Skip to main content

Improving customer support through self-service. Here’s how to get it right.

You could say that at one point FAQs were rocket science. That’s because they were brought online by NASA, in 1982. (As a format, you can trace back FAQs way further back to the 13th century). But 36 years later, companies are still getting FAQs wrong and the costs of neglecting this section of your website can be bigger than you imagine.

Here’s a fun fact for you: 81% of all customers try to find their own solution before reaching out to a customer support agent.

Maybe because they’re afraid of getting stuck in an Answering Machine loop forever. Or maybe, like my dad trying to find his way to a hotel, asking for directions feels like admitting defeat.


More than 8/10 of your customers dig around your website for a solution before they email, text or call you. This is good news and bad news.

The good news: if you do things right, you only need to help 19% of your customers when they hit an obstacle. The Harvard Business Review puts the average cost of a live interaction between customer and agent around $7 for a B2C company and $13 for a B2B Company. This is great for your budget.

The bad news: If you don’t do things right, 81% of your customers will have tried finding the solution themselves before calling you. So when they call you, they’ll be frustrated with your product and with the fact that your website didn’t have the information they needed. That’s not a good starting point for a conversation.

The solution is easy: give your customers the tools and the information to help themselves. Give them the tools and the information they need. One easy, intuitive way has always been FAQs.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. And that’s what we realised when we started reviewing our own FAQs at Unbabel a few weeks ago.

So, to spare you the trouble, we’ve gathered here some of the things we learned along the way and some of the best practices when it comes to self-service.

Woman looking up information on her smartphone

1. Think about what they’re called

They are called Frequently Asked Questions for a reason, but I’ve seen far too many companies that just guess which answers customers need. Be serious about this: do go out of your way, assign somebody to make an inventory of your recent queries and find which questions are the real FAQs. Check your analytics to see what your audience is looking into. What are they searching for? Are there any dead ends? Which pages have most views?

This should give you a broader perspective on which questions you need to answer in this first stage.

2. Think about what you’ll call them

There are a bunch of names floating around for FAQs nowadays. Help Centre and Knowledge Base are probably the most popular alternatives. Personally, I’ve always stood by calling things by their name as this helps your user know what to look for. A case has been made that FAQs are associated with old help pages which were messy, confusing and distressing, you might be better off giving it a more positive name like ‘Help’, ‘Support’ or ‘Solutions’.

3. Be very honest

There’s a piece of advice from the Content Marketing Institute that I really like, about not bull-shitting your audience in the FAQs. It goes: “People are there to fix a problem, not to be upsold.”

But not only that. Honesty can really turn to your favour when you’re working in customer support. It creates authenticity and helps companies build a stronger relationship with their customers. And if it does that in every other medium your FAQs shouldn’t be any different.

So go straight to the point, be honest about your product and give your customers the right expectations.

4. Keep it simple and jargon free

There’s a bunch of words we tend to use when working behind the scenes that users travelling down our customer funnel won’t immediately guess. Technical terms, and words that have acquired new meanings to the whole team might seem obvious to you, but asking a struggling customer to try to crack your secret language is only going to add tension and stress.

The only exception here being, of course, if you are communicating within a very strict circle: if all your users are developers, for example, or lawyers or doctors, then you can assume your technical language will be their technical language and speaking it might actually help you reach the customer quicker and be perceived more seriously.

5. Speak your customers’ language

On that note, if you are going to speak your customers’ language, speak your customers’ language. And here, we don’t just mean speak in words they understand. We mean: 72% of internet users don’t speak English and you need to keep this in mind.

If you use Zendesk Guide or Salesforce Knowledge to provide this first-stage support, you’ll be happy to know we provide FAQs and Knowledge Bases’ translations seamlessly integrated into those platforms. So you can use (y)our favourite AI + Human Translation API to streamline that process.

6. Remember to go back to your FAQs

Nothing is as sad as finding an FAQ and having to rub dust off your screen before you can read the words. As HeroThemes puts it: there’s no such thing as Evergreen FAQs. Every time you launch an update, change process, put a new product out there, give it a new read and a re-write. Fine-tune it.

To tell you the truth, that’s exactly what we did with our own FAQs. So it you’re interested, take a look and let us know what you think.

Now, hopefully, we’ve saved you $69 and a super fun read. Go ahead and apply these concepts to your knowledge base, help centre, Frequently Asked Questions page. Remember to come back and tell us which tips you found made the biggest impact on your user base!

The post Improving customer support through self-service. Here’s how to get it right. appeared first on Unbabel.