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By Tia Peterson
What does FAQ have to do with business process management?
A well-developed FAQ (aka frequently asked questions) adds a level of automation to your business. By creating a set of FAQ that is easy to use, relevant and accessible, you can reduce the amount of time it will take to address very simple customer inquiries.
When are FAQs necessary?
FAQs are strongly suggested for traditional businesses and service providers that sell well-developed and relatively stable products or services (think retail and wholesale outfits, catering companies, wedding planners and music teachers, for example). Retail and wholesale outfits can use FAQ to address questions related to the ordering process, manufacturing, and shipping. Catering companies and wedding planners can use FAQ to address scheduling or booking questions. Music teachers can use FAQ to address questions related to lesson plans, methodology and expectations. FAQ are always helpful, but not always necessary.
Bottom-line: you need FAQ if you’re getting (or you anticipate getting) a lot of frequently asked questions. Otherwise, FAQ is optional (see unconventional uses at the bottom of this post for example). Simple as that.
Note: FAQ can be incredibly helpful for online marketers who are launching new products, also. Online marketers can use FAQ on sales pages and in e-mail marketing for better conversions (since the questions will be addressed upfront). If you don’t get a lot of questions or if the questions you get are always unique, don’t spend time on FAQ. Part of effective business process management is doing things that are useful and helpful – don’t waste time on unnecessary tasks!
How should FAQs be formatted? When the FAQ are basic questions about your products or services, you can list them on a web page or in a brochure. Note: it isn’t necessary to create a separate page just for FAQ – put them where they are most relevant. You can use this opportunity to improve your customer experience with your website and/or marketing material. For example, you could put FAQ that are about your experience and background wherever your About Me information is. You could put FAQ that are about your products and services wherever that information is present. And you could put FAQ that are about how to contact you on/near your contact information.
Why use FAQs at all? Really, the answer has to do with what I wrote at the beginning – developing a good set of FAQ improves your business process by adding a level of automation that would otherwise become laborious and time-consuming. If you find yourself getting a lot of the same questions by customers hesitant to buy/sign up/schedule a consultation, for example, perhaps you should put together a list of these FAQ and make it accessible to prospective clients and customers.
Should You Spend Money on FAQ Software?
Truthfully, I didn’t know there was such a thing as FAQ software until I began researching FAQ while writing this post. My opinion is that you do not need FAQ software as a small business owner. FAQ software is useful for technical writers, software developers, etc. But for you – you should not be automating your FAQ creation (which is hard for me to say, as someone who assists small businesses in automating their business processes). Use the FAQ development as a learning experience for you – it can help you get to know your business, as well as highlight some opportunities to improve your business processes.
How to Create the Perfect FAQ
The following is a list of steps you can follow to develop and implement a good set of FAQ for your business. If you have any questions on how to implement these, send me a message or leave a comment and I will respond!
- For the next 1-2 months, collect any and all questions you receive in a list. The questions can be from prospective or current clients/customers. Make a note each time a question is received so you can tell which questions are asked most often.
- Gather the most frequently asked questions as well as the most useful questions into a separate list. If you have a lot of FAQ, organize them into sections that make sense. Splitting them into relevant sections will help people find what they are looking for more quickly.
- Develop a relevant, accurate answer to each FAQ. Spend a lot of time on this. Getting the answer right is just as important as choosing the right FAQ. If you’re developing FAQ for a website, link the answer to the page on your website that provides more information, if possible.
- Decide where to put the FAQ. It is OK to put them all together in a list – this is conventional. But you can also put them where it makes the most sense contextually.
- Publish your FAQ.
- Spend 2-3 months testing your customer/client experience now that the FAQ is available and be sure to use website analytics to determine whether or not anyone is even reading your FAQ (if you’ve placed them on a page on your website, for example). If you find that 3 months has gone by and you are still getting peppered with the same questions, you need to look at the placement of your FAQ and the overall effectiveness of the marketing tool (brochure, website, chalkboard – wherever you have placed FAQ).
Unconventional (but awesome!) other ways to use FAQ
- Subliminal marketing: When written well, you can use FAQ to be persuasive in addition to purely informational. When used in e-mail marketing, for example, you could use FAQ as more of a way to address the questions you think your prospective customers/clients would ask themselves. Perhaps they would ask themselves what value the new product adds to their life or whether or not the price is worth it. A well-developed FAQ could answer that question for them.
- Address how-to: If you sell a product, you can use FAQ to talk about how to use it (if it’s not obvious). You can also use FAQ to talk about how to use a service or how to contact you.
- Talk about privacy: Privacy policies use standard language that is usually boring and no one reads it. You can use FAQ to talk to people about how you manage their information.
- Show off your personality: This is your first real opportunity to talk to your customers/clients about things that are on their minds. So, talk to them like you would talk to them in person or over the phone – be genuine! A great example of this is the FAQ page over at Mailinator (which I found referenced in a blog post about FAQ). They even use the term “stupid-head.”:) This demonstrates a lot about their personality. Show yours in your FAQ, too!
- Generate Backlinks: If your FAQ is interesting and informative enough, you could even use your FAQ to generate backlinks. See the list of good FAQ examples below. These FAQ pages have tons of backlinks, which means a lot of websites link to them.
Examples of Great FAQ on Websites
- U.S. Copyright Office – Relevant, critical FAQ. Essential for the massive amount of business they do.
- Cairns Wedding Planner – Great use of subliminal marketing!
- Amazon Associates – They’ve integrated FAQ into a huge help section.
- Dance Dimensions Dance Studio – I like that they’ve shown some personality in both the way the word each FAQ as well as how they answer each one.