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How to Create A Top Notch FAQ for Your Users

, 24 Jan 2008
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Help Users Help Themselves - And Not Contact You

Introduction

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far way, someone got tired of answering the same questions over and over again. So they created a list of these questions and answers and passed them out to anyone who bought their product. Thus the FAQ (pronounced fax) was born.

Anyone can create a FAQs list but it takes talent to create a FAQs list that truly gives the customers what they need.

What is a FAQ

FAQ stands for Frequently Asked Question(s).
Here is an example of a single FAQ.

Q: "Why does the bottle drip from the top when I shake it?"
A: "The top is not securely fastened. The top should be unscrewed and then removed. Remove any debris from the threading. Screw the top back on, making sure the threads are aligned properly and the top and bottom fit snuggly once re-attached."

Building and Using FAQs to Your Advantage

FAQ lists are the number one weapon used for customer questions. FAQ can be on printed paper or in electronic form such as a PDF file or built into the help section of software.

The top portion of the FAQ is the list of questions. Each question is on its own line. If it's electronic form, by clicking the question, you go to the answer in the lower section of the page. Using paper or even electronic document form, the question is followed by a page location or the question has a number and the user then looks at the list of complete questions and answers, at the bottom of the question list, for the right number.

Quality FAQs

FAQ quality is ultimately dependent on two things; clarity and quantity.

If 5 FAQs are enough to satisfy most common questions for your product, then 5 is enough. If your product can be used 87 different ways or has 50 different areas of functionality, then a significantly longer FAQ is acceptable.

BREAK OUT THE SECTIONS

A FAQs list could be 200 questions within common areas of questions (FAQs related to Printing, FAQs related to Installation, and FAQs related to common product usage). There could be 10 sections, with each having relevant FAQs. If you do have more than 30 FAQs, then you should consider breaking them up into categories. This will please the customers!

When you break out the FAQs into distinct sections, users will have an easier time finding what they need. This also helps so they don't overlook an answer.

The questions themselves should be easy to read and understand.

The answers should be complete so the user is not left with questions as to clarity. They should be easy to understand and follow if they contain any directions.

The initial building of a FAQ list comes from three main areas:

  1. A review of the product in a brainstorming session over the possible questions a person may have either of the product or over a specific issue.
  2. Give the product to a group of people to use. Ask them for a list of questions.
  3. Review similar products on the market and read through their FAQ. You can't directly steal their questions and answers but you can re-write them to fit your product.

Any form of a computer word processor will work great for building the FAQs list. It's best to give users a web link to a current FAQs list. However, if you do want to include a list in their product purchase, either give them a printed copy or create an electronic file for them to have.

The better the quality of a FAQs list, the less likely a user will have to use two-way support.

FAQs should also be updated on a regular basis based on changes in the product as well as two-way support services reporting any trend towards certain questions. This is very important! The more questions that the FAQs list covers, the less questions you'll have to answer in email, helpdesk ticket, via phone call, etc.

Summary

FAQs are the cheapest and easiest way to answer customer questions without ever having to spend the time ACTIVELY answering their questions. Customers who find their answers in the FAQs will be happy because they had their question answered with minimal time and energy invested into problem resolution.

Most product developers know about FAQs lists. This article isn't meant to show a FAQs a brand new cure-all. It's meant to outline the simple ways that a FAQs list can go from mediocre to great. Don't forget that even a FAQs list is a means of marketing a product. The better experience a user has - even in the area of customer support, the more likely she/he is to recommend your product.

Points of Interest

Burger King restaurant has a list of frequently annoying questions on their take-out bags.

History

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License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

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About the Author

chrishuff

United States United States
Longtime computer programmer and author of the Cruise Control Customer Support guide. I have provided customer support in a variety of fields from the retail industry to the information technology field.
 
If you want to master your customer support services so you spend less time on customer support and actually provide a higher quality of support, check out my
homepage blog for articles you can use.

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