How to Use Simple Video to Save Your Customers Headaches

Product assembly is a moment of truth.

For some customers, this is no issue. For others, its a potential exercise in frustration. If the assembly process doesn't go well, the product may be returned and that customer may never buy another product from your company again.

Hayneedle is an online home furnishings retailer. Many of their products require assembly. The instructions provided by the manufacturer often leave a lot to be desired.

The company solves this challenge using simple video. Here's how they do it and how you can do it too.

Let's say a customer purchases this Orbelle Contemporary Solid Wood Toddler Bed:

Image source:  Hayneedle website

Image source: Hayneedle website

There's a little bit of assembly required. The written instructions from Orbelle can be a bit confusing to most customers. (See the instruction booklet here.)

Here's a screen shot:

This may seem simple to you, given your innate mechanical ability and savant-like grasp of obscure terms like "mattress base mullion," but think like a typical customer.

When I was a customer service manager, I once had to walk a customer through how to operate a music box!

"Now, turn that key to the right a few times. To the right. The other way. Yes, now let it go. The key, let go of the key. Yes, that's it. Do you hear the music?"

Fortunately, Hayneedle provides a video explaining the assembly instructions.

This simple video is very clear and makes the assembly process look much easier!

Notice there's nothing fancy going on. You can shoot similar videos using basic equipment, even your smart phone. There are just a few keys:

  • Make sure the person on camera speaks clearly and slowly.
  • Get enough lighting so everything is well-lit. 
  • Zoom in on detail work so it's easy for your audience to see.

You can find some basic tutorials on, such as this one for shooting video with an iPhone. (A account is required, but you can get a free 10-day trial.)


Applications & Benefits

Video like this can be a great self-service option for customers. It can help your company in a few ways:

  • Reduce customer contacts
  • Reduce product returns
  • Improve repeat business

Keep in mind that many customers don't complain about a poor experience. They simply give up and take their business somewhere else.

These videos also give your customer service agents another tool to help customers. Verbally walking customers through instructions over the phone is difficult and time consuming. 

Much better to direct customers to the video, which provides a clear visual reference. Customers can also stop, rewind, and re-start the video to review key parts.

There is one thing that Hayneedle can do a little better. The video link isn't always obvious. Let's look at the product page for that toddler bed again:

Customers may not see the link to the video, or they may not realize that it's a product assembly video. And, you won't see the videos mentioned if you go to Hayneedle's customer help page.

You'll make your videos even more useful if you can put them right where customers go looking for them.

This could mean your help center, your product page, or even your customer contact page. Better yet, put a conspicuous link in all three places since you never know how your customers will navigate in search of help.

Beware! Customers Are Watching These Private Moments

I really enjoy The Profit on CNBC.

It's a reality show where entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis invests in struggling businesses. In each episode, Lemonis investigates a business and then tries to make a deal with the current owners to help them turn things around. 

A recent episode featured a gourmet marshmallow company called 240sweet. Lemonis invested $100,000 in the business, but his relationship with the owners dissolved when he realized they were being dishonest with him. 

One owner in particular came across as abrasive, egotistical, and unethical. I won't spoil the ending, but you can watch the full episode on for a limited time.

The fallout after the show aired was amazing. 

Viewer Backlash

The Profit takes viewers behind the scenes to see how businesses really work. Lemonis goes through the company's financials, their operations, and even their customer service.

If an ordinary investor was doing due diligence on a potential business acquisition, most of those moments would be private. On The Profit, everything is on camera. 

What was shown on television was very unflattering.

240sweet was hit with an avalanche of 1-star reviews on Yelp and Google. Most of these viewers had never done business with 240sweet. They simply wanted to punish the company for what they had seen on television.

You may not have any plans to appear on a reality show, but you still need to beware of private moments when customers are watching.


The World is Watching

240sweet isn't the first business to look bad after their appearance on reality television. (Remember Amy's Baking Company?)

Your actions may still be recorded even when you aren't appearing on a reality show. Who could forget the FedEx package tosser or the sleeping Comcast technician?

You may not recognize the name Anjali Ramkissoon, but you probably remember seeing this video of the Miami doctor going nuts on an Uber driver. Her employer certainly noticed as she was placed on administrative leave after the video went public.

Customers may still be watching even when employees aren't being recorded. Here are just a few examples:

  • Employee break areas that are visible to the public
  • Employees who commute to work in uniform
  • Employees having private conversations in customer-facing areas


Be Careful

A friend of mine recently had an embarrassing moment on her way to work. She was annoyed by another driver and laid on her horn to share her displeasure.

The other driver turned out to be her boss.

These incidents are a reminder to all of us that we never know when a customer, a boss, or anyone with a camera might be watching. 

How do Adults Learn? Find out on

Many of us train in some capacity.

You might consider yourself a trainer. Or, perhaps you're a leader who trains employees one-on-one. You may even be asked to help out an inexperienced co-worker.

Whatever the situation, it helps to know how adults learn new knowledge, skills, and abilities.

My new course on will provide you with the foundational knowledge you need to take your training to the next level. It's primarily intended for instructional designers, but anyone who does training can benefit.

Topics include:

  • Adult learning theory
  • Understanding the four stages of learning
  • Comparing active vs. passive learning
  • Overcoming learning barriers
  • Turning theory into practice

In the sample video below, you'll see how two courses on the same topic can be vastly different. (Click here if you don't see the video.)

You’ll need a subscription to view the entire course. The good news is your subscription gives you unlimited access to all of their courses. 

Even better news? You can get a free 10-day trial so you can watch this course and explore the library without committing to purchasing a subscription.

Here are a few more of my courses on

The top 5 viral service failure videos

In customer service, going viral usually means something went wrong and people are mocking you.

An extra dimension is added when that viral service failure is captured on video. In some cases, we actually see the events unfolding. In other cases, the video re-caps the service failure in a way that enlightens and entertains.

Here are my top five viral service failure videos. Agree? Disagree?  

#5 Domino's Pizza Prank (2009) 

Story: Two employees at a Domino’s Pizza franchise thought it would be great fun to film one of them defiling customer orders while the other narrates. Though the two insisted the video was a joke, they soon found themselves fired and sitting in jail.

Viral Factor: The original video was removed, presumably by the two pranksters. That hasn’t stopped the video being posted by others, with at least one posting attracting over a million views.

Lesson Learned: If you absolutely, positively must do something this stupid, don't film it.

#4  Dude, don’t touch my junk! (2010)

The Story: The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) implemented new airport security procedures in late 2010 that triggered a wave of passenger complaints. Many travelers felt harassed, humiliated, and physically violated. John Tyner surreptitiously videoed his TSA experience and posted what’s now known as the “Dude, don’t touch my junk!” video.

Viral Factor: The incident attracted national media attention and the video has been seen over one million times on YouTube. 

Lesson Learned: Excessive focus on compliance without compassion won’t win you many fans.

#3 Sleeping Comcast Technician (2006)

The Story: A Comcast technician falls asleep while waiting on hold with his own company! The homeowner records the video and posts it online. Mockery ensues.

Viral Factor: The original YouTube video has attracted 1.7 million views.

Lesson Learned: If the system is broken, your employees won’t succeed.


#2 FedEx Package Tosser (2011)

The Story: A FedEx driver was caught on surveillance video tossing a package over a fence. The owner posted the video on YouTube. The worst part, according to the owner, was he was at home when the package was delivered.

Viral Factor: The original video has been viewed nearly 9 million times on YouTube.

Lesson Learned: Always serve customers like the world is watching.


#1 United Breaks Guitars (2009)

Story: United Airlines refused to take responsibility after baggage handlers broke Dave Carroll’s guitar. Carroll sought revenge by posting a humorous music video to YouTube.

Viral Factor: More than 13 million people have watched the video. The experience led Carroll to write a book by the same name and start a company called Gripevine.

Lesson Learned: When you're wrong, fix it and fix it fast.