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How About Some Directions for the
By George Porter
Not so long ago I bought a new computer. Why I do these things
to myself I don't know. The very first computer I owned fifteen
years ago vastly exceeded my ability to use all of it's capabilities,
and still does, so you can only imagine how far I am behind this
Pentium 4; multi-gig; faster than light; memory that will exceed
the known body of knowledge in the universe; "magic box".
I do not know how it works and I never will.
This contraption is truly complicated and beyond the ability
of 99% of the population of the planet to really know what is
going on inside that plastic box. I have learned to use the thing
(sort of), but I could never explain to anyone how electricity
turns into words and pictures. I suppose if I went to school on
the machine for a few years I would be a lot smarter about it,
but I have other things to do, and to tell the truth, I don't
really care as long as it works and gives me what I want.
What if you made something as complicated as a computer with
wires running everywhere and had the capability of never working
at all? What if you did just one tiny wrong keystroke or plugged
in something with the wrong cable and destroyed the connection?
How many customers would you confuse and then have them call you
on your service line? You might need three technicians for each
computer sold with eight hour shifts around the clock. Now sell
millions of these computers to people who can't program the average
VCR and watch what happens, insanity and chaos!!
Yet... Dell, Compact, IBM and many others do this all day and
night and would love to do it more!! How can you sell something
to the public so prone to trouble and survive, maybe even thrive?
It's easy, you just give very good directions to the owner. The
secret to success in the computer world is not necessarily how
good your electronics are but how good your directions are! Directions
make things work and really good directions make things work great.
Things that work great are not only worth more because more people
want them; they also have low service costs because of fewer complaints.
The first thing I saw when I opened the box with the computer
in it was a very large folded up poster type instruction sheet.
It said "STOP" in huge red letters. Then it said before
you do one more thing read these "quick set-up directions".
It said this to me, the owner of the product, not the store where
I bought it or the UPS guy who brought it. There were 7 or 8 easy
steps and all the connections were color coded. You would have
to be, well... "impaired" to not get this right the
very first time. I cranked it up and it worked! My computer does
things for me now and I like it, simple as that!
That "quick set-up sheet" is all I have used. My
computer did come with a big fat book with lots of digital equations
in it along with thousands of initials and strange words for things
that I know nothing about. My favorite is "twain." "twain"
stands for "Technology without an Interesting Name"
(I swear to you that I am not making this up) It has something
to do with printers and scanners, I think. A couple of trips
to the "fat book" and it went on the shelf, forever,
the people who wrote it and can read it are not like you and me.
Directions are very important but it seems to matter who you
give them to as well. For instance, what if Gateway Computer decided
to not put the quick set-up sheet in the box and just inserted
the note "see your dealer?" Gateway has many factory
stores and people get the computers there and the store does help
you a lot, but... They do not come to your house and hold your
hand and if every sale required a long phone call to get the thing
to run it would tie up the whole sales force all day. What if
Gateway only gave directions to their dealers and said, "here,
you deal with the people, let me know when you want more computers"
Probably the home office would be getting lots of calls directly
from customers and expenses would go up. Not informing the customer
would KILL the computer industry.
There is even competition for the chance to inform the consumer,
how about local community colleges, internet training, training
programs on CD's and so forth. Consumers actually are actually
willing to pay for this information! There is an entire industry
based on training the consumer on how to use the computer they
get from someone else. Why?, because people need computers, you
just can't get along very well without them these days. They are
very helpful and entertaining and people want them, but only when
they work and are not too much trouble.
Who do you suppose helps support this computer knowledge industry?
It is the computer manufacturing industry itself of course. They
have figured out that the more people know about computers, the
more people will buy them, and it seems to work pretty well. The
"dot com" industry has spawned more millionaires than
any other industry in recent history, all based on people getting
comfortable with computers.
Why can't we do this in the Manufactured Housing Industry?
I would much rather have a home than a computer, most people need
a home more than a computer, in fact without a home where would
you put your home computer. If directions are important to the
ease of use of a product then why can't we have some kind of "short
and sweet" ones too, just like all successful computer companies.
If you are thinking "what about liabilities, we need to tell
it all." Well you could still have the fat book just like
the computer guys but you could also have large print big paper
posters that give five or six major steps. And, you could give
these things to the consumer, and community colleges, building
officials and anyone else who would listen.
There are lots of things about out homes that are no different
from conventional homes, but there are a few things that are very
different. A computer is not a typewriter but it does have a keyboard.
If you knew all about typewriters and nothing about computers,
you would hate computers. They would make you crazy the first
time two hours of work vanished from the screen, never to be found
again. This could never happen with a good old typewriter! But,
when you learn a few things about the computer you would never
go back to a typewriter again. Being able to fix mistakes without
retyping the whole document is wonderful! Once you become more
familiar with computers you kind of trust them and you're your
own ability to make them do what you want. You start this comfort
level with some simple basic directions that will solve 98% of
all the problems most people have. In fact most computer companies
probably spend more time and money on the directions than they
do on the labor to assembly the things. It is their primary tool
in controlling expenses and generating consumer satisfaction.
Here is what computer companies know and we need to learn:
- Products must be understood by the consumer in order to be
- Correct usage produces good product performance and generates
- The average consumer will not buy, even at a low price, a
product he does not trust.
- Trusted products build strong thriving industries.
- A thriving industry eagerly supports any entity that can
build on and preserve trust between their products and the consumer.
- Educating the consumer is the key to it all.
- Education cost time and money but free ignorance is more
- Advertising is rarely education but education is definitely
- If we can get only a small percentage of the support the
conventional building industry has in all the schools and colleges
around the nation we will greatly increase our market share.
- Doing this today is better than tomorrow; we have a lot of
catching up to do.