Do your FAQs Just Have Made-Up Questions?

By Disha Sharma

Picture this… You buy a shiny new to-do app and kickstart it. But there’s a problem…

With each task you add, you also assign a deadline. But then you get stuck — somehow you can’t work out how to integrate the app’s calendar feed with your Google calendar.

As a millennial – a fan of self-service – your first thought isn’t to contact support. Instead, you start searching the app’s site for content to sort your issue. You look for help in the site’s FAQs.

(You’re almost sure that they would’ve covered something as basic as this.)

But to your disappointment, they HAVEN’T.

In fact, you find the site’s FAQs full of questions like:

  • How can I review your app in the app store?
  • How can I signup for your newsletter?
  • Can anyone organize their tasks with your app?

When you don’t find the answer to your question, you do the next best thing—contact the support.

I’m sure all of us have actually faced such FAQ experiences. The problem with such FAQs is that they don’t cover any “real” user questions. They’re made up of made-up questions that only the product owners “think” that their users might want answered.

In its 2002 edition of the top 10 web design mistakes, Nielsen listed “made up FAQ questions” as #7 on the list.

Nielsen noted:

“Too many websites have FAQs that list questions the company wished users would ask. No good.”

When FAQs are created in the head of the creator rather than the customer, they don’t stay helpful anymore.

To save that from happening to your FAQs, here’s a simple trick to catch all the fictional questions in your FAQs (followed by 5 places to look for real user questions).

A ninja hack to get rid of all the spurious questions from your existing FAQs

The best way to tighten up your FAQs is to go back to each question and ask yourself this:

Have users contacted me about this ever?

If you answer in a negative for a question, it doesn’t have to be on your FAQs.

But if you answer in a “Yes,” go ahead and see if the question—though asked by a user—qualifies to be in the FAQs. You need to test this because you can’t feature every user question in your FAQs. Doing so would mean too many too specific questions in your FAQs, which again would extend a very poor FAQ experience.

So see if a question has been asked “enough” times to be included in the FAQs.

For example, if you observe that most of your new users contact you about a particular feature setup, it could be a good question for your FAQs. Because first, it’s a “real” user question. And second, it’s commonly asked by the users.

But if a new user asks a question about some very specific customization, you wouldn’t want to add it to your FAQs. Because (1) it’s too specific, and (2) it’s very unlikely that other users will struggle with it.

Now that your FAQs are all cleaned up, time to look for the most bugging questions your users actually struggle with.

5 easy ways to spot some “real” user questions

1. Past support tickets

The best place to start looking for real FAQs is your support tickets. Doing a simple search through your tickets will help you identify the topics that generate the most tickets.

If you find that a lot of tickets around a certain topic get resolved with the same response, it will make sense to add that query to your FAQs.

2. Chat sessions (and phone recordings)

Because 42% of customers prefer chat over other support channels, your chat archives are a goldmine for finding potential FAQs.

Chat sessions will ideally highlight a lot of pre-sales queries because many people use chat to get their pre-sales questions answered. Phone calls, on the other hand, might uncover some common troubleshooting queries because users often get on the phone when they can’t find help on any other channel.

3. Contact form submissions

Contact form submissions show a lot of business enquiry kind of messages. So your contact form messages could tell you about the most commonly asked generic queries.

To streamline your contact form submissions, try adding a custom category field to your contact form. So if a user has a question about partnering with you, the user would have to select the “Partnerships” category. This categorization will help you when you process queries to include in your FAQs.

4. Forums

If your site has a forum, find out if a particular thread on your forum gets unusually high traffic. A high traffic forum thread is a sure indicator of a topic that lots of users struggle with.

These topics could make relevant FAQs. You could expect them to be around product configuration and troubleshooting because new users often seek help from existing users when they can’t figure things out in a product.

You might also find a lot of repeat questions in forums. (I’m sure you’ve seen responses like – “We’ve covered this in our FAQs” or “This topic is already covered in some past thread” and so on)

When you use forums to find questions, make sure that you run them through your FAQs to confirm if they aren’t covered already.

Scanning through your users’ most searched keyphrases will help you discover topics that your users search about. Needless to say, these topics could form useful FAQs.
In addition to the above 5 places, social media too can help you identify popular questions. So if your customers rant about some feature or functionality all the time, you could evaluate those too for inclusion in your FAQs.

Conclusion

Made-up questions discount the value of FAQs because they aren’t inspired by real user concerns. And as a result, they DON’T help.

Have you ever added questions to your FAQs based on your assumptions? And what’s your criteria for deciding if a question should be in your FAQs? Do share in the comments!

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