FAQs: Forming the Help-Desk Knowledge Base

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One thing that any experienced help-desk professional can tell you is that they have to deal with the same issues over and over again. Customers will call with similar questions time and again, and more often than not, require the same suggestions in order to fix their problems. For these circumstances, it helps to have a frequently-asked questions (FAQ) list on hand that details both the problems and solutions.

The benefits of having an FAQ register are many. For one thing, it helps ensure that the time and energy of both the caller and support professional are used most expeditiously. Help-desk technicians can consult this reference and have a list of answers to present immediately. In this way, it also can make their demeanor more professional. Instead of answers characterized by long pauses and perplexed non-verbal expressions such as “hmmmmm” and “uh,” solutions to common problems are almost instantaneously forthcoming, as they’ve been spelled out in writing beforehand.

When compiling a FAQ list for support staff, it helps to keep the following in mind:

Work with Product Designers and Developers
The people who create and design the products will likely have a sense of what major problems might come up before the goods even go to market. Find these folks and talk to them about any potential issues, bugs and so forth they might have seen during product testing. Track their development to find out which snags they manage to work out and how, and which glitches might remain when the product goes live. After it does roll out, communicate with them about what patches and other fixes they’ve either released already or have in the pipeline. Include all of their most significant points in the FAQ list, and you’ll be ready before the customers call.

Develop a Database of Common Problems and Solutions
In order to determine which issues come up most frequently, the help-desk professionals fielding the calls need to be mindful of what customers are asking about. Therefore, to compile the FAQs, you should have them keep a log of the calls they take and have them enter those into a common database that can measure what the most common problems are.

Update the FAQs Often
Obviously, the most frequently-asked questions won’t remain so frequent over time. Products will get updated, become less popular over time and so on. Make sure your FAQs roll with the changes. If it helps, establish regular intervals for audits and updates.

Post It Online
You might save your help-desk staff and customers the trouble of a phone call or e-mail if you just post the FAQs on your company’s Web site. Make sure that users will be able to find it: If possible, include a prominently displayed link within the product information pages. Also, write any explanations or instructions in very simple, clear language.

Don’t Rely too Heavily on the FAQs
Now that you have a body of knowledge for the help desk, your support staff can just sit back, relax and let the FAQs do the talking, right? Not a chance. Although registers like these will help them be more efficient and productive, the fact is that they’ll still have to know much more information about the product(s) in question that aren’t included on that list. End users being end users, they’ll find an infinite amount of sources of confusion and offer an endless supply of screw-ups, more than can be encompassed in an FAQ list.

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