Consistency Through FAQs

Quick Summary: Document answers to common questions in order to provide consistency across the board.

Abstract:

Even in the very early days of your company you will be making decisions and accumulating facts about your business, the market, your customers, and your competitors that will be swirling in your head.  As you add employees and expand your operations and customer contacts, the list will get longer, and you will be answering the same questions over and over again, sometimes consistently, sometimes not.  Documenting your answers will be an incredible time saver and provide response consistency for the entire organization.

With every passing day, you will find that you have been asked and answered the same questions from investors, prospects, customers, partners, and new employees.  With each iteration, you will find that your answers become more succinct and, through the observed body language of your audience, more effective. As time goes on, others within your organization will be asked the same questions.  An excellent method to address this ever-present, ever-expanding issue is to create a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) repository along with short, direct answers.  This document will become an invaluable information transfer and training aid.  It will help insure consistent responses to everyone by everyone.

The FAQ list should be developed with no particular audience in mind.  Everyone within the company should be encouraged to add to the list as they encounter questions that they may have or questions that others ask of them.  New employees will be the best source of questions as they climb the company learning curve. Potential investors will fire questions at you during your presentation in an unending stream.  The question accumulation process should be simple, perhaps just a quick email to a designated person.  Individuals should be encouraged to submit answers to questions simultaneously if they can.

Using a simple table format, such as the one shown below with columns for the questions, answers, category, and audiences is an effective method of accumulating the data.  As desired, more complexity and capability can be added to the listing.  As an example, the flat file table could be converted into a database to allow selective filtering and exporting to other documents or web pages.  At first, the inclusion of basic questions may seem to be a waste of time.  However, the common FAQ repository will become THE company source document for new employees and to help in responding to customers and in responding to formal requests for quotations.  Below is an example of how a FAQ can be set up and the scope that it could contain.  A FAQ document for a startup could easily contain 400 or more questions. 

Sample FAQ Repository

No.

Category

Question

Answer

Target Audience

Internal

Prospects/ Customers

Investors

1

General

 

 

 

 

 

 

At first, it may seem that the FAQ process is a good idea but one that needs to be postponed because there are so many other more pressing things to do.  However, the upfront investment of time will save a significant amount of time later and will help ensure consistency.  Creating this list is an easy thing to do in the “white spaces” of time between calls, meetings, waiting for others, or just as a break from tedious tasks.  The value of this process will quickly become apparent when you start to answer the sample questions listed below.  Most are very simple and basic but may challenge you in developing short concise answers that are meaningful to the target audiences.  Also, think about how others in your organization would answer them.  Would they answer them the same way you do?

Sample Questions

  1. When was the company started?
  2. Where are the company’s offices?
  3. What markets does it serve?
  4. What products does it offer?
  5. What are target applications?
  6. How many customers does the company have?
  7. What are the major features/capabilities of the company’s products?
  8. Who are the company’s main competitors?
  9. What are the company’s major advantages?
  10. How are products distributed?
  11. How do you provide after sale support?
  12. Do you have reference accounts that we can contact?
  13. How do you accommodate warranty repair and upgrades?
  14. How do you provide training for end users?
  15. Do you offer a free trial program?
  16. We have offices all over the country. How will you install and support all of those locations?
  17. What are your payment terms?
  18. Will we have to sign any license agreements?
  19. Are you listed on GSA or any state contracts that we can use for procurement?
  20. Can we obtain a copy of all of your customer documentation before we purchase?

Knock off four FAQs a day, and in one month you will have over 100 and you will be surprised at how much you have learned!  It is one thing to verbally answer these questions and quite another to write down the answers.  You will find that you will have to think hard, pick your words carefully, and make some decisions that you hadn’t really thought about in the past.  The end result is you will develop a crisp and consistent view of your business that will help everyone.

Article Number : 3.030205   

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