Include The Answer Within The Response
One sure-fire way to annoy people who ask questions is to send them somewhere else to get answers.
Don’t do this. If someone asks a question in your community, don’t just link to the answer, provide the answer. Go to the FAQ or page content if you need and take the time to adapt the answer for them.
Be as detailed and as specific to their question as possible. Make sure the recipient has the greatest possible chance of getting the right answer.
If you need to ask clarifying questions, ask them. Just don’t send them somewhere else.
In every interaction you’re either drawing someone closer into you and the community or driving them away, you choose.
I mostly agree with this, even on social media, I think it’s important to answer even awkward questions directly. However, from time to time, a question can come up that needs dealing with in depth or needs lots of questions going back and forth in order to get to the bottom of the situation, then I move the conversation to email, where it can be dealt with in depth. Sometimes the answer to a question is “I’m not sure, let’s discuss this in more detail in private”
Definitely agree with this sentiment. There’s nothing more frustrating for a member looking for help and asking a question than being told the answer is held somewhere else and that’s where they should go and look for it. I have a couple of people internally that occasionally reply like this and I have to keep trying to pull them back on the path. I’m of the opinion that if I don’t know, or can’t find the answer, I’ll generally pull someone in to the conversation that can or does.
What about in the scenario where you are trying to change behaviour though?
e.g. People keep joining a community to ask the same question. The sheer number of people asking that question is frustrating to existing members. Step one is obviously to make sure the info is very clearly signposted and easy to find, but there will always be people that don’t look before asking.
In those cases, I’d tend to direct people to the FAQ/answer and close their topic – modelling the behaviour for future members.
This goes directly against the advice in the OP.
My experience aligns more with @HAWK’s. Sometimes, there are only so many ways one can answer a “How do I…” or “What do you think of…”
Another thing is that, referring a member to a different thread can keep information more consolidated instead of cultivating multiple discussions.
As my former boss always said, context is king.
I kind of have that amongst my arsenal of helping out though, rather than sending them somewhere else. If the answer exists somewhere else then I’ll use that as the answer - I guess it depends on the subject, the question and the ensuing answer - sometimes it wouldn’t be appropriate to type out/copy and paste a full answer into a reply thread, whereas posting the link would still be a help.
I took what @richard_millington was saying to mean more like sending them to another place to ask their question - for example I have someone internally who more often than not suggests the poster should raise a support ticket and ask there - which I feel is the wrong answer (unless of course it’s something that should definitely be brought in front of the support teams) - I’ve stopped tagging him for a while now because he was adding zero value. If I don’t know the answer myself I’ll try and pull someone in who may know. Connecting people to people and information is a huuuuge part of what we do IMO.
Being on the receiving end of questions that are constantly repeated can be frustrating, but I think we can provide the answer and suggest a different behaviour while at the same time be friendly and useful.
You can always include the answer within the response as Richard suggested, but let them know that in the future you suggest looking at the FAQ first, or at least searching for some key terms.
This way you avoid the user feeling bad/ashamed for not noticing or not making the extra effort to search for the answer. Or maybe just a bit ashamed from your super polite response so in the future they will adopt the desired behaviour.
And keep in mind that if users don’t end up reading the FAQ then maybe we need to change our tactics so that they do. Maybe it’s not easily accessible, too long or complicated, etc.
Perhaps there’s a UI/UX challenge to be addressed here too - i.e. does your Community have a decent, prominent enough search bar/area? Are people finding it, getting it and using it? I know not everyone will search straight away but often enough people are arriving at your Community with a question in their minds, if you want them to search for it then we need to make sure it’s obvious enough where to do that.
I think that sometimes the issue is more about knowing what to search for.
I come across this at Discourse meta all the time. If you don’t know what you don’t know, how do you search?
True, but for a lot of our members they have probably been struck with a particular challenge and can at least type in a keyword or three related to what it is they’re attempting - I would hazard a guess that it’s at least fairly similar for most product related support communities.
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