FAQs About FAQs: How to Effectively Handle Customer Questions
Being responsive to your customers' questions is one of the most important parts of the job. Here are some FAQs from small business owners about the FAQs they receive, and tips on how to effectively handle them.
How often does a customer call, text or email you with a question? If you said “rarely,” then you’re either very good or very lucky. Stop reading now and go do something fun instead. If you said “often” or “a lot,” then read on—this one is for you. We are taking a look at questions small business owners like you have regarding customer FAQs.
Q: How important are customer questions?
Our operational assumption is that effective, efficient and engaging customer communication is essential for any business to survive, let alone thrive. That said, responding to customer questions quickly, clearly and courteously is a critically important aspect of customer communication strategy.
Customers rarely have the technical knowledge to assess how good your product or service is—that’s why they need you. But they can also quickly judge your company’s values by what you do and say in responding to their questions.
Q: When should I expect questions from customers?
A: Any time and all the time.
Prospective and current customers will have questions the first time they visit your location, search your site or call in. They will also have questions throughout the shopping and sales process and long after they buy your product or service.
So, you and your customer-facing staff need to always be ready to respond to questions consistently—and be sure to always follow your company’s strategy and plan. If you don’t have a strategy and plan for questions because you thought it was obvious, wrong answer. Always have a plan.
Q: What should I say?
A: Initially, Nothing! But then…
Instead of trying to jump in and answer their questions as they are speaking, be sure to listen intently to their comment or question. This is especially important face-to-face. You must not only actually listen, but you also must show them that you are listening.
Once you have listened attentively, verify your understanding by saying something like “Let me make sure I’m understanding…” or “So, what you’re asking is…”
Then, answer and respond clearly and concisely. And after you do so, don’t follow up your response by saying “Did I answer your question?” That implies you might not have answered the question. Simply say, “Do you have any more questions or is there anything else I can help you with?”
Q: What if I don’t know the answer or can’t respond immediately?
A: Say so! But then…
If you really don’t know the answer to a customer question, be honest and tell them that you don’t know. But then indicate when you think you will have an answer or response. Ask them if they would rather stay on hold/stay in the store or have you call them. Do what they ask. And a good rule of thumb is to always respond sooner than you said you would.
If the right answer is “I don’t know,” consider instead choosing the words “I’m not exactly sure.” Selecting these words will be better for your credibility.
Q: Should I have an FAQ page on my website?
Every business should have an FAQ page—just be sure it’s easy to find, clear and comprehensive. When someone calls you, ask if they’ve already visited the site. This is a subtle way to remind them to do so for next time.
While an FAQ page is important, such a page is static—it sits there waiting for someone to read it. Consider including all of it or parts of it in regular customer communication. If they already know the answer, no problem. If not, they might appreciate the gesture. If you have a customer blog or e-newsletter, feature a regular FAQ section in each issue. And, once is never enough—keep repeating the important questions. Few people will notice the repetition and no one will mind.
Q: How do we know which questions are important?
A: They are all important!
Assume all customer questions are equal, but some are more equal than others, (Thank you, George Orwell). Keep track of questions manually if you have to or by hit frequency on your site. Usually the questions asked the most often are the most important, or at least impact the most customers.
So, make the most of FAQs for your customers and your value proposition. Turn every frequently asked question into a frequently answered question. And make sure to send in your questions about questions (email Marie Zickefoose) so we can respond to them in our article next month. Any questions?
Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com, 440 449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.