Tips on Customer Self-Service: The Essential FAQs

Well-written FAQs enable customers to answer their own questions, saving serious time and dollars for your business overtime.

When you’re scaling your business, some operations benefit from the increased customer account – you have more purchasing power for procurement and you’re likely in the right groove with your creative design. Others, though, see a rapidly increased workload from more customers. This is especially true with customer service. More customers means more questions, more unique situations, and more time spent dealing with individual people who have specific needs.

But this doesn’t have to eat up all your time. By preemptively providing resources and communicating with the customer, you empower the customer, and one of the simplest ways to empower the customer is to build out a FAQ or Frequently Asked Questions page. This single resources helps reduce total requests submitted to your team, saving time and ultimately dollars.

Minimizing (Not Eliminating) Requests

Let’s first understand that there will always been a percentage of customers who reach out to customer support, but by building smart tools and empowering customers, we can minimize that.

If you have the data now, I suggest computing the number of requests you get per subscriber currently. For a rough analysis, you can simply use the ratio of requests:per subscriber. If you have 100 subscribers and 50 emails a month, you’ll have a ration of 1:2, or a rate of about 50%.

For a more precise analysis, try to strip away emails unrelated to customers (like media requests). The goal here is to try to pin down a rate at which customers contact you. This is useful for when you want analyze your efforts at improving customer self service.

FAQ Basics (& The Top 10 Questions)

FAQ is an abbreviation for “Frequently Asked Questions,” and are a set of standard, common questions a customer might ask. This list should be written in question and answer format, and you should write them for the widest audience possible. Ask yourself, Have you ever been in the situation when you used a FAQ? How did the writing help (or hurt) your way toward a solution? The simpler, more straightforward the language, the better.

For formatting, keep the list organized and easy to read. You should order questions in a sensical fashion – that is, placing shipping questions near other shipping questions, and keeping account Q+A next to other account questions. If you’re working on a “smart” or dynamic platform (something we’ll talk about next), you should feel encouraged to list out as many questions as possible. If you’re limited, then it’s suggested you keep the lists and concise as possible.

Here are the top 10 questions I suggest you write out first, with notes on what makes them important, specifically tailored for subscription businesses:

  1. What is “Box Name?: This is where you start to lay out what your business does. You can mix marketing language into this question, but try to be a bit more specific, ie. “This box delivers 4-5 full size products of x, y, and z categories for this reason.”
  2. How does “Box Name” Work?:  Add more detail to the point above, specifying price and time of monthly of shipment.
  3. What’s Inside “Box Name”?: Here, you can go into more about the specific types of products you include, perhaps with a bit of information on why you include those products.
  4. How much does it cost?/Are there hidden fees?: Tell the customer your standard price – the real price. If you include shipping, mention it here, and if not, mention the cost.
  5. How does billing work?: You may renew people on the same day each month, or on a set day each month (like the 15th). Explain your billing schedule here.
  6. When is the monthly deadline?/When will I receive my first box?: You may have a cut off date for monthly boxes, or you may send boxes throughout the month. This varies a lot with subscription businesses, so make your deadline and shipping expectations clear to customers.
  7. Where and how do you ship?: Shipping also varies across businesses, and some shipping companies cannot fulfill shipping to certain addresses. Explain your shipping service and the estimated delivery times, being as specific as possible, especially if you ship internationally.
  8. How can I cancel my subscription?: If you do not have a self-service feature built in for cancellations, explain how subscribers can update or cancel their account.
  9. How do I receive a refund?: It’s important explain your refund policy in your FAQs, especially as a source to reference if/when you have requests like this come in.
  10. Can I sign up for just one box?/How do gifts work?: Some subscribers may just want a single box or may be interested in gifting a box. Explain how gifts/one-time boxes work here.

Build a Dynamic Help Center

If you find yourself desiring more detailed FAQs, it’s highly recommended you build a more dynamic help center. Zendesk provides a great solution for this, with a Help Center that provides a built in search feature you can actually connect to your “Contact Us” tab. This means customers are “gated” or prevented from emailing you until they type in a search query, which prompted them to read your FAQs.

With a system like this, you can literally add as many FAQs as you’d like. With more questions, the larger knowledge base you provide for customers.

Start Strong with Powerful FAQs

If you haven’t yet, dedicate some time working through your FAQs. As you add questions, build your Help Center, and make adjustments to customer self-service options, come back to your analysis of requests/per subscriber. Look at your site’s traffic, and try to determine which questions seem to be most visited. What’s working? What isn’t?

Most of all, keep the big picture in mind as you work through this. Remember that the more you empower customers to self-service, the less time your team will spend on customer questions, and that means saved time and dollars for your business.

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About Jesse Richardson

Jesse Richardson is an author, educator and co-founder of several successful subscription businesses. He focuses on building engaging communities and has been described as "insanely customer centric." Find him in the Subscription School group or at his blog.

1 Response

  1. If the problem isn’t solved, and if it’s not possible to solve on the first contact (one-touch), we call the customer and ask them how they want to continue. If it’s not urgent then we write down the contact information and get back.

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