Why You Need to Worry About the Questions Your Website Visitors DON’T Ask

October 21, 2014 Jake Wobbrock

Back in 1576, G. Pettie wrote that famous (and idiotic) saying, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.” The phrase is often used to justify not telling a person something they’re better off not knowing. Its cousin phrase is, “Ignorance is bliss.”

Maybe.

But when it comes to the questions your visitors have on your site, what you don’t know can hurt you—a lot. Choosing to ignore the issue of unasked questions is like the ostrich who sticks his head in the sand. Ignoring problems doesn’t make them go away.

For customer questions coming into your website, it is precisely the questions you’re not getting from your visitors that may hurt you the most. Studies show that 57% of customers will abandon a website the moment they can’t get a ready answer to their question. The frustrated or confused visitors who never express their problems give you little clue as to why they’re struggling. When they bounce, you can measure their departure, but you never really know why.

That should worry anyone concerned about maximizing their conversion rate.

Let’s understand a few things about visitors’ questions as they relate to your conversion challenge.

What Really Gets in the Way of Your Conversion Rate: An Invisible Pile of Questions

Consider a hypothetical website designed to convert visitors into customers that offers no method for visitors to ask questions. No support email. No live chat. No phone number. Not even a self-service knowledgebase whose searches and clicks can be tracked. The company running that website might conclude they have no problems because their visitors’ questions are ZERO. Yippee!

Right? Wrong.

But surprisingly, in my experience with hundreds of online businesses, I’ve seen marketers repeatedly regard their customers’ visible questions as equal to all their customers’ questions. They don’t consider that there might be an “invisible pile of questions” their visitors have occurring between their ears, but which the company never sees. And these questions are the ones threatening their conversion rate.

It is vital to remember that your visitors’ questions come into a business as a result of two factors, not just one:

  1. the total questions your website visitors have arising in their heads, and
  2. how easy you make it for your visitors to ask those questions.

The hypothetical company with no ability for visitors to ask questions has demolished (2), but they have completely ignored (1). And it is (1)—the questions that cause visitors to fail achieving their goals on your site—that lower your conversion rate and cause your visitors to bounce.

If your website is like those I routinely work with, only about 1% of your visitors ever visit your knowledgebase, FAQ pages, or forums. Live chat gets up to 1.5% of visitors to engage with it, but that’s if you proactively interact with visitors. With so few visitors escalating their needs to your company, you cannot regard the questions you receive from your visitors as the true set of questions affecting them.

Key takeaway: It’s easy to regard your visitors’ asked questions—the questions coming into your online customer support—as the only challenge to be dealt with. But remember, all of your visitors’ questions, asked and unasked, represent the true challenge because these questions are the obstacles to your customers converting on your site.

Four Tips for Addressing Questions You Never See

It is frightening to realize that the questions that cause people to leave your site without taking action are the ones you never hear about. It is doubly frightening to realize that your true conversion challenge is not the questions you see asked, but the sum  of all questions your visitors have, whether asked or not.

So what can you do? Here are four steps you can take:

  1. Recognize the true challenge. Your challenge is not simply finding ways to reduce your customer support tickets. If you want to do that, you can just hide every way for your visitors to ask questions. Instead, reduce all of the questions your visitors have arising in their heads. This mind-shift is vital before action can be taken.
  2. Capture it all. Having admitted your true challenge, you are now free to realize that you should capture as many of your visitors’ questions as possible. What you don’t know can hurt you, so bring everything into the light. There’s no point in hiding from questions and pretending they don’t exist. Make it easy for your visitors to ask questions and access answers within your customer self-service.
  3. Marketing, design, and customer support must work together. The only way to reduce the total questions arising in your visitors’ heads is to improve the clarity and usability of your website. But it is astonishing how few marketing and design teams really connect to their customer support teams to meaningfully improve their online customer experience.
  4. Invest in tools. Certain tools can make capturing your visitors’ “invisible questions” easier. For example, Groove is a great way to manage customer inquiries, and AnswerDash enables visitors to get point-and-click self-service answers without leaving the page. Adopting tools like these can facilitate capturing and answering your customers’ questions quickly and easily.

Significant Rewards for Capturing All Questions

Taking the above four steps will bring significant rewards to your online business and your website marketing and design efforts. If you do the above, you can look forward to reduced bounce, churn, and support costs; and increased sales conversions and customer satisfaction.

Have courage! Don’t hide from your visitors’ questions. Regard those questions—not just the ones asked, but all possible questions—as the true challenge to be solved, and the true obstacle to increasing your conversion rate. Capture as many of your visitors’ questions as you can, and then get customer support, marketing, and design together on a regular basis to fundamentally address these questions on your site.

Your customers will thank you with their pocketbooks.

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Back in 1576, G. Pettie wrote that famous (and idiotic) saying, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.” The p...

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