Cambridge, UK, 8 December 2009: With consumer electronics sales expected to increase dramatically this festive season, millions of us will receive the latest LCD TV, phone or MP3 player this Christmas – alongside the accompanying instruction manual.

However research by Transversal shows a growing trend to move the manual online, driven by consumers demanding a more interactive approach to having their queries answered.

The survey showed that 80 per cent of major electronics companies now allow access to manuals online. However most of these organisations have simply digitised the paper manual, rather than embracing the interactivity of the web. For those with a specific query, 70 per cent still rely on keyword searching with 20 per cent not allowing search at all and having a static Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section. Only 10 per cent offered the ability to ask questions in plain English on the site. This lack of interactivity leads to customer dissatisfaction and increased cost to electronics companies as consumers are forced to call or email the contact centre for immediate answers.

“This Christmas is predicted to be a bumper one for the consumer electronics industry as customers make purchases in advance of the VAT increase in January,” said Davin Yap, CEO, Transversal. “Yet today’s customers don’t want to wade through hundred page manuals in six languages – they want immediate, accurate answers to their queries. Websites provide the channel to deliver this information but our research found that too many are simply uploading paper manuals without any attempt to help users find the answers they are looking for.”

Competition in the consumer electronics market is fierce, with ease of use and customer service identified as key factors, along with price, when it comes to buying new products.

Transversal has identified five key benefits from replacing the printed manual with online, interactive solutions:

1. Green effect – as manuals have increased in number and size, so has their environmental impact. Slimming down manuals to the basics and moving answers online will therefore have a major positive effect on reducing paper use
2. Cost savings – consumer electronics companies are currently being hit with two sets of costs. The cost of actually producing manuals is increasing, while contact centre agents are having to deal with a growing number of queries from consumers who can’t find the answers they need in the printed manual itself
3. Availability – online, interactive solutions are available 24x7 – unlike customer electronics contact centres which are normally closed over Christmas and outside working hours
4. Ease of updating – manuals are out of date the moment they are printed. Online solutions can be updated instantly with new information as soon as it is available, providing better service to customers
5. Improved customer insight – by analysing questions asked, consumer electronics companies gain invaluable customer insight into how their products are being used. This feedback should be used in future product design and to fine tune information provided to consumers.

“Consumer behaviour is changing rapidly.” said Yap. “We no longer have time to ‘Read the Manual’ but expect to be able to find answers to our questions quickly whatever time of the day or night. Searchable online knowledgebases not only save money and the environment, but also free up the time of contact centre staff within consumer electronics companies to handle more complex queries. ”

The UK websites of 20 major electronics companies were surveyed during the research, which was carried out in early December 2009.

Published on: 9:33AM on 8th December 2009