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Tips on how to get the most out of the knowledge base

When customers need answers, they want convenience almost as much as the answers themselves. They want to receive the help they need without being put on endless call holds waiting for support. You...

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When customers need answers, they want convenience almost as much as the answers themselves. They want to receive the help they need without being put on endless call holds waiting for support. You can’t blame them—dinner’s in the oven and the kids have no idea where to start on their homework. And it’s geometry, at that. Fortunately, that’s where a well-equipped, readily accessible knowledge base can save the day. This on-demand, self-service option puts the control in the customers’ hands. They can gather solutions to their support issues on their own time and terms. This option is equally invaluable to support staff, as it reduces the number of support calls—freeing them to focus on more complex support tickets. To reap these benefits, you must first lay the proper foundation. Here are our best tips to get the most out of your knowledge base. 

What is a Knowledge Base? 

A knowledge base is best defined as an accessible collection of information regarding a product or service. It acts as a self-service support option for customers by

providing access to commonly asked questions (and their answers), manuals, installation information, and troubleshooting tips. Consolidating these tips into one streamlined platform makes it easy for customers to gather the information they need without contacting support. Granted, not all knowledge bases are created equal. 

What Makes a Good Knowledge Base Platform? 

According to Zendesk,  91% of customers would rather self-serve with the help of an online knowledge base than contact support. Still, a knowledge base is only as useful as the quantity and quality of information it contains. That being said, it’s important to ensure the knowledge base offers accurate, relevant information. Only then can it fulfill its promise of alleviating customers’ pain points. 

It’s also worth noting that customer questions may arise at any time of day, any day of the week. Your live support team would need to be available 24/7 to accommodate this. Though nice in theory, that expenditure would just be too costly to justify. You guessed it—a knowledge base offers an affordable alternative. Companies can rely on this digital database to provide customers with the round-the-clock support they desire—without the price tag.

1. Fill Your Knowledge Base Software with Solutions and Information 

It can’t be understated that a knowledge base is only as good as the information you provide it. Valuable information accurately answers questions and provides actionable detailed steps to resolve issues. Technical teams must collaborate to ensure this information is accurate, helpful, easily accessible, and user-friendly. 

Helpful Instructions 

Getting started with a new product or service can be intimidating. Include a “Getting Started” section in the knowledge base to instill confidence in customers. It’s easy to assume the problem you’re experiencing requires expert support, but that’s actually rarely the case. Most problems can be solved with the press of a few buttons. A “Getting Started” button makes customers feel seen—that though they’re not experts, they don’t need to be. You’ve got their back all the same. Beyond this sentiment, helping customers get started is simply the right business call. It alleviates confusion and therefore minimizes the chances of them jumping ship to a competitor. 

In the same breath, poorly-written instructions are as bad as no instructions at all. Both work to derail the customer experience. Detailed, yet user-friendly (no industry jargon!) instructions are essential to helping customers troubleshoot their own product issues. Providing users with step-by-step instructions in a knowledge base lets them learn the product at their pace. They also enjoy the freedom to review the steps as many times as needed to feel fully comfortable using the product or sorting issues. 

It’s also important to remember that not all customers think alike. Therefore, the mediums you use to relay product information should reflect that. For example, you can easily set visual and auditory learners up for success with video instructions. Embedding product demonstration and procedure videos in your knowledge base provide a learning format that can accommodate a wider array of customers’ learning styles. 

Fresh Content 

Using an article about iOS 10 to troubleshoot a software issue on an iPhone running on iOS 15 is a recipe for failure. It’s apples and oranges. That’s why regularly updating the knowledge base is key to staying relevant and viable to your audience. 

Be sure to update any time products, services, branding, or processes change. Customers will notice if you don’t! We’ve all experienced the mounting frustration of a product not working, the false hope of being able to solve the problem on your own, and then being directed to an article from years ago, haven’t we? Hurts every time. We’re confident you’d agree your customers deserve better. Keeping the knowledge base updated ensures customers and support staff alike have the latest information to promptly resolve issues. 

Similarly, if your support agents are being overwhelmed by the same questions over and over, put the answer in the knowledge base! This lets customers get the answers they need without flooding the support team and draining your resources. 

The entire point of the knowledge base is to assist customers with as little friction as possible. Of course, some may still want or need assistance beyond the knowledge base. Make sure the platform has updated company contact information for them to call or email customer support as they please. Accessibility is the name of the customer service game, after all.

2. Have a Logical and Organized Knowledge Base Platform

Well-structured content is as important as the information itself. The knowledge base must be intuitive, easy to navigate, and highly informative. All of this can be achieved with well-organized information architecture. 

Well-organized Information Architecture 

An organized knowledge base enables customers to quickly and easily find what they need. Developing and organizing the information upfront ensures the platform follows set standards and processes. This planning is the foundation of an intuitive interface. Better yet, it doesn’t need to be a guessing game. Here are a few winning strategies to structure your knowledge base for success: 

User Type: Sectioning your base by user type facilitates the search process. That way, users can click on the section most relevant to them without having to sift through information intended for another subset of users. 

Activity: An activity-based structure is ideal for audiences looking for guidance about a specific activity. For example, airlines should offer knowledge bases for step-by-step flight booking, purchasing baggage, and checking in. Stage/User Experience: Organizing the base by stage or user experience adds another layer of categorizing information. These sections may read “Getting Started”, “Upgrade Services”, “Get Help”, or whatever will help facilitate the user journey for your specific business.

You can further build a structure by strategically linking related articles. This means embedding them in a way that supports a logical reading flow. If it’s not adding value in that specific context, it shouldn’t be there at all. Lastly, it’s easy to get lost out there on the World Wide Web. So, provide users with a straightforward navigation menu to stay on track. 

Develop Topic Plan 

The next step is to form the topics and subsections that will head your knowledge base. Start by putting yourself in the shoes of your customers. If you were using your product or service for the first time, what questions would you have? What functions does it have that might not be so obvious? Next, separate the questions into categories. Gathering this information upfront is critical to organizing the information. This includes basic questions someone would have about your service or product and steps to get started using the product or service. 

Now it’s time to dig deeper into further topics for each section. Work with other departments to learn what questions customers have been asking. Keep in mind that customers usually begin their searches with “How-to...” or “Using...”. So, use these terms when naming the articles and sections. Here are a few ideas to determine relevant topics: 

  • Learn what questions customers have been asking others in your industry Look at the information your competitors cover in their knowledge bases Determine patterns in problems reported in support tickets;
  • Ponder what information would improve the overall customer experience.

Consistency in information, design, and structure is key to user-friendliness—and the simpler, the better. Articles that are clear and concise help keep the knowledge base user-friendly. You should also work to make your search function more robust by including tags on each article. Ease of access is the end game. Prioritize it and your customers (and bottom line) will thank you. 

Optimize for Web and Mobile Experiences 

Another area to consider when designing knowledge base tools is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO refers to how well your website ranks on search engine result pages (SERPs). More relevant, keyword-dense sites rank higher. Therefore, they enjoy more visibility, traffic, and sales. Investing in an SEO-optimized knowledge base now will pay off big time when customers and the general public alike stumble across your help pages before those of your competitors. Incorporating a reliable keyword research tool into your SEO strategy ensures that your content targets the right terms and phrases, making it easier for users to find your pages.

Furthermore, with the widespread use of smartphones, digital information needs to be mobile-friendly. Customers want to access help directly from their devices. The point of a self-service knowledge base is to get answers now, after all—not have to wait until you can get to your computer hours later. Being mobile-friendly means the knowledge base must properly fit the screen and load quickly to ensure a positive mobile experience. 

Lastly, if your brand caters to a global customer base, you must offer multilingual support. You will alienate non-native speakers without it, which is quite literally the last thing you want to do to anyone, much less paying customers. 

3. Encourage Collaboration and Creativity 

Your teams are comprised of diversely talented individuals. Use their creativity to keep the knowledge base current. Start by encouraging customer-facing teams (like support staff and sales reps) and specialized staff (like product engineers) together. This collaboration will result in a more comprehensive knowledge base. 

You should also schedule regular knowledge-sharing sessions. Designating collaboration time allows teams to focus on the task at hand rather than wasting it trying to coordinate schedules. Moreover, your employees should have a way to offer insight outside of these meeting times, too. Not every great idea happens on the spot—don’t confine their creativity to a 30-minute time slot!

As you likely already know, reward and recognition programs are a great way to encourage employee involvement. Everyone loves prizes, don’t you agree? Of course, the type of rewards you offer should vary based on the team and what motivates them. Similarly, the types of reward systems you use should vary based on what your teams respond best to. 

Get The Most Out of Your Knowledge Base 

The way you deliver information makes all the difference in the customer service you provide. From the content you create to the way you categorize it, every decision should be made with the customer at the heart of it. 

Giving customers self-service options lets them get the information they need on their own time and terms. This frees the support staff to work on more complex support issues. Granted, properly organizing a knowledge base takes a lot of time and effort. It needs to be helpful, user-friendly, and optimized—in both design and SEO—to ensure customers can find what they need. Again, tedious and time-consuming. 

Fret not—Helpware is a digital services provider dedicated to helping our customers create amazing customer experiences. Our technical support teams consistently deliver viable resolutions to technical problems. Let us custom-tailor an inbound and outbound call center to support your team and company’s growth. Contact us today! 

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