Just as I was settling down for bed, I got an email notification from Passion Planner, one of my favorite brands, announcing the launch of their Kickstarter campaign of a brand new planner for 2018.
I made a beeline for the website, scrolling for details on their rewards and available colors. I had questions about the planner’s design, how many I could purchase, if they’d be available undated.
But rather than sending the company a cry for help via email, I scoured the campaign page for their FAQ section.
If you’ve had questions about using a service or buying a product, chances are you’ve searched for the FAQ or Frequently Asked Questions page as well.
What is FAQ?
FAQs are that nifty section of a company’s website where you’ll find answers to recurring customer questions.
For most ecommerce sites, they clarify the company’s rules and policies regarding refunds, returns, shipping, and more.
For software and digital services, they guide users to perform common actions, such as deleting an account or fixing sync problems.
But why turn to FAQs when there are living and breathing human beings ready to answer these questions for you?
You’re missing out on the benefits of self-service
FAQs are a form of self-service, and most people, if not all, prefer to resolve their issues than to wait and interact with a customer service rep.
In Kayako’s 2017 analysis on customer service trends, we found that 90% of consumers expect a brand or organization to offer self-service or frequently asked questions (FAQ) pages.
It’s more efficient and low-effort because they prevent the customer from switching from one service channel (the website) to another (email or phone). And as Dixon, Toman, and Delisi of CEB point out in The Effortless Experience, channel switching is “one of the biggest and most insidious drivers of high customer effort.”
The good news is that companies are quickly realizing the benefits of creating self-service content. It can increase customer loyalty and bring down annual costs to maintain other more expensive service channels.
Building your first FAQ template from scratch
The best part about FAQs is they’re easy to create and improve as your product or company grows over time.
If this is your first time creating FAQs or you’re looking to improve your existing content, I’ll be sharing a simple yet easy FAQ template you can use for your first and succeeding FAQ articles.
But, before we get into building your first FAQ template. There’s one question we must answer now:
What’s the difference between an FAQs and knowledge base article?
Self-service content take on different forms and structures based on the topics covered. It’s easy to mix documentation, how-to’s, and FAQs since they all work to help customers perform specific tasks or solve their problems.
FAQs however differ from documentation or knowledge base articles in length, language, and approach. They swiftly answer common questions in 2-3 clear paragraphs, while knowledge base or “Instructions” articles meld context, theory, and application so that our users understand how this feature helps their workflow and how to use it in their everyday operations.
Kelly O’Brien, Kayako’s very own Self-Service Content Manager, explains why by illustrating how our FAQs are meant to serve our customers:
“Since FAQs are intended to be in question and answer format, we work really hard to keep them direct and to-the-point, and then include links to more in-depth information. That way, if they’re just looking for a little nudge in the right direction, they can read the FAQ and get on with their day.”
Since they’re short, direct, and easy to create, FAQ articles are a good way to get the ball rolling with self-service.
Here are 4 easy steps to creating your first FAQ article:
Step 1: Create a list of common and recurring support questions
As the front line handling customer issues and hurdles, your support team are the best people to have onboard your self-service initiatives.
You can invite your support team to create a list of the company’s most common and recurring questions and issues. You can even view and filter existing support conversations for repeat questions.
When creating your first list of FAQs, keep a close watch for shorter, more generic questions as these tend to be popular in searches. With the longtail, less frequently asked questions, leave these to be addressed by your support team or a knowledge base article.
When deciding when to create an FAQ, Kelly relies on the Kayako support team to raise the flag when a support question needs to be covered:
“I rely fully on the support team for that. If someone comes to me and says, ‘Hey, we need an FAQ for this!’ I do a quick search to make sure there’s not something existing that just needs to be adapted, and then I’ll usually just create one.”
While collecting information, pay close attention terms, keywords, and descriptions your customers use when referring to your product. Doing so allows you to tune in to their language, thus optimizing your search terms so your customers immediately find the answers they’re looking for.
Lisa, Geckoboard’s Customer Success Champion, shares how using something as simple as tags helps the team keep track and implement unique terminology customers use to improve communication across the board:
“When we speak to our customers, we often find opportunities to improve our communication with them. We use tags in our help desk to keep track of the terminology for when the language used by the customer is not something we use in our internal or external documentation or marketing materials—for example, the word carousel where we would use loop. We review all tagged conversations and make sure we’re using these terms in the metadata for our help pages so that they appear when searched, or we add them into our style and language as a company. It’s hugely useful to us to make sure that we’re speaking the same language as our customers and creating a shared understanding of what our tools are and how they work.”
Once you have a good collection of support questions to sift through, let’s look at how we can organize your FAQs.
Step 2: Organize your FAQs
Establishing an organizational structure saves you the trouble of searching and skimming through numerous FAQ articles in the future. If you’re unsure about how to present your FAQs, a simple FAQ section or page is the most basic option to start with.
You can narrow down your list of support questions till you have 6-10 to work with. If you have 20 or more FAQ articles though, you can group and categorize questions so they’re easier to find. For instance, you can group articles by topic or process (e.g. accounts and users, billing), products and features, or platform. Here’s a good example:
Culture Code, the guys behind the popular GTD desktop app Things 3, lists and highlights the most common topics at the top of their support page so that customers won’t waste precious time scanning their entire knowledge base.
Step 3: Write your FAQ article
Clarity and brevity are crucial when writing high-quality FAQ pages. If your customers can’t understand or digest your self-service content, they’re bound to channel switch.
Here are a few useful writing tips for your first FAQ template, some of which we at Kayako use for our own FAQs:
1. Keep it short and sweet: Begin your article with the complete question followed by 2-4 paragraphs explaining the answer clearly and succinctly. Some questions may even need just 1-2 sentences to answer the question.
2. Add visuals: You can add a screenshot or GIF as a visual reference. If the article becomes too dense with text, visuals can make the reading experience easier for your users.
3. Unify the company terminology: When writing, you’ll want to ensure that there is unity in the language used throughout your content so there’s no room for confusion. Brief your support team on the standard terminology and encourage them to use these words when communicating with your customers.
4. Format for the web: Break thick paragraphs into thin, easy-to-digest blocks of text so your readers can easily scan and find the information they need.
5. Give people a trail to follow: As your FAQ section grows, you’ll notice articles that intersect with one another, be it subject matter or platform. While majority of customers use the search bar to find the same information, you can save them plenty of time by linking related articles.
Step 4: Maintain your FAQs (Are your FAQs still helping?)
Launching your FAQ section is just the beginning of your journey into self-service.
You’ll want to keep an eye on how your FAQs are performing against your conversation/ticket volume, paying close attention to their relevance as your product or company changes over time. In this case, metrics are your best friend.
“We add to and edit [Kayako’s FAQs] on a rolling basis, but in an ideal world, I’d do an FAQ audit once a year and make sure everything’s still relevant and up-to-date,” Kelly shares.
Auditing is a great way to evaluate and trim down your FAQ section to a manageable collection. You can delete irrelevant articles or combine similar topics if they’re best suited as a knowledge base article.
What can you do so your customer never asks this question again?
The template above offers plenty of useful tips to set the first stone for your self-service content library. All you need to do now is identify and address the issues that bug your customers so much that they need to exert effort just to reach out for help.
With well-written FAQs, your customers won’t need to call or email you about these basic recurring questions again. In doing so, you save precious time and effort for your support team as well—a win-win that most companies have only begun to realize.
If your FAQs and other self-service content can get even just two out of ten customers to avoid channel switching, you’ve already won half of the battle for your customer’s loyalty.