Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to investigate the elements of user manual quality and its influences on perceived product quality and customer satisfaction in an integrated model structure. Design/methodology/approach – Survey method was used to evaluate user manual quality and its influences on perceived product quality and customer satisfaction. Electrical appliances consumers were chosen in our sample. Factor analysis and structural equation modeling were performed to introduce, test and validate the user manual quality dimensions and also test the hypotheses. Findings - The findings show a positive significant relation between user manual quality and perceived product quality, and this result demonstrates that consumers perceive user manual quality as a part of their quality evaluation related to the product. The results point out that user manual quality is essential for both low- and high-value products regarding customer satisfaction. The findings also reveal that perceived product quality mediates the influence of user manual quality on customer satisfaction.
Practical implications - This study reveals that providing a high-quality user manual should be an essential element of product management and development strategies. The findings also highlight the need for companies that particularly sell complex products with long product life cycles must invest in providing high-quality user manuals. This will enhance perceived product quality and in turn customer satisfaction.
Originality/value - Although some prior studies address user manuals in the relevant literature, these studies did not examine the elements of user manual quality and their impact on consumers’ perceptions of the product quality and their satisfaction evaluations in a research model. This paper attempts to fill this gap in the literature. In addition, the authors found two major dimensions of user manual quality as content-related elements and representational/format-related elements of the user manual.
A product manual is an interface between the user and the product. Users often form an opinion about a product and its supplier based on their experience of learning how to use and maintain the product (Pham et al., 2002). High-quality user manuals can provide tangible benefits to both the consumer and the company. Such manuals help users become more productive, reducing the cost of customer support and the cost of field maintenance and increasing the sales and repeat purchase of the brand (Hackos, 1994; Smart et al., 2001). Despite these significant paybacks, a limited number of studies has addressed user manuals in the relevant literature, and those studies have mostly focused on whether consumers consult the manuals (Wright et al., 1982; Peterson, 1984; Mehlenbacher et al., 2002; Tsai et al., 2012), manual usage behavior of consumers (Wright et al., 1982; Jansen and Balijon, 2002) and the ideal design of the manuals (Schriver, 1993; Reinert et al., 2007; Pedraz-Delhaes et al., 2010). Some studies have examined technical documents and documentation issues for specific products, such as software or automobiles (Mitchell, 1993; Wiese et al., 2004; Novick et al., 2008; Van Loggem, 2014) or industrial products (You et al., 2001; Pham et al., 2002; Setchi et al., 2006). Another stream of research addresses user manuals as a technical documentation issue in technical communication literature (Smudde, 1993; Smart et al., 1995; Spencer and Yates, 1995; Smart et al., 2001; Setchi et al., 2006).