12 Replies Latest reply on Nov 9, 2017 5:02 PM by kateweaver

    Tips and Techniques for Getting Questions Answered


      Anyone have any tips or cool techniques for helping to getting questions answered in an external community?

      We are live since January and have a decent response rate etc, but what do you do with those questions that just sit there unanswered?


      What is a best practice around getting them answered or marking them in some way so they don't get included in the stats for % of questions unanswered?




        • Re: Tips and Techniques for Getting Questions Answered

          Hi Jamie -- do you have moderators / subject matter experts? These folks

          will often jump in when questions go unanswered (or they at least can

          @mention the right people).

          • Re: Tips and Techniques for Getting Questions Answered



            I've found that questions go unanswered for a variety of reasons, and each needs a slightly different approach.


            1) Mechanical

            • Is the post in a place where it will get the right attention? I occasionally find that people inadvertently post their question to their own personal discussion area, where only the most attentive people following site activity and content will see it, instead of one of our discussion groups. Also, sometimes people post a question with a limited audience in our general discussion forum instead of one that's more appropriate.
              • To help with these, I just move them to a better place and inform the user what I did and why. I found this works much better than trying to coach them to do it themselves. New error-prone users aren't the best at taking abstract suggestions, but if you do it for them once and show them the steps, they'll see the value and do it themselves afterward.
            • Did they so something weird with the permissions? Like restrict the ability to comment to themselves?

            2) Linguistic

            • Is the question's title meaningful? Oftentimes people like to use a cute,catchy title to attract attention, but because it doesn't communicate the question effectively, it doesn't attract meaningful attention. For my community, I provide some examples (meaningful for our business):
                • Not so good: "Linewidth"
                • Only a little better: "Linewidth problem"
                • Good: "Linewidth not improved after gradient shimming"
                • Best: "Temp raised to 120 °C, lineshape poor even after gradient shimming"
              • In these cases, I sometimes change people's titles so they are more meaningful, then inform them of what I did and make a note in the question text what the original title was. One of the best ways to ensure your community's new questions are posted with good titles is to have a community that already has questions with good titles. Investing in quality by nudging it here and there helps develop positive cultural norms that newcomers will us to help figure out what to do.
            • Does the question provide enough information to potential answerers? In our community with very technical questions, it's important that people include the model number and configuration of their equipment, or else it can be difficult to provide a meaningful answer.
              • For questions with insufficient information, I often post a reply asking for more information to clarify their problem for the community.
            • Is it clear that the author is posting a question, or is it actually an open-ended discussion? Most community members I know just stick with the default "mark this discussion as a question" identification, though they really just wanted to gather opinions on a topic.
              • If it's clear the question isn't really a Question, then I'll "unmark it as a question".

            3) Technical

                 If all the above look good, then it could be that the question hasn't inspired someone who knows the answer to respond. This could be because

            • There are too few people in the community who know the answer
              • Not much you can do about that, but if it's likely, then try engaging the user in a dialog about their area ad where one might find experts
            • The people who know the answer haven't seen the question
              • On what timescale are you operating? For an esoteric question, I wouldn't worry much until two cycles of weekly digest emails have gone out. If it's only been a few days, chances are good that the right people don't know the question exists
              • Does the right Place for your audience have a prominently-displayed "Unanswered Questions" widget/tile? Grouping these together to highlight them makes a big difference
                • **I've taken to using the "watch a tag" widget and having it watch the tag "admin_curated". You can title it "This Week's Challenging Questions" or something like that, and groups together the persistently unanswered questions
            • The people who know the answer have seen it and understand it, but haven't answered. This is a basic engagement problem, and it can have a variety of causes
              • The relevant people may not be comfortable responding because they aren't sure how. Maybe they've never posted a question before, they've only been reading and browsing.
                • Seek out an expert and gently suggest that this is a question that seems to align with their interests, and that their help would be valuable. If they don't post often, then say "This is an easy way to help out a colleague. All you do is click "reply" and ... (and here provide a link to a help entry you've prepared for this sort of situation, using language specific to your people).
              • The relevant people may not be comfortable responding because they're shy. Maybe only know part of the answer. Maybe they fear being wrong where "everyone can see".
                • This requires more gentle motivation. Perhaps approach the expert to say it's OK to address only part of the problem - every little bit helps.
                • If you know the expert's background, then boost their courage. "You're one of the most experienced people in this area,and we'd all benefit from your knowledge."
              • The question author knows who might answer them, but doesn't want to contact them directly.
                • Contact the question author and ask them for suggestions with regard to experts. Then write an email introducing them to one another.
              • Perhaps the community includes people who know the answer but you don't know who they are.
                • Start building a "Matrix of Expertise" matching up areas of expertise with active participants. If you don't know them yet, then search the community for keywords in your problematic question to see who's active in the area. Record it for later use.
            • The question is not answerable
              • If you suspect this, try recruiting an expert to make this declaration politely but definitively.
            • The question has actually been answered, but the author has just not marked a Correct response
              • Contact the author, tell them, "Hey, it looks like this has been answered. Do you agree? If so, could you mark the best response as "Correct"?"
            • The question has actually been answered, but no one can point to a single "Correct" reply.
              • Contact the author and see if they agree with that statement. If Yes, then mark the question as "assumed answered". I
              • If No and they think they've got a good answer, then coach them to pick one answer.
              • If they think the question hasn't been answered yet, then post a Reply yourself saying "It looks like this question hasn't been resolved yet. Can one of the respondents please bring it closure?" and at-mention each the participants. Oc contact the participant who appears most knowledgeable.


            I'm not certain that covers quite all the bases, but I think it should help. You asked a big question! Thanks!


            - Josh

            1 person found this helpful
            • Re: Tips and Techniques for Getting Questions Answered
              Libby Taylor

              What a great question and some fabulous answers! If you think Josh's answer is completely fabulous, can you mark this question as answered?

                • Re: Tips and Techniques for Getting Questions Answered



                  Some really useful tips from Josh (will bookmark!) but as I read it I was wondering if that's an Internal or External community scenario being described? 


                  In our external community we have a similar problem that I thought the OP Jamie was describing: a nice amount replies but not many people remembering to go back and mark answers. 


                  We don't have enough admins to go in and mark other people's answers for them so we've implemented an email reminder to the OP.  I wrote a bit about this on the comments here:



                    • Re: Tips and Techniques for Getting Questions Answered

                      Karen, to clarify: our community is External, though we have many Internal participants. I do tend to rope in Internal experts when questions linger, but I'll also contact external participants whom I trust.


                      Thanks. - Josh

                      • Re: Tips and Techniques for Getting Questions Answered

                        I love Josh Kurutz's response. I'll add a few comments here.


                        There are two things you need

                        1. A solid, distributed community management team that takes advantage of the formal responsibility sub community owners have and leverages your SMEs (either internal or extern subject matter experts) and community advocates
                        2. Know how to use the tools to search what's available to you



                        Community Management - distribute "ownership"

                        If you have multiple spaces or groups (doesn't matter what you use, they are "sub communities) the owners of those spaces have a responsibility. Make sure they know that!

                          1. And that means monitoring their questions, getting to know their members and employing offline tactics to drive their "champions" or internal subject matter experts to ensure questions are answered by others.
                          2. If questions aren't answered according to SLA's (what's yours? 24 hours? 2 days?) then that sub community manager should certainly answer questions.

                        Use the tools to find open questions

                        1. Did you know you can view Open Questions in a place real easily? Go to "Content tab" > Select "Discussions" > Filter on the dropdown by "Open Questions" Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 12.57.47 PM.png
                        2. Did you know the Content Leaderboard Report in your Place Reports can help you? Simply download and filter Content Type by "Question" to find your Unresolved questions. Use this to also track your resolved rate! Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 1.01.14 PM.png



                        Did you know that EMC has a "no question left behind" policy?

                        See the details here Association of Support Professionals—Tech Support Benchmarks & Best Practices. They viewed the community as critical to ensure Support Community viewed as a reliable, timely resource for solving real-world issues. Positions EMC’s ECN Support Community as the single source for all support-related questions.



                        1. Every question posted deserves prompt attention, quality response w/in 24 hrs
                        2. Critical to foster collaboration among community members

                        EMC’s SLA

                        “If a question does not receive a response from community members within 6 hours from original post, EMC will then respond after providing community members with the opportunity to be the first to engage”


                        • *75% addressed by non-EMC members, 25% address by EMC
                        • 2013 90% Questions Resolved (result)
                        • 2014 100% Questions Resolved (target)
                        1 person found this helpful
                        • Re: Tips and Techniques for Getting Questions Answered
                          Billy Volpone

                          Love this entire thread and thanks again to Josh for such a great answer. For Karen, we have actually heard this feedback a lot over the years for Jive-x (ie: we don't want to babysit the forums and rely only on the author of the thread to make sure they mark the right comment as "correct"). So I wanted to make another suggestion here as well. We've recently added the ability for community members to mark comments on a thread as "Helpful". I think many of you on Jive 6 or later have already seen the beginnings of this option. However, with our most recent release, we now allow for your community team to allow for crowd-sourced answers to happen. Basically, a threshold can be set so that once a certain number individual users comes into a thread and marks a single comment as "helpful" (let's just say that number is 10, for example), the system will now automatically mark that most-helpful comment as the "correct" answer.


                          Even if you decided to forgo setting this 'correct' threshold, the readers can still benefit from helpful replies now that we've also made them cumulative for all to see:


                          helpful replies.PNG

                      • Re: Tips and Techniques for Getting Questions Answered

                        Out technical staff live, sleep, eat and breathe in Slack, so one of our clever Jive team members created Slack channels that get fed every time content is posted in Jive.  We have one channel per space where we want this kind of attention and accountability.  No question goes unanswered for long because our technical team members are trolling those channels and respond quickly to any new content that shows up.  Essentially, our technical team is being pinged every time there's something posted on a specific space, and they can tell who posted it, recognize the author is a client, and they jump at the chance to respond.