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Like me, you probably acquire an increasing amount of your goods and services online. Whether it’s Amazon for physical goods, or TurboTax for your tax bill, we’re spending a lot less time in brick and mortar stores, and a lot more time in front of screens entering our credit card numbers. But think back to your first Amazon purchase or the first time you submitted your taxes online. These were not low stress moments. Here you are, sitting in front of a screen, about to give your credit card to a faceless business you’ve never transacted with. You’re wondering:

  • Should you trust them?
  • Will your product arrive on time?
  • Will they do what they promised?
  • Is it worth the money?
  • What will they do with your personal data?
  • Will they still be around the next time you need to use them?
  • What’s their refund policy?
  • Does anyone I trust use this?

These questions are not only natural, but they’re universal. For a visitor to become a customer requires a lot of trust, and as business owners, it’s our job to establish that trust.

Now, if you’re in the business of sales conversion at web scale, this issue of trust is a fundamental one. How do you convince someone to give you their money with just pixels on a screen?

You’ve probably tried all of the conventional things:

  • Clean and coherent visual branding
  • Expertly crafted marketing materials to teach about your goods or services
  • Being available through chat, email, phone
  • Providing “deep content” in the form of reviews, case studies, or knowledge base articles, for customers who need to really understand your goods and services before buying or subscribing
  • Having an online social presence on social media and blogs to demonstrate your thought leadership and reputation

These efforts are absolutely necessary for building trust, and they convince a lot of visitors to buy. But I don’t believe they’re enough.

Here’s why. Remember that list of questions I posed above? It turns out that most visitors never get answers to those questions. That’s because the answers to most of these questions are buried in your site, never to be found.

Let’s take TurboTax, for example. Imagine you’re a new visitor, following the recommendation of a friend, but you’re particularly worried about what happens to your personal data, such as your social security number, your address, and your salary. You land on the first page:

The question in your head is “What do you do with my social security number?” You scan the page and see nothing about social security numbers. You scroll to the bottom and get overwhelmed by the sixty links the might have the answer:

You see the “Security” link at the top and click it, but the page is about how TurboTax prevents others from getting your info, not about what TurboTax does with it:

At this point, you’re getting desperate, so you click on “Help” and select the “Frequently Asked Questions” link, then search for “social security number,” but none of the articles look relevant:

At this point, it just seems easier to keep using H&R Block; you don’t know what they do with your social security number, but you do trust Gary, the representative who’s been filing your taxes for years.

Every day, there are probably hundreds of thousands of new visitors who have similar experiences to this and abandon But they’re not all asking about social security numbers, they’re asking about a hundred other idiosyncratic topics that you haven’t yet thought to include on your website, that you haven’t yet written about in your knowledge base. And TurboTax loses every single one of them.

This is Why You’re Losing Potential Customers too

What can you do about this? Fundamentally, the problem is that your potential customers have a “long tail” of questions, but your one web site design can only answer perhaps the five or so most frequently asked few questions in a straightforward way. Every other question a visitor has requires work—searching, browsing, emailing, calling—and this is work your visitors don’t want to do. Even worse, they know that there’s a good chance the answer isn’t even on your site, which means all that work will be for nothing.

What you need is to be able to answer any customer’s question without them doing much work. That’s where services that use AI powered self-service customer support software come in. Predictive self-service provides instant answers to questions everywhere on a site, so that regardless of where a visitor is when a question pops into their head, they can click on a Q&A tab or another form of contextual Q&A and instantly get an answer with very little work.

How does predictive Q&A make it instant? It tracks what pages a customer visits, the page on which they’ve clicked the tab, and what questions other customers with similar histories have looked at. Think of it like Amazon’s “People also bought” feature, but for Q&A.

If TurboTax used contextual Q&A, their visitor’s experience would have been a lot easier. In the best case, many other customers would have had the same question, and clicking the Q&A tab would have shown a question such as “What does TurboTax do with my sensitive information?” in the popular questions, requiring only a single click to get an answer. In the worst case, the visitor would have searched for “social security number,” which would have surfaced the same question. Either way, one or two clicks later and the visitor would have had their answer.

In my humble view, contextual FAQs are the future of customer success. Don’t let that future pass you buy.

This article originally appeared on the AnswerDash Blog and was republished with permission.