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Alternative solutions for FAQ and Q&A in Slack

The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and Obie. We wrote this article for the purposes of evaluating these platforms, side by side, in as unbiased a form as we can be. This article is meant to be a helpful resource for organizations who are currently in the midst of their journey to solve a problem with frequently asked questions from employees in Slack.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ) can be a challenge (or a nightmare) for scaling organizations. There are a couple of common scenarios where this happens. First, in person, through shoulder-taps, phone calls and emails. This causes a loss in productivity for both the knowledge seeker and the subject matter expert. Not to mention, the liability an organization holds having this knowledge pent up in the mind of their employees, only for that employee to leave before you invested in a knowledge management initiative aimed to transfer what these valued employees know. The second scenario, which is becoming more increasingly common, is when employees are asking questions either through a DM or channel-wide in Slack. The impact of this problem can multiply as multiple subject matter experts might switch context and try to resolve the issue, which prevents more people from doing the work they set out to do for the day.

In response to this issue, a number of companies have endeavored to fix this problem with a dedicated knowledge format for FAQs. Here is a list of the commonly evaluated competitors:

We believe that Slack is becoming the operating system of the modern workplace. While offering a Slack integration is not a requirement for solving problems involving FAQs, we believe that knowledge must be connected to the places where conversations happen. So in this analysis of alternatives, we will actively consider the strength of each product’s integration with that platform.

FAQ is a deceptively difficult problem to solve. Ultimately, the FAQ knowledge format is one that should be simple, searchable and instantly accessible. This is optimal because it doesn’t fit in traditional knowledge formats such as a wiki, long-form text, video, or otherwise. The goal of accessing FAQ knowledge is to access it easily and consume it quickly so that one’s work may proceed. Let’s proceed to how each alternative solution compares.

Questions for Confluence

Confluence is loved by technical teams for building and storing documentation for Engineering, IT and DevOps support. Questions was introduced to create a dedicated knowledge format for FAQs.

Questions is a very feature-rich knowledge format with gamification utilized to incentivize subject matter experts to add to the collective knowledge base of the organization. The Questions knowledge format allows for rich text, images and anything a robust text editor would offer.

Slack Integration

Questions for Confluence does not offer a Slack integration. This is a big drawback as it forces context switching and does not enable conversational search, capture or sharing of this knowledge format.

The Verdict

While Questions offers the most robust knowledge format, its lack of connection to Slack creates a significant drawback for internal support teams (IT, CS or org-wide self-serve support).

Zendesk Guide for FAQs

For customer support teams, Zendesk is a popular tool that provides solutions for both the customer and support agents issues. While Zendesk doesn’t have a dedicated FAQ solution, it does allow you to curate frequently asked questions that appear in customer messages and convert those into Zendesk Guide content for agent consumption. These analytic tools can be very helpful in eliminating knowledge gaps.

Slack Integration

Zendesk has two separate Slack integrations, but neither of them is designed to create access to knowledge through Slack.

Answer Bot

Zendesk’s Answer Bot is an intelligent Slack bot that listens for questions in the flow of conversations and suggests Zendesk Guide resources to the individual who asked the question in Slack. You cannot directly communicate (DM) with Answer Bot to get access to knowledge in Slack. If Answer Bot provides a button to create a ticket if no satisfactory answer was suggested.

Zendesk for Slack

With Zendesk’s Slack integration agents can create tickets and receive notifications/updates to keep the team updated on important issues. It is not possible to search for or share content created and stored in Guide.

The Verdict

Zendesk is a powerful solution for managing customer support issues (it is not suitable for IT or org-wide use-cases) and the analytic tools are excellent for helping identify FAQs. But, it fails to surface knowledge on-demand to support agents directly from Slack. The Answer Bot’s AI-powered suggestions are a strong feature, but the lack of DM-support is puzzling as it forces agents to frequently and unnecessarily switch context.

Starmind

Starmind takes different approach to solving FAQs than the other alternatives. The emphasis in this platform is it identify subject matter experts using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and apply gamification to build a knowledge base.

Also, uniquely, Starmind integrates with a number of third-party tools (such as Slack, MS Teams, Dropbox, Asana, LinkedIn, Trello and many more) as a source of data to teach the AI engine which employees have relevent knowledge to become a subject matter expert. Once these analytics have been compiled, employees can create FAQs and access them through their desktop and mobile apps.

Slack Integration

Starmind does not have a Slack integration, but they do offer an API that could connect to the Slack platform in some way. This of course, would require some custom development.

The Verdict

Starmind’s unique AI-powered profiling tool is helpful for identifying subject matter experts org-wide with gamification to entice employees to contribute to the knowledge base. But, the lack of a Slack integration limits access to the knowledge in a very common workflow.

Halp Answers

Halp is a lightweight Slack-ticketing solution that uses the conversational tools like emoji to make ticket management more intuitive in Slack-based workflows. They have also shipped an FAQ knowledge base tool called Halp Answers that allows support agents to create and access knowledge in a couple of different ways.

An Answer can be created by reacting to a message with the appropriate emoji directly from within Slack. This adds knowledge to the knowledge base quickly and efficiently.

Also, when support tickets are created in Halp, the agent is provided suggestions to content stored in Answers to assist in resolution. This is an intelligent layer of support that uses AI and NLP to expedite resolution.

Slack Integration

As discussed above, Halp is a Slack-first product, so therefore it has a robust Slack integration. The part of the integration that connects to the Answers knowledge base allows for authoring and AI-powered suggestions. The limitation is Slack-based search for Answers, which limits access to knowledge in a highly relevant workflow for Halp users (who are already in Slack!).

The Verdict

Halp answers is a great Slack-based FAQ option for those companies that either already have Halp or need a lightweight ticketing option. Aside from the lack of Slack-based search, it is a solid solution.

Guru

Guru is a Slack-connected knowledge base option that transforms the traditional knowledge base into a series of “cards”, which in a lot of ways is well suited for FAQs. These cards are embeddable and sharable anywhere the need arises, whether that is in Slack, a webpage or elsewhere.

Slack Integration

Guru allows knowledge seekers to search, capture and share knowledge in Slack, but they tend to steer users back to their browser extension or app for full featured use. They also tend to use a “modal-centric” user experience within Slack for knowledge search which is somewhat unwieldy.

The Verdict

Guru’s FAQ-ready knowledge format has a good Slack integration and embeddable nature makes for convenient sharing… as long as you are comfortable with the card format.

Obie

Obie has a dedicated FAQ knowledge format that is designed for fast capture, search and sharing, directly from either Slack or its browser extension. Obie limits FAQs to style-free content (unlike most of the alternatives) in an attempt to capture and deliver the most salient knowledge in the simplest form possible. If rich editing is necessary for your use-case, don’t fret, Obie offers a robust native knowledge base feature that supports full markdown and media embedding.

One can create an FAQ simply by right clicking on a message in Slack, or by highlighting text in the browser right in the flow of work. Searching for FAQs is made very easy by using the /obie command in Slack, typing in a few keywords in a DM to Obie in Slack or using the search box in the Obie browser extension.

Slack Integration

Obie’s Slack integration allows for capture, search and sharing of FAQs directly from within Slack. This is the most robust Slack integration of the alternatives listed in this article. Much like Halp’s AI-powered suggestions, Obie also actively listens for questions within channels (where he is invited) to suggest relevant FAQ results to accelerate self-serve support. Obie also incorporates a ticketing option for unresolved AI-powered suggestions or searches directly from Slack to Jira Software or Jira Service Desk.

The Verdict

For those seeking enhancement to their existing knowledge base (whether that is in Confluence, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box or elsewhere) with a dedicated FAQ format for snippets and commonly reused text with a robust Slack integration, Obie offers a comprehensive solution. Obie’s main drawback is the limitation on styling content or adding imagery to the FAQ format.

Summary

Here is a quick visual summary of the alternatives compared side-by-side.

ObieConfluenceZendeskStarmindHalpGuru
Unstyled Text Editor✔️
Rich Text Editor✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
Feedback & Voting✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️
Intelligent Suggestions✔️✔️✔️
Slack Ticketing✔️✔️✔️
Browser Extension✔️
Gamification✔️✔️
Comparison chart of FAQ software solutions

Choosing a tool dedicated to solving problems involving frequently asked questions can be confusing. Hopefully this comparison of the common alternatives shed some light on the design philosophy of each.


Try Obie’s AI-powered FAQ format today and begin to reduce repeat questions, deflect issues and accelerate work.