales refers to operator’s manuals? Is it more than 0,01%?
    As an experienced service provider, you know how much your current and potential customers are losing money because their operators have not learned to operate their machines according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Of course, it is their problem. But your reports for not-necessary parts sales show you the results of their lack of knowledge. And you do nothing to reduce that dispensable cost. Are you sure it builds partnership relations with customers?
  • I think you can afford to classify digital versions of operator’s manuals as giveaways. You publish plenty of photos of machines on your website, and it is free of charge for personal use. You also post lengthy spec sheets for, what a pity, only the current models. Their production costs are much higher than compiling Operators’ Manuals.
  • I would suggest that manufacturers and dealers not treat information contained in manuals as intellectual property. The Swedish Academy will never award the Nobel Prize for this kind of literature. And machines sold a long time ago have already recovered the reimbursement cost of authors of the manual’s chapters.
  • Could you please check the cost of keeping old, dated manuals on the server space? And how much do the manufacturer and dealerships spend money on, usually useless, giveaways? A digital copy of the manual is much more valuable than a cap or a key ring with your company logo. And it costs you almost nothing. Do not be a skinflint. Christmas is just coming. You can easily make people happy. Why not send your existing customers the best wishes for a New Year together with links to digital copies of Operator’s Manuals to their fleet you proudly service?

It does not matter what kind of marketing you are subscribed to (billboard, engagement, or something else). Machine users expect and deserve a partnership attitude.

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