Ten things I hate about FAQs (and why I love VA’s)

1. Leaving the page. I hate leaving the page; I might not find the right one again. I’ve even been known to open up another tab in the browser, just to go to the FAQ without having to leave the page I have open.

2. Wading through pages of FAQs. My heart sinks when I see ten pages of carefully scripted FAQs. I quickly skim read them, and then get to the end only to find my question isn’t answered. Did I miss it or is it that it’s not there? Only one way to find out, read the FAQ again, this time more slowly.

3. Complex category splits. Alternatively, an FAQ page presents a number of complicated category splits with strange disjointed titles, none of which quite match what I want to ask so I have to go through them all anyway.

4. Search terminology. Not all of us are Boolean experts and nor do I know your internal jargon to make sure I ask the right question. For search boxes to work in an FAQ they must be able to recognize everyday ordinary language.

5. Answering a question with a link. No explanations, no instructions such as complete this form and send it to the address below. Just a link, it’s up to me to decipher what I’m supposed to do with it. Also, An FAQ doesn’t tell me what additional information it needs to get the answer I am looking for. I need a two-way conversation, not a ‘maybe these can help’ list of links.

6. Links that don’t work. It’s frustrating enough that I’ve had to resort to the FAQ, giving me a link that doesn’t work is just going to make me go elsewhere if I possibly can.

7. Multiple choice answers. If this, then that. If that, then this. Well I don’t know which it is – that’s why I’m looking at the FAQ!

8. Out of date answers. FAQs that are updated once or twice a year, or abandoned shortly after the launch of a website, drive me (and I suspect others) crazy. In most organizations popular questions change through the course of a year, I just wish more FAQs would reflect this.

9. Conflicting Information. Even worse is when someone has updated one FAQ, but not another leading to conflicting information.

10. Vanity FAQs. The ones that answer the questions the company think you should be asking such as “Why is our product so great?” Sometimes I wonder if organizations actually look at the logs to their call centers, which is always a great starting point when developing FAQs.

In contrast, an intelligent Virtual Assistant (VA) can transform a website by answering users’ questions in seconds. Conflicting information, out of date answers and irrelevant FAQs are a thing of the past as organizations are able to add structure to the updating process of their online help.

For someone like me a VA means that I don’t have to leave the page I’m on, it doesn’t matter how many questions there are because I don’t see them, I don’t need to know industry jargon to find my answer and if the VA needs a little more information to ensure they give the right answer they can just ask.

If it came to an online help showdown between an FAQ and a VA – I know which one I’d put my money on.

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