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Enhance your answers – how to handle frequently asked questions

Main illustration: Sonny Ross

Our customers often ask us how they can run an excellent customer support operation. One of the most frequently asked questions we get asked is, well, how do we handle frequently asked questions.

No matter the industry, customer support teammates find themselves dealing with the same frequently asked questions – how to reset a password, how to change profile information, how to download invoices, etc.

Answering these kinds of binary questions, day in, day out, can take their toll – after all, a customer support teammate is at their most productive when helping customers with challenging, layered questions. Being peppered with too many of the same type of questions can cumulatively have a demoralising effect.

And that’s not the only cost – paying customer support representatives to answer the same questions ad nauseam is an expensive business.

These, then, are our best practices for ensuring your customers get the answers they need, while your customer support representatives get to do the most high-value work that keeps them motivated.

What is an FAQ page?

Every company should begin by compiling a full-featured FAQ page featuring concise answers to frequently asked questions. Whether you call it an FAQ page, a help center or knowledge base, collecting the resources and responses to people’s most common problems in a single, easily searchable location creates a first port of call for your customers.

“Your FAQ pages are among the most important sections of your website”

It’s no exaggeration to say your FAQ pages are among the most important sections of your website. That’s because they act as much more than mere support centers, but also serve to educate potential customers who are exploring your product or service.

Intercom’s Articles product offers a powerful way to create, organize and present your help content. By creating an FAQ page or help center using Articles, you have an entire repository of articles that can help your customers search for the answers they need. You can group your articles by collection, so that they’re easily searchable, and even import articles from another knowledge base. Using our Articles Insights, you’ll get an overview of anything that your customers are searching for that doesn’t return an article, so you know what questions your customers are asking and what answers you need to compose and provide.

Examples of how we use FAQ pages at Intercom

A stand-out example of how to develop an FAQ page can be found in our own Help Center – for instance, our FAQs and Troubleshooting collection, where we’ve gathered articles that deal with our customers’ recurring questions.
Intercom Help Center
Key to our approach, however, is ensuring the material in our help center is consistently updated – the moment your FAQ page begins to gather any dust, users will be skeptical about the value of any of the information available.

Why you need more than an FAQ page to help customers

However, no matter how comprehensive your FAQ page or Help Center is, you can’t rely on it completely. That’s because some people will always go directly to a customer support representative to get an answer to their question. The process of searching for answers, and weighing up the results to that query, can feel too cumbersome for a lot of people.

“The urge to seek help from other people when feeling lost is inherent”

Ultimately, this is a natural human impulse – the urge to seek help from other people when feeling lost or disoriented is inherent, and while a good FAQ page might offer the solution to their problem, it doesn’t offer that sense of connection that gives makes some people feel they have been truly helped.

Dealing directly with a customer support representative also gives people the sense that they are getting the most up to date information, rather than potentially outdated pointers.

Your team of customer support representatives might be best utilized helping customers with genuinely tricky problems, but they will inevitably be faced with customers seeking answers to frequently asked questions. Tackling those questions requires a number of approaches.

4 ways we address frequently asked questions

At Intercom, we rely on a few different tools and methods to quickly and efficiently tackle these kinds of questions. Making full use of these tools leads to satisfied customers, and frees up more time for your support team to get their teeth into meatier challenges.

1. Saved Replies

We use Intercom’s products to respond to our customers, and we make full use of Inbox’s features to reply to FAQs as quickly as possible.

One of our most tried and tested solutions is our Saved Replies feature. This allows you and your team to craft ready made answers that can be inserted into a reply with the click of a button. Once you create a saved reply, it’s automatically shared across your entire team within Intercom, so that everyone can benefit from a colleague’s ingenuity.
Intercom Saved Replies

These can be particularly useful for responding to those questions that have a simple “yes/no” answer, or questions that require a large amount of information that can be dispersed in a short space of time – for example, explaining your pricing model to customers.

“Once you create a saved reply, it’s automatically shared across your entire team”

Our saved reply composer also allows you to include GIFs, images and hyperlinks, so you can show your customers how it’s done, or direct them to any external resources they might require. Additionally, you can include emojis, so as to add that personal touch. You can also include variables within saved replies, so that they automatically populate with a customer’s first name, or a value for another attribute e.g. their monthly spend for your app/site.

When it comes to using saved replies as a launchpad for crafting a personalized response, it’s good practice to tweak some of the more generic language you might use in a reply, so that it speaks to your customer’s particular use case.

One of the top tips from our support team is to use a saved reply as the basis for, or component of, an overall reply, instead of just inserting the reply and hitting “Send”. That way, the customer doesn’t feel like they’re getting a boilerplate response, and you combine the personal touch with the expediency of putting out a reply quicker than you normally would.

2. TextExpander

The Intercom Support team makes great use of some third-party tools to help here, and a particular favorite among the team is TextExpander.

This lets you create team-wide macros, so that big chunks of text and detailed answers can be easily inserted into a reply, just by typing a shorthand phrase or sentence fragment. Needless to say, we then customize those responses to the individual and the specifics of their request.

3. Articles in the Messenger

Articles don’t just live in your Help Center to be discovered by your customers. If you offer conversational support, they’re also there for you and your team to share with customers in chat conversations.
Intercom Article Inserter
You can also use our Article Inserter app to include specific articles on your Messenger home page, or in an in-app auto message. Our Articles Search app, meanwhile, will let your customers search for the answers to their questions without ever needing to leave your Messenger.

4. Smart Suggestions

The most powerful use of Articles, though, is our Operator bot’s Smart Suggestions feature – offering responses automatically is where the true power of Intercom’s Articles product reveals itself.
Intercom Smart Suggestions
With this feature, Operator will step in to answer customer questions by suggesting relevant articles from your help center. Even better, Operator will learn from how you and your team manually suggest articles to customers, and use this data to refine its suggestions. This way, Operator learns when, and how, to step in to answer your customers’ frequently asked questions, so you don’t have to.

Operator’s Smart Suggestions, along with the Article apps for the Messenger and your knowledge base, offer your customers a great self-service support experience.

Why you need an automated solution for FAQs

By using these tools to cut down on the response time for FAQs, you’re also making a direct impact on the human cost of answering these questions. There’s a perception that support teams are dogged with easy to answer, binary questions – in reality, we prefer to handle the meatier problems, but those basic questions are still a big chunk of our work.

“Operator learns when to step in to answer your customers’ questions”

By churning out the same, rote responses day in, day out, support team members can find themselves lacking a challenge and sliding towards boredom. Ideally, a human intervention should be reserved for those challenging, multi-layered questions that require some deeper investigation – in other words, engaging support cases that stimulate teammates and encourage them to think creatively, with a focus on problem solving.

Happily enough, that is also where we can provide the most value, to customers and to the business.

Even with the use of these tools, a direct human intervention is still required. There’s only so far that our tips and tricks will help you and your team shave down response times to frequently asked questions. Whether it’s in crafting a saved reply, or writing an article that Operator will suggest to a customer, the sweat of a human’s brow is still needed to make sure that question gets answered.

It’s a perennial problem, but stay tuned to find out how we’re planning to make major improvements in this space.