There’s so much information spread across so many channels these days that it can often seem overwhelming keeping track. That’s why a well-structured, easy-to-read knowledge base should form a core part of any modern company's improved customer service approach.
These databases of help articles boost customer experience, create internal efficiency, and help position your brand for future success.
But how do you make sure you plan, build, and maintain them in the right way?
We’ve written this guide to help you do just that.
Let’s dive in.
What is a knowledge base?
A knowledge base is a library of information that users can draw from. It provides a way to collect, store, and share knowledge, often about a particular company, product or service.
A knowledge bank can include a variety of different articles: FAQs, troubleshooting guides, user manuals, or any other information that’s relevant to the user.
The content within these articles ranges from text to graphs, videos, diagrams, or whatever format is best suited to convey the information users are looking for and is categorized in a way that makes the most sense from a user perspective.
Use cases for knowledge systems frequently include customer service, and they can be an important factor in creating a quality customer experience.
What is the purpose of a knowledge base?
Knowledge bases exist to help users find answers and solutions without the need to consult with other people or get lost in reams of disorganized documentation.
They help bring structure to information, helping with navigation and understanding. Their central purpose is to make life easier for both the people and the organizations using them.
Why is a knowledge base important?
Knowledge bases help companies provide customers with the kind of fast solutions they expect and demand. Not only that, but customers actually like to find solutions themselves. They also significantly cut down on customer support tickets freeing up your support team to focus on other tasks.
This databank of knowledge isn’t just important for your customers either. It helps prevent long wait times in your customer service queue by addressing inquiries that would otherwise have to be dealt with by employees.
Imagine, for example, a customer wants a simple account setup question answered. They could find their answer in your help center and have the account set up in minutes.
Types of knowledge bases
There are several different types of knowledge bases: internal, external, hosted, self-hosted, customer, and open-sourced. All of them provide their own unique benefits and use cases.
Let's check out each of them.
Internal knowledge bases
An internal knowledge base is created by a company solely for the use of team members from that company.
Internal help systems are therefore an excellent tool to help with onboarding, providing details about company structure, benefits and how to access them, as well as acting as a source of technical support in areas such as information technology.
In the longer term they also help make sure employees fully understand internal procedures and therefore help standardize processes company-wide.
They are a great tool for customer support, sales, or product-related teams that need to quickly look up information to help customers and improve sales.
External knowledge bases
External knowledge bases are a great tool for users looking to find solutions to their problems themselves.
An external knowledge database contains information about products, services or companies that is available to the public. Companies commonly make use of these external version to provide information to customers. The knowledge they contain helps customers troubleshoot or dig further to find out more about certain topics as needed.
Hosted knowledge bases
A hosted knowledge base can be either internal or external. The information in this case is stored by a third-party service provider on behalf of the company which therefore involves relinquishing a certain level of control.
Outside hosted help centers are a great tool for companies that don’t have the resources to host a knowledge system themselves.
Self-hosted knowledge bases
Self-hosted knowledge bases live on a company’s own servers. That does however mean that the company will have to stump up the resources to deal with fixing any issues themselves.
A self-hosted variant is a great tool for companies looking to exercise maximum control over the process.
Customer knowledge base
A customer knowledge base organizes information specifically for the purpose of providing it to customers in an accessible and easy-to-use way.
Customers can look up frequently asked questions to find solutions to their problems and quickly resolve any issues.
A customer facing version is a great tool for providing 24/7 self-service customer support, while simultaneously filtering out users who need other customer support channels.
Open-source knowledge base software
Open-source knowledge bases are openly accessible for the public to use, though they may still require payment. Developers are able to customize pre-existing code to meet the specific needs of the business.
Open-source bases of knowledge are a great tool for companies that don’t want to start coding from scratch.
6 key knowledge base benefits
There’s a host of different benefits to having a knowledge management system for your organization. Some of the most important are the following:
1. Reduced burden on customer support
Knowledge bases greatly reduce the need for customers to reach out for support. That means fewer phone calls and less demand on staff to deal with them. If paired well with chatbots, information bases help ensure that the requests that do come through are ones that actually need to be dealt with by your customer support team.
2. Better customer support
With a knowledge base, customers are guaranteed helpful 24/7 support. That means your customers can access the information they need, whenever, and from wherever they want. Not only that, but with a centralized information hub you can make sure the experience is consistent — every single customer gets exactly the same high-quality support from vetted content, every time.
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3. Employees can use it, too
It isn’t just customers that stand to gain from a high-quality knowledge base. With a wealth of useful information available, it also provides a great resource for employees — particularly for onboarding and training, for example. Or agents may simply want to refer to it to help them deal with inquiries. It can also be a useful resource for sales teams when they have a particularly technically-minded buyer on their hands.
4. Serves as a source of truth
If your customers are going to get the most out of your offerings, then they’re going to need access to the most recent information. Every time a new release or product update happens, customers can get in-depth knowledge of what it means for them and how they can make best use of any new features through a knowledge base.
5. Enhances customer experience
A knowledge base is one of the most influential touch points within the overall customer experience. That means it has the power to really impact how customers feel about you as a brand. Combining them with AI chat software and widgets will really up your customer experience game.
6. Adds to your digital presence
Knowledge repositories can provide a real boost to traffic when properly indexed. Customers will see articles in the search engine results page if your articles rank for the relevant keyword. When customers then click on your content, your page ranking gradually improves.
This can increase the exposure of your products and effectively act as a content marketing stream. SEO efforts also help existing customers find relevant information as many will start their search online, rather than your website.
Designing a knowledge base
One of the most important aspects of implementing a knowledge base is the design. This doesn't just mean how it looks, but more of the overall functionality. Remember to take a customer-first approach for external or customer knowledge management systems.
Here's the blueprints to design and build a knowledge base:
- Structure your help center into categories
- Add in a search bar to make finding articles simple
- Simplify complex knowledge so it's easy to read and understand
- Answer questions clearly and directly
- Gather feedback such as comments and likes from readers
- Set up metrics tracking to measure success
- Update knowledge articles often
Ready to build a knowledge base?
For a more in-depth exploration into creating a knowledge management system, we've created a simple seven step guide.
Start building your knowledge base
Tips for writing effective knowledge base articles
The meat of your information database is the articles you populate it with. As you create your knowledge base articles, always keep in mind who you’re creating them for: your customers. It’s their experience that matters most.
Be very clear in your communication, both in terms of the language and visuals you use, as well as the titles that you organize the articles under. There’s also a lot to think about when it comes to the structure of the articles themselves. Make sure they are set out in a way that makes them easy to read and navigate, and formatted so that salient information stands out — no rambling monotonous sprawls of text.
Looking for premade knowledge base articles?
Download proven help article templates or copy and paste to quickly start filling out your knowledge base.
Knowledge base management tips
So you’ve got a well-thought-out and informative knowledge base for your customers. It doesn’t end there. You’ll need to update and maintain it so your customers can continue getting the most out of it. Here are some of the most vital knowledge database management tasks you can undertake:
- Update when launching something new. If your base of knowledge doesn’t stay up-to-date with all the latest information then it will quickly become confusing for customers. Build in a process so that knowledge base updates form part of launches.
- Measure and improve. Even if you think you’ve done a great job on your help center, it’s your customers’ opinion that matters the most. Take on board feedback from customers telling you what they did and didn’t find helpful, and use analytics to dig into metrics such as most viewed articles and search terms.
- Make sure your knowledge base reflects your brand. Your knowledge base forms part of the overall customer experience. That means it’s important to keep it consistent with your company branding — tone of voice, look and feel, and imagery. A style guide will help ensure the right notes are hit, regardless of who's producing content.
- Use your knowledge system as a form of marketing. Knowledge assets are ripe for inclusion in other forms of promotion. Any videos you might create can be repurposed in channels such as social media. Knowledge base pages are also more in-depth than standard product pages and so represent a good alternative when further information is required.
How to choose the right knowledge base software
Effectively creating and managing a database of information requires the use of knowledge base software. And in order to choose which will work for you, you need to know what functionality to keep an eye out for.
Here are some of the top features you will need:
- Search function. This is absolutely crucial so readers don’t have to spend their time endlessly sorting and can find things based on search terms that relate to their specific issue.
- Category management. Categorization systems help keep a knowledge base organized for both uploading and browsing content. You should be able to categorize on multiple levels.
- Easy-to-use dashboard. Even though knowledge bases are there primarily for your customers’ use, it’s important the creation process is smooth, too. That requires a user-friendly interface.
- File attachments. You may need to attach files to add further explanation — videos are particularly useful for this — so it’s important you can include these in the articles.
- Feedback capabilities. As mentioned earlier, you’ll want to know what your customers think so you can improve your knowledge base, and that requires a feedback system. ‘How helpful did you find this article’ ratings are common but try to allow for more detailed written feedback, too.
- Analytics. Seeing which articles get the most views and where people bounce is useful in understanding what might need tweaking or potentially expanding.
See what our knowledge base software can do for you
A solid base for success
A knowledge base tool boosts customer experience and increases internal efficiency. And all of that without a huge drain on resources.
As you build and develop your knowledge management system, keep your focus on the core reasons for creating it in the first place. Empower customers to answer their own queries instead of getting swamped in support tickets. Remember, it’s all about the customers and helping them solve the issues they come across most.
Have you implemented a knowledge base into your customer support approach? How's it been working? Let us know in the comments.
Also, give this a share on social media and let others know about how powerful a knowledge base could be for their organization.