Consumers will generally only help themselves if they view it as easier and/or cheaper than their alternatives. Your frequently asked questions (FAQs) can provide your members, customers and prospects (consumers) with a way to help themselves get quick answers 24 hours a day. Rather than wading through your broad web content, your FAQs get directly to the point and make life a lot easier for your consumers. Consumers should have the choice of quickly finding the answers to their questions with the option of reading your broad marketing material if they choose. Your consumers' time is precious and must be respected!

Got a "search" on your Web site so your consumers can find what they are looking for in your Web pages? Even if you assume that you have the content consumers are looking for -- and that's a BIG if -- experts say it still does not work:

For your FAQs to be used with any degree of frequency your consumers must believe that your FAQs provide a good source for quickly getting understandable information on a broad array of topics. If they find out that your FAQs are static and limited in coverage, they will only refer to them for the most basic of information thereafter.

If done correctly, both your consumers and you can significantly benefit from providing an effective FAQ delivery. Your consumers will get quick answers 7x24 and you will save big, significantly cutting into the $10 to $32 you are paying for each incoming call.

Static FAQs just don't cut it and here's why:

  1. There are literally thousands of questions that your consumers can and will ask. You will never be able to define what all these questions are upfront -- nor should you try -- but you will quickly find out over the course of business what information is required. To be effective, your FAQs must continually grow as questions are asked that are not found in your set of FAQs. To realistically do this, your consumer-facing staff that are answering questions from any channel (in-person, phone and web) must be able to quickly and easily post new FAQs and refine existing FAQs without going through IT or other technical staff. You can't do that with a static FAQ!
  2. All FAQs must utilize adequate formatting to make them easy to read and include links directly to relevant documents, web pages and other FAQs. Your consumers should never be required to hunt around for multiple pieces of information to complete a transaction. They demand one-stop shopping. For example, a financial institution customer looking for information on sending an international wire transfer should have direct access to:

  • If you offer international wires and the associated fees

  • The locations that international wires can be done

  • The wire instructions required to send the wire

  • What time of day the wire can be sent

  • How long it will take for the money to be accessible by the recipient

Bottom Line: You need to put an intuitive tool in the hands of non-technical, consumer-facing staff that enables them to create rich, highly cross-referenced FAQs. You also need to have sufficient workflow in place to ensure that final editorial review occurs on the FAQs before publishing. You can't do that with a static FAQ!

  1. To be considered a valuable "first-stop" for information, the number of FAQs you have will keep growing and will become quite large. If you do not have sophisticated search tools enabling your consumers to quickly find what they are looking for, they won't look. To provide the searching capabilities required, your FAQs must be in a database. In particular, your consumers should be able to do the following:
  • Quickly see a description of all the different types (or categories) of information that are addressed by your FAQs.
  • Search for information by keywords, including searching using words that are not included anywhere in the FAQ but are commonly associated with the information.

  • Search for information based on categories or sub-categories of information to quickly filter down the information to only contain the topics they are interested in.

  • Have the ability to sort the FAQs retrieved based on what items are the most relevant, which includes actual usage of the knowledge base items.  By having the most relevant FAQs automatically percolate to the top of searches, consumers are more likely to quickly find what they are looking for.

  • Context sensitive access: In addition, a consumer should be able to link directly into the relevant section of your FAQs based on the current Web page they are on. For instance, if a consumer is in a section of a Web page that is about caring for vinyl windows, they should be able to link directly into a Web page that presents all FAQs about caring for vinyl windows.

You can't do that with a static FAQ!

  1. The same FAQs available to your consumers must be readily accessible and highly searchable by your staff to ensure that your answers are consistent and accurate across all your delivery channels. Consumers, and most importantly staff, should be automatically notified when categories of FAQs of interest are added or changed, again helping to ensure that everyone "sings off the same song sheet." Intranets typically do a very poor job of this because it is difficult to "drink from a fire hose" and staff quickly get overwhelmed when they are not afforded the precision of selectively defining what they care about. You can't do that with a static FAQ!
  2. To promote usage of your FAQs, you must be able to refer consumers directly to relevant FAQs when answering questions originating from email or online Web forms. By doing this you will show your consumers just how comprehensive and easy to use your FAQs really are --effectively "showing them where the fishing hole is rather than delivering them the fish." You can't do that with a static FAQ!

  3. Questions asked via email and using online Web forms that could have been answered using your FAQs clearly indicate that something needs to be done to improve the accessibility of your FAQs, but what about situations when users just give up looking and go to a competitor's site? To ensure that your FAQs are meeting the needs of all your consumers, you must know what your consumers are searching for, and when they are unsuccessful in finding what they are looking for, so that you can better index your items and/or add new FAQs. You can't do that with a static FAQ!

  4. To ensure that your FAQs are valuable to your consumer you must be able to get their feedback and comments on the usefulness of individual FAQs, using this information to continually evolve your FAQs. You can't do that with a static FAQ!

  5. You need to have the ability to selectively define access to different FAQs for different people or groups of people. You may have information that you only want board members or partners to have access to, other information that should be available to anyone, and other information that should only be available to staff or possibly selective staff. Your repository of FAQs should be in one place but selectively accessible based on the information. You can't do that with a static FAQ!
  6. Your consumers must know that if they cannot find what they are looking for they can escalate their inquiry to a real person using a highly managed channel that consistently performs within service levels. When they ask their question online, your system should present potential FAQs to their question as one last attempt to help them find what they are looking for before submitting their question. You can't do that with a static FAQ!

  7. An FAQ is an effective delivery to succinctly answer questions. But unless your FAQs are maintained in a robust knowledge base, they will not provide your consumers with a viable option to help themselves, causing both you and your consumers to lose out! You will do exactly that with a static FAQ!

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