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Seven Reasons People Don’t Read Instructions

As anyone in customer service can attest–whether its training registration software or anything else–people don’t always read instructions.

Think of owners’ manuals or care guides or basic, step-by-step instructions, and you’ve just conjured three documents less read today than The Hardy Boys Mysteries.

To bring it closer to home, think of how many events are held without at least one participant showing up at the wrong time or location, forgetting to pay, or not bringing the right materials or completing the prerequisite work.

And to add one more anecdote for kicks, how many times do we gloss over the only instruction on most registration forms – to fill out all fields marked with an asterisk?

We don’t often read instructions – sometimes for good reasons and other times, not so much. Here are seven of the most popular excuses/explanations.

1. We Don’t Have Time
When buying or signing up for something, it is often spur of the moment or based upon immediate need. You don’t have time to read the new lawnmower’s manual, for instance, when the grass is eight inches high and it’s expected to rain tomorrow.
2. We Are Lazy
Seriously, who needs to read directions on something as simple as a lawnmower? Put gas in it, prime it, pull the cord and your good to go, right? Well, unless it’s an oil-gas mix mower.
3. We Already Know Everything
If you’ve done something before, or you’ve read up on it in the past, it’s pretty much an insult to your intelligence to read these instructions, right? Wait, am I sure that’s the right oil to gas mixture?
4. We Aren’t Too Bright
Some of us could read the instructions and still mess it up. Why bother reading – just give it the old college try… and call customer service in the morning.
5. We Think Common Sense is Enough
You’ve put chains on bicycles and assembled bed frames. How hard could it be to correctly assemble that playground set? (That’s why there are emergency rooms.)
6. We Would Rather Call a Help Line
Maybe you are more of a verbal person than a reading comprehension person, so talking through the instructions with a real person is your cup of tea. Or maybe that’s an excuse for being #2 above.
7. Instructions Are Poorly Written
In our defense, the instructions often are so poorly written or designed that we would have been better off not wasting our time with them. Yes, we’re looking at you, products manufactured in foreign countries.

Believe it or not, there are some tips to help you take the time to read instructions, or write instructions for your products or services that are more likely to be read. We’d offer them here, but would anyone read them?

When it comes to reading instructions, first ask yourself why you aren’t doing it. Then think about your past experiences and what you might have missed from not reading directions. Throw in the possible risks if you do/assemble something without following the instructions. If that’s not enough to guilt you into it, make a pact with yourself to at least glance at the instructions.

To get others to read your product’s or service’s instructions, first design and write them so that they are as simple and as appealing as possible. Tell readers up front the benefits of reading the guides –maybe even offer an incentive to those completing the instructions. The payoff might be worth the savings in customer service’s time down the road.

And remember, if you ever need instructions for Learning Stream training registration software, just contact us and we’ll send you the manual and be more than happy to walk you through it.

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