The Technium

NAQ – Never Asked Questions

That’s what most company FAQs really are. Easily answered questions that no one has ever asked.

These fake FAQs are useless. They are a turnoff to potential customers looking for reasons to buy, and an insult to existing customers troubleshooting.  I now judge companies while shopping on how competent their FAQs are.

Most organizational FAQs are written by the marketing or PR arm. I think that is fine. It’s actually okay to have the marketing folks write the answers. After all, why not have the organization present its best case? There might be nuances and selling points that should be covered. The problem is that the same folks make up the questions. The ones they make up are Easily Answered Questions that have never been asked.  “Q: Is this the world’s best product in this category? A: Why, yes!”

Behind that charade, real questions are being ignored. And if its a real problem, the real questions will be frequent, the same ones over and over. Ignoring FAQs is is dumb.


Answering real FAQs is smart for several reasons:

* It forces you to face the problem.

* It forces you to face your answer.

* It’s an opportunity to sell (yes).

* It projects your character and brand.

* You can control the answer…

…because if you don’t answer the FAQs, the internet tubes will. That’s what forums are. Customers, both potential and present, bring their real questions to find real answers. Here people who don’t work for the company will supply answers. Often these answers are good, but often the organization could supply a better answer, if it were really running a FAQ.  Why not make it easy for everyone to find the best answer — from the organization’s point of view?

Sure, have an employee write the answers for FAQs. But keep the questions real. Need some real questions? Ask the help desk, or tech support, the mail room, or the receptionist!

You don’t have to answer every question people will have. If you can answer the top 10 real FAQs (per subject) you can change the tenor of your feedback. One company claims that a decent FAQ (a half hour of work at most) can reduce calls to the help desk by 10%.

Real FAQs will often be difficult to answer. An answer may mean admitting mistakes, or acknowledge a weakness, or explaining something very complicated. It’s okay. Take all the room and time you want. People WILL read it.

For maximizing the learning cycle let people also alert you if they feel you’ve answered the FAQ.

There are a couple of tutorials on how to write a good self-service FAQ. One reminds writers to give how-to answers for how questions, deep link to further info, and end with the great, “Where do I go if I have a question you have not answered?”

Hey, here’s a radical idea: put the most asked questions up top!

And of course, your FAQ does not need to be in the form of a Q&A at all. You can cover the same ground by writing it in prose, or essay form, or even a story. For example, I took all the frequently asked questions about my book of photographs of remote and traditional scenes from Asia, and gave them all answers in this production note. It’s all answers, no questions, but it works.


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