Connect Online for Better Customer Care


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Expedia, Amazon, eBay, Hyatt and many other companies have successfully exploited the online channel for sales, but surprisingly few companies have figured out that connecting online for customer care with their customers can deliver a superior experience for them, and more deeply satisfy their customers.

One of many ways to do that is through dynamic FAQs (frequently asked questions). A composite company I’ll call SellMore has an expansive web site with special offers and highly tailored recommendations based on the customers’ or prospective customers’ answers to a handful of questions posed to them on the site. Sales have been brisk, with generally high marks from users for order accuracy and speed, but the company started experiencing higher return rates and negative postings on blogs about “poor service.”

SellMore assigned a team of experienced sales and support reps to walk through the entire customer experience, from the fliers and email campaigns that attracted customers to the site to the web site, itself, and on to post-sales care. Afterward, the team concluded that there were several critical missteps, including “static FAQs” and “isolated FAQs.”

Seven of the “Top 10” questions hadn’t been refreshed in 12 months.

With static FAQs, a product or marketing group works directly with web development to post frequently asked questions. But this is done in a vacuum, based on what the product and marketing managers believe are hot topics or issues that they think the customers “need to know” (and they often are thinly veiled sales arguments, not support aids). The frequently asked questions become isolated when companies place the FAQs on the often hard-to-find “Help” page and only once in the entire web site.

Stale FAQs

The SellMore team asked web development when the “Top 10 FAQs” were last updated. It took a while to get the answer (in, itself, revealing). It turned out that seven of the “Top 10” questions hadn’t been refreshed in 12 months; two were each a month old; and one wasn’t even accurate anymore, referring to a product the company no longer offered or supported. Clearly, something had to change!

SellMore decided that, to be true to its name and sell more, it had to change the FAQs and base them on real recently asked questions of customer care agents, enabling customers to view current issues instead of stale ones. The company examined its numerous reason codes and scored them for urgency and importance from the customer’s perspective. Then people thinned the list down to a new set of Top 10 FAQs, with color coding for urgency and importance. Initially, the company reviewed the Top 10 before posting the list in the FAQ field, but executives (correctly) feared reverting to the screened/static FAQ era. Instead, SellMore let the FAQs go straight onto the web site.

The same team at SellMore recommended taking the FAQs out of isolation. Instead, they suggesting placing the dynamic FAQs on the home page, the check-out pages, the product pages and on the Help page—creating roughly six times as many opportunities for prospects or customers to see them. Plus, because they were color-coded, the dynamic FAQs stood out on the pages, attracting visitors to click through to learn for themselves what to do.

As a result of the efforts, SellMore scored a triple win that continues to improve over time:

  • Contacts to sales and support agents dropped by 20 percent.

  • Sales per web site visit increased by 10 percent, and visitors spent more time on the site.

  • The average handle time for those customer contacts that the company did have after the FAQs improvement was 10 percent shorter. That was because the average customer, having read the FAQs, was already prepared for the call.

SellMore’s experience shows that online customer service doesn’t have to mean giving your customers short shrift. It means giving them timely, up to date information and freeing your agents for those customers who really need them.

Bill Price

Bill Price is the President of Driva Solutions (a customer service and customer experience consultancy), an Advisor to Antuit, co-founded the LimeBridge Global Alliance, chairs the Global Operations Council, teaches at the University of Washington and Stanford MBA programs, and is the lead author of The Best Service is No Service and Your Customer Rules! Bill served as's first Global VP of Customer Service and held senior positions at MCI, ACP, and McKinsey. Bill graduated from Dartmouth (BA) and Stanford (MBA).


  1. Hi,

    I see no reason why the FAQ’s can’t go live as they are posed to the support agents. Irrespective of the fact that the organization may not have any answers, the very fact that the questions are being asked points to a need for within the organization to start preparing the answers (something that they missed out in their enthusiasm to hit the market early).

    Also, such a system should be hot linked to the support / marketing / management teams blackberry’s such that they know in real time what is that people are asking and how they can together come up with the answers!

  2. In our experiences at Fuze we have found it vital to include context sensitive access to the knowledge base (including FAQs) to get consumers as close to relevant information as possible. Either in the form of links to specific sections and particular information in the knowledge base (KB), or by dynamically rendering links to highly relevant content directly in Web pages using Web services, you must highlight the KB access and make relevant information only a few clicks away.

    We have also found that assisted service must be tightly coupled to the KB to ensure the KB will naturally grow with relevant information in understandable terms as part of the support process. When an inquiry comes in from any channel, the KB must be the first place referenced by support staff. This enables: 1. Linking the user the relevant KB content when it already exists (this helps them get familiar with using the KB to help themselves and transports them directly into your Web site and ecommerce engine); 2. Enhancing KB indexing when the KB item exists but is not found; and, 3. Having support staff collaborate to create new KB content in the consumer’s voice when it is not already contained in the KB.

    It goes without saying that sufficient editorial/publishing controls must be in place commensurate with the content’s exposure based on who will use the content and how it will be used.


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