A Pox on Frequently Asked Questions.

I recently attended a spreecast where there was some griping  about people (customers) who didn’t bother to read the FAQ at a site before submitting a support ticket to admin to get an answer. One solution discussed was to force the person,(customer) to use the FAQ section before they (the customer) were allowed to ask for support. It was assumed that the individual, (the customer) was too lazy to look for the information they required in that section first. So in other words the owner of the system was calling their customers lazy.

This was done without any real analytical thought about why people would rather go straight to support.

In reality FAQs belong in the same category as the canned  phone response you get when you make a call to almost any business; “All of our agents are currently busy and will get to you as soon as possible. Your call is important to us….” Bullshit. (sorry).

Unless you have a very simple question, like how to get your commission, or where to find your affiliate link…FAQ data bases aren’t very intuitive. Unless you have a very good command of the English language and know precisely what you are looking for you will get the same run around as you get calling into a call center. You get a list of possible responses, and it’s your job as the “customer” to filter through the list and see if you can find something that is close to the question you are asking.

Meanwhile you are wasting your valuable time, money and effort while the business pushes those expenditures to you.

And they have the gall to call you lazy.

We as consumers have become so conditioned to lousy customer service we rarely complain about its lack.

Companies are so use to paying lip service to customer service, they believe their own bullshit on the issue.

I know I worked in retail for years and I can’t tell you how many times I was told the only real controllable was payroll. It was the only trick in the book. Cut payroll (people) try to create an illusion of service with smoke and mirrors and pat yourself on the back for a better bottom line.

Truth is real customer service is expensive and time-consuming.

The canned phone call should really say, “we don’t care about your business, it’s not important to us, but if you want to invest your time and money holding to get our next service representative then don’t bitch about the wait.” That at least would be more honest.

FAQs is in the same league: “We really don’t want to invest money and time handling your question we’d rather piss you off by getting you to search our data base, and if you can’t find the answer you need…it’s because you are stupid.”

It’s not that I think there is no place for FAQ, I just don’t think you should use them as a crutch for customer service.

If you want to stand out you need to be outstanding.

Nick Grimshawe





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  • Hi Nick,

    I appreciate what you say. Yes you can be outstanding, but when it gets to the stage where you’ve got such a big downline or a large customer base, then FAQs are the way to go.

    Or signpost people to the information.

    I will normally fire up a video to explain something, if the question arises time and time again and point people to it.

    The issue I do have with FAQs on some sites, they end up being out of date or generic, yes that’s when questions arise, you can hold your hands up and say, yes the FAQ is wrong we’ll update it ASAP.

    All the best

    Richard Arblaster recently posted…2014My Profile

  • A picture is worth a thousand words, and video instruction is so easy to do now…it should be a new standard for frequently asked question. It’s more an issue of attitude when you think your customer is lazy for not using a tool that is difficult to use. I’ve tried. I go straight to support. Support which in most cases is usually excellent. I say don’t use FAQ as a crutch. Don’t force me to use something that doesn’t work very well, especially when the data base is not in my native language.

    Thanks for you comments Richard.


  • WoooooHooooo Nick! What a great post! Spot on!!

    I am going through it right now with a major AV supplier. There is a glitch in my license, I know what the glitch is (switched computers) and you don’t have a category in your FAQ for it. Now if I could just talk to somebody or chat live with somebody….

    And my all time favorite “We will answer within 48 hours” There is just no telling what 48 they mean.

    Thanks, Nick!!
    Tom Wacker recently posted…Winners and Losers AgainMy Profile

  • Hi Nick,

    Weelll…I would have to disagree with you to a certain extent regarding FAQs.

    I’ve seen programs with very extensive KnowledgeBases. Personally, I have had questions answered in this manner WITHOUT having to submit a support ticket. Of course, the program owner took the time to develop the KnowledgeBase so that it’s intuitive, relevant and helpful.

    While I am all for providing excellent customer service…folks SHOULD take more initiative in reading EVERYTHING available in the program’s back office BEFORE submitting a support ticket. I’m an admin in a Facebook group for a couple of programs, and the countless support questions (non-technical) I answer ARE clearly explained in the site’s back office…if they would have just taken the extra time to go thru the back office. But, instead, they felt it was “quicker” to just get their question answered by a live person.

    If someone is joining a program, especially a program where they would be generating a downline of people, and they don’t want to take the time to read thru the content that is available…what does that say about them being a leader and a source of support for THEIR team?

  • I have to agree, I’d much prefer if a member have a question that they submit a ticket or get ahold of me on skype or facebook..

    It’s much more valuable to have the opportunity to open a dialog and create the foundation of a relationship with your customer then to forward them to some impersonal long list of questions..

    I do have a small ‘knowledgebase’ for the most common questions that come up, but honestly I’d rather the member make an attempt to reach out so I can get to connect with them

    As someone who professionally developed sales websites for small businesses (before I got into this TE land) one of the biggest effects on conversions was clicks/barriers.. the more steps it takes a person to get to the end goal, the more you will lose… who knows how many members you are losing by forcing them to search through a long list of unrelated questions, that just give up and walk away
    John Bell recently posted…Are you a Traffic Exchange Owner?My Profile

  • Yep Tom, had that experience. I think there must be a manual that tells people to say 48 hours. I think it’s hoped that you forget that you even put the ticket in. I can forget a lot in 48 hours. LOL


  • Hi Ellyn great to have your comment. I did say that FAQ’s serve a purpose but that they shouldn’t be used as a crutch for customer service. I think it’s the nature of the beast that people aren’t going to read through everything. When you use FAQs as your customer service standard…then I think you are missing the point of customer service big time. I am not going to waste my time scanning through reams of answers to questions that have no bearing on what I’m looking for or are so obscure that I can’t understand them. We live in an age where we an inundated with data. My experience hasn’t been good, mainly frustrating and I’m English speaking what about some one from India that’s just as keen to learn as I am but hasn’t got a hope in hell of wording a questions so that the data base can throw up the right answer. When I submit a ticket it’s because I have a problem, usually immediate. And I know support will get me an answer, especially if it’s technical.

    But I love knowledge based programs that teach me step by step but that’s not what we are talking about here.

    And I am sure as an admin that it’s frustrating to answer those questions over and over again. I get it. I just say don’t use the FAQ’s as your customer support standard.


  • Ah John your response is music to my ears. I missed that whole point about creating a relationship when you answer a support ticket. It does give you the opportunity to understand your customer and to build that invaluable relationship that you miss entirely if you are relying on the FAQ’s to do the work for you. I personally love to get the questions because it helps me understand how to better frame my material to begin with. If some one isn’t getting it, then what have I missed, or how did I fail to make my point clear? What I learn from that interaction I can now apply to make what I am doing even better for the next person. And we all see and read differently…I wouldn’t want to miss a new insight because I didn’t take the time to answer a question. And sometimes those questions make you go duh! Why didn’t I think of that.

    Thanks for commenting John.

  • I have to agree, I’d much prefer if a member have a question that they submit a ticket or get ahold of me on skype or facebook.. It’s much more valuable to have the opportunity to open a dialog and create the foundation of a relationship with your customers.

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