Customer support is critical to business and customer success. In fact, more and more companies are using it as a differentiating factor when trying to stand out in a crowded market. But even though it’s valued by customers, it’s not enough. They want answers immediately, and they want the option to help themselves. The best and most cost-effective, self-service method for customers is a knowledge base.
What is a knowledge base and why is it important?
A knowledge base is a centralized database of information that can be organized, stored and searched for future accessibility. Everyone, employees and customers alike, can use your knowledge base to help them find answers to any questions or concerns they might have regarding your product or service.
Knowledge bases include FAQs, troubleshooting guides, user manuals, product updates, how-to articles, and much more. And not only do that act as your 24/7 help desk, but when done right, they can free up your customer support reps’ time. So, instead of spending their time answering queries about minor problems, they can focus on solving more complex customer issues
Intrigued about creating a knowledge base for your business? Then, read below to find out how.
Best practices for leveraging a knowledge base
While creating a knowledge base isn’t rocket science, if overly simplified or created without a strategy, it can do more harm than good. So here are our top tips for creating a knowledge base that’s effective and efficient in boosting customer success and increasing customer satisfaction.
Create a template and stay consistent
Though it’s an obvious step, few businesses use a dedicated, standard format for their content. If you’re going to have multiple people contributing to your knowledge base, then you need a template so that everyone’s on the same page.
Plus, it looks neater and it’s easier for customers to navigate. If they’re surfing through articles, they’ll have an idea of what to expect. The last thing you want or need is to have a confusing knowledge base. Every piece within must align with your company’s brand style guide.
You can segment your content in one or more of the following ways:
- By complexity
- By topic
- By audience
- By product
Your first step for segmenting the content should be by topic. But, if there’s still a chance customers will feel overwhelmed, then segment further. Your goal here is to make your content easy to understand and answers easy to reach.
Here’s a way you can format your content:
- Problem: Describe the problem that the customer is facing in detail. You don’t have to go overboard, but provide enough context so they know they’re in the right place.
- Steps: In easy, understandable steps, describe how to reach the solution.
- Solution: What should they see? Do they have to wait? If so, how long? Explain to customers how the solution should look. Don’t forget to include alternative steps in case they didn’t reach their solution.
- Related topics: Is there a similar problem? Does this problem normally lead to another?
By having this template accessible to everyone in the company, all employees will be able to create an article that customers can comprehend.
Cover all the bases
You don’t want your knowledge base to have hardly any content. As far as customers are concerned, no content is better than halfhearted content. So, make sure that your knowledge base includes a range of various topics.
By covering a multitude of topics, you reduce the number of calls that your help desk must resolve because customers can find answers themselves in less time. This freed up time allows your customer service reps to focus on helping customers solve more complex problems.
However, covering all the bases should be your goal, not your first step. While providing customers with the information they need to solve their own problems is cost-effective and saves time, your first step should be prioritization.
Unless you hire an employee to upload content to your knowledge base, your employees won’t have enough time to flesh it out, at first. Instead, focus on uploading solutions to the most commonly-encountered issues customers face. Also, include solutions that are essential to customer success.
Once you’ve addressed the basic, yet important articles, then you can focus on expanding your content to tackle complex topics.
Collaborate with all departments
The main department which you’ll be getting topic ideas from is customer support. They typically interact with your customers daily. They know what your customers want. They know what’s bothering them the most. And they know the answers to related questions that normally arise when a customer has a specific problem.
However, if you’re trying to create an all-inclusive, self-service knowledge base for your customers, then you’ll need help from all teams.
No one knows how to solve an IT problem like the IT department. And no one knows the details of a product like the product management team. If you find that these questions come up more than once, it’s probable they will come up again. So, get someone from each department to write an article to help solve a problem in their department.
Keep the content simple
When you’ve been at your company awhile, you’re likely talking about and describing products at a higher comprehension level than your average customers. While this might work for internal communications, it can severely confuse and frustrate customers. This can lead to even more support queries, rendering your content useless and adding to your customer support team’s workload.
The purpose of your knowledge base is to allow customers to find the answers to their own questions, without calling customer support. So, you need your content to be easy to comprehend.
If you’re worried that your knowledge base might be overly complex, then use an editor. They’ll be able to edit your content in a way that makes it easy to digest.
Add visuals to your content
Written content is informative, and it’s easy to scan. But not everyone likes to read. Each individual absorbs information in their own way–some are visual learners while others are auditory learners, and so on.
So, give your customers a choice. Whether it’s screenshots or videos, customers love visual content. It’s engaging and gives their eyes a break from blocks of text. But, not all visual content can or should be used everywhere.
Videos can be used for:
- How-to articles
- Feature overviews
- Thought leadership and educational topics
Video content is popular and tends to stick longer in customers’ minds than written content. However, it should be used wisely. And it definitely shouldn’t be the only content on a page. When deciding whether you should include a video in one of your articles, ask yourself these questions:
- How time-sensitive is this topic?
- Would my customers want an immediate answer?
- What situation are they probably in to need help with this topic?
- Is this a problem that would cause them to feel frustrated, confused, angry, or anxious?
- Is the topic complex? Would words only confuse them more?
Don’t use a video if you think it’ll be ill-received. On the other hand, if your customers aren’t under immense stress and searching for a quick answer, then adding one can only serve to educate and help them even more.
You can also include screenshots in your content. Screenshots can decrease how long it takes for customers to find the answers they need.
Remember though, any visual content you decide to use isn’t a substitute for written content. Instead, it’s an enhancement of the content already there.
Analyze customer feedback and behavior
If there’s one thing you learn while in business, it’s that everything should be tested. And the same applies to your knowledge base.
There are a few ways to analyze your content. One is letting your customers provide feedback to you. Once you allow customers to give feedback on your content, you can gain insight into:
- What’s working
- What needs to be improved
- What needs to be expanded
Not all customers will write a paragraph to you, explaining what the problem is. Some will, and you can use that information to determine what needs to be changed. Even if they don’t, a ‘Thumbs Down’ or ‘Not Helpful’ can let you know that there’s something incomplete about your content. Learn more about knowledge base content feedback.
Another way you can get valuable insight into your content is from help desk ticketing. Have the tickets for topics available on your knowledge base decreased? Are customers asking different questions about the same topic?
If customers are still reaching out to customer support to help them with a topic that’s already covered in the knowledge base, then you know that it’s time to expand and improve your content.
Heat maps are another invaluable tool to use when trying to see which articles generate the most engagement and which aren’t relevant to customers. With this insight at your disposal, you’ll be able to create a “Frequently Asked Questions” section that’s easily accessible to customers.
Keep it updated
One of the worst things you can do for your knowledge base is to neglect it. Customers trust you to have the answers that they need.
So, what do you think would happen if they follow your steps and nothing happens? Plus, you can imagine their reaction if they notice the content hasn’t been updated in years–they’ll see you as amateur at best. They’ll think that you don’t care about them enough to upload an accurate solution to their problem. And they might switch to one of your competitors whose knowledge base is updated and accurate.
To avoid losing customers because your knowledge base doesn’t meet expectations, you need to assign someone the task of reviewing and updating content on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. Also, any time you release a product update, someone should update related knowledge base articles.
Also, at least annually, have someone audit your content to ensure that:
- Links are working.
- Articles are following the same format.
- Articles aren’t overly complex.
- Content isn’t outdated.
By checking for these things, you’re showing your customers, even if they don’t notice it, that you care about them and strive to deliver the best customer experience possible.
A knowledge base isn’t hard to create, but that doesn’t mean it won’t require a lot of planning and strategizing to get it off the ground.
If you’re staying consistent with your formatting, using visuals when necessary, and covering topics that are important to your customers, then you’re well on your way to creating a good knowledge base.
By using these tips listed above, you’ll have a time-saving, cost-efficient, and empowering tool at your disposal that can increase customer success tenfold
Do you have any best practice tips that you’ve used to make your knowledge base effective? Post them in the comment section below!