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Solved vs. Helped

Richard Millington
Richard Millington

Founder of FeverBee

If I ask you where I can find an open locksmith at this time of day and you tell me none are open until tomorrow, you’ve helped me.

…but you haven’t solved my problem (and you certainly haven’t provided me with an acceptable solution).

This is the problem with measuring whether an answer solved a problem or was ‘acceptable’ to the recipient. Often there simply aren’t any answers which can do either. A community and its membership shouldn’t be negatively judged for that.

If your product is so badly damaged it can’t be fixed, the only help a community might be able to provide are recommendations for replacement products. You might not be happy about it, but the answer still ‘helped’ you.

As in the original example, you’ve saved the person the time, energy, and frustration they would experience looking for other options. You’ve removed the uncertainty. The member can make a decision based upon the information they’ve received.

In many communities, ‘help’ is simply about being there for someone, listening to them, supporting them emotionally.

A lot of communities (and vendors) measure themselves by % of questions with an ‘accepted solution’ or ‘solved my problem’. For most, it’s a mistake.

Instead of asking ‘how many problems did this community solve?’ a better question might be ‘how many people did this community help?’

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