Do your employees spend too much time answering the same customer questions? Maybe it’s time to try something new, Oralkan says. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

Have you ever had one of those days when every customer call is seemingly about the same thing? Do you find yourself repeating the same answers over and over again?

If your business is spending too much time fielding customer questions, you aren’t just losing efficiency — you’re losing business. More than half of online customers say they’re very likely to abandon an online purchase if they can’t find quick answers to their questions, according to a recent poll by eMarketer. That means for every customer who takes the time to pick up the phone and call, another customer simply leaves your Web site.

Moreover, even if you have an extensive FAQs page, chances are your customers aren’t reading it. You need to engage these potential customers and provide answers to their questions immediately — not after ten minutes of elevator music.

In many cases, the most effective solution for businesses looking to reduce call volume but still meet customer demand is to develop an extensive knowledge base.

If you’ve ever had software trouble on your Mac or if your iPhone was malfunctioning, you’ve probably spent some time in Apple’s expansive knowledge bases. But you don’t have to be a billion-dollar company to take advantage of this type of information repository.

Before my company created a knowledge database, our customer service team fielded simple questions by phone. They were trained to answer these questions, but customers rarely stopped at one question, and the average conversation lasted 17 minutes.

Instead of writing this off as a cost of doing business, we created a searchable online knowledge base. Within six months, our call volume (not related to calls to place an order) decreased 23 percent, and our online traffic ticked up 7 percent. In addition, our sales have increased 5 percent compared to the same period last year.

Along the way, we learned four important lessons:

• Get started right away: With the right process in place, a knowledge repository for your company can almost build itself. You just have to start collecting customer questions and making the answers available in an easy-to-access and easy-to-search format online.

We use instant search technology that allows the customer to read similar questions and answers as he types his query. If the question hasn’t been answered yet, the system pops up with space to type and submit the question.

Our customer service team answers each question within one business day and adds the question to the knowledge base. By establishing a similar process, your team can build a similar database in a matter of months.

• Create separate sections and categories: A top-notch user experience helps customers feel comfortable within your knowledge base. Start with a clean and simple navigation experience, but focus on an organized presentation of the information. Consider placing information in separate sections for each subject or category, such as product questions, installation questions, shipping questions, or warranty and terms of sale information.

• Establish an editorial layer: Of course, you’ll want to grow your knowledge base as quickly as possible, but you don’t want to sacrifice quality. Always encourage your staff to answer each question as if it will be added directly to the database. But then have a senior staff member or content expert review each question to make sure it has been answered in an approachable and professional way.

•Monitor your metrics.

When you launch your knowledge base, you’ll likely see a dramatic reduction in call volume. That’s your cue to check your Web site analytics. Since implementing our knowledge base, the average time spent on our site has increased by more than a minute, and the average number of pages visited has increased by 1.4 pages.

If your customer service team spends a lot of time answering repetitive questions, that’s a sign your customers aren’t finding what they need on your site. Because the biggest problem for your business isn’t the time your staff spends on customer calls — it’s the number of customers who may have already given up because they couldn’t find answers.

Evrim Oralkan is the founder and chief executive of Travertine Mart, a boutique online flooring company based in Hallandale Beach, Florida. His company was named to the Inc. 5000 list in 2012-2014 and was a nominee for the 2013 Edison Award.

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