The Ultimate Guide to Knowledgebase Development – Doing Customer Service Right -

The Ultimate Guide to Knowledgebase Development – Doing Customer Service Right

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    Knowledge Base Development

    Knowledge base development can be a whirlwind. Knowledge base development in the presence of a backlog of support tickets and an overwhelmed staff can lead to less time for other inbound business activities.

    The question is, what can be done to ensure efforts to deliver excellent customer service meets with success?

    As a business owner, the world of support tickets and relentless customer inquiries is not new. The need to provide answers to individual support tickets can be overwhelming.

    However, the presence of ongoing support is an essential aspect of customer service for every business.

    The lack of ongoing support in your business could lead to financial losses with dissatisfied customers and negative referrals.

    Some companies have resorted to limit support to a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) or huge manuals. With digitization and an online presence, these manuals or limited FAQs lack value or provide minimal benefit to the client or user.

    In recent times, users frown at receiving manual handbooks and consult online formats of support systems or flood the company with support tickets. This leads to an increased number of billable workforce hours and a need for more human resources. 

    More than ever, an online knowledge base is essential. However, the thought of creating an online knowledge base may be daunting.

    In this guide, we provide answers to questions related to knowledge base-development, such as,

    What is a knowledge base?

    A knowledge base is a collection of topics related to the use of the product being offered. Wikipedia defines a knowledge base as ‘a special kind of database for knowledge management.’

    A knowledge base enables self-service or a do-it-yourself (DIY) process. It saves a business the task of having to reply to similar questions repeatedly.

    It is easier to scale a business with the presence of a knowledge base, as this frees up time for other revenue-generating activities.

    Is a knowledge base the same as a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs)?

    Well, no.

    A set of frequently asked questions is simple. The primary difference between a knowledge base and FAQs is the presence of information structure or categories. A knowledge base is dedicated to the client or user experience and aims for the complete user journey, unlike FAQs.

    The knowledge base includes the frequently asked questions, guides to help troubleshoot issues with the product/service, and other details.

    A host of software is dedicated to knowledge base hosting along with search optimization and backend analytics. However, the development of the knowledge base articles has a better impact, if allocated to expert writers.


    Who needs a knowledge base?

    All providers and users of a product, software or service would achieve more success with an expert developed knowledge base.

    Target clients, people who fit a demo- and psycho-graphic profile for a service or product need a knowledge base.

    Think about it. As a user or client using a product/service other than yours, you must have had a fair share of exposure to knowledge bases. Were they helpful? Most times, yes.

    According to Zendesk, 9 out of 10 clients would use a knowledge base if it met their needs. In fact, self-service is becoming more preferred compared to the use of support agents. Almost all users in the study said they would use a needs-based knowledge base, due to speed, ease of use and answers to service-related questions.


    Is a knowledge base essential?

    A knowledge base can act as a virtual support assistant, saving you time and resources which can be diverted to scaling the business. Statistics from Zendesk supports this, as 6 out of 10 customers decide not to call support, after looking for answers to their questions in self-service articles. Imagine diverting that amount of human resources and time to scaling the business.

    Dan Kennedy in his book, the Ultimate Marketing Plan  states ‘every business should have a customer-service diplomacy program.’ A customer-service diplomacy program should include ‘a good means of immediately getting an answer for customers at any time.’

    A business with working hour policies and function on a global scale does well to have a knowledge base with the needed support, on a 24-hour basis.

    A dissatisfied customer can create immense damage for any business and have been responsible for high churn rates.

    The next question is,


    How does having a knowledge base benefit my company?

    Having a knowledge base increases staff productivity, reduces the number of support tickets and billable working hours. Support staff can refer to knowledgebase content for help during live chat support. They can direct the customer to knowledgebase topics relevant to the subject, with time savings and increased customer satisfaction.

    An expertly written knowledgebase saves time and human resources.

    Knowledge base content could be an ample source of backlinks, a more comfortable request to grant for mutual benefits. Content outlines on the steps for knowledge base integration with other apps provide immense value for both businesses. Zapier does this very well.

    Knowledge base development could act as a feeder for forums and communities. Regular questions from users with contributions from other users, provide a steady source of content and engagement, this helps with content marketing efforts, overall visibility and ranking on search engines.

    A hybrid knowledgebase (community support included) can help with market research and novel ideas for related software or products. 

    Content Ideas for a knowledge base

    • Detailed walk-through answers to frequently asked questions. It helps to outline details in steps to help users achieve milestones or small wins related to the use of the company product/service.
    • Use cases with examples of areas where your products can be used
    • Case studies of achievements your product has helped other users achieve.
    • A video tour or screenshots of your product in use
    • Information or content from failed search results. Use of knowledgebase software provides backend analytics and tracks unsuccessful content search. Also, monitoring the user journey from knowledge base access to support requests (all within GDPR contexts for region-specific readers) is helpful. This will indicate an incomplete explanation on the subject.
    • Topics from Social media listening - detailed answers to brand mentions or client complaints on social media can create a positive image for your product for all to see.
    • Content discussions on dedicated forums or a related forum can be exploited for content ideas. Thrivethemes is a successful example of the power and benefit of forum discussions.


    How do you create a knowledge base your clients will love?

    To create knowledgebase content with high quality, the provider needs to close the gap between the problems your product solves and your target client profile. 

    Work with an Expert Knowledgebase creator or Technical Writer - Having an expert create your knowledge base is a no-brainer. Technical terms have to be explained in easy to understand language.

    Client Outreach/Feedback - What barriers could prevent your users from recognizing or achieving success with your product? You could reach out to your present clients, asking for areas of difficulty or why they have not used your product recently. Also, feedback from the customer service department on reported challenges at different stages of the user journey is indispensable. Feedback includes customer complaints received during the on-boarding, the trial period, paid use,  and the cancellation period. 

    Use the Search History - From the search history on your platform or assessments of Google Analytics data (or data analytics monitor of choice). Identify common areas where users have issues and provide solutions.

    Repurpose pre-written content given in answer to client questions. FAQs are a ready source of material, which can be repurposed into valuable knowledge base articles.

    Previous answers which proved helpful to clients (received excellent client feedback) can serve this purpose.


    Is a knowledgebase beneficial for a startup with a small team of fewer than 20 employees?


    The use of a knowledge base should be more beneficial for small startups as it allows time for team members to focus on other inbound outreach activities. 

    I decided to ask a typical company, Alore, which boasts a team of fewer than 20 employees. Alore CRM provides cold emailing and outreach services with a team of fewer than 20 employees. With regards to knowledge base development for companies with small teams, Alore CEO, Vikhas Jha suggests a gradual build up of knowledge base content. This is because people tend to be lazy with the reading process. Allowing them to grow with the platform allows them to get used to knowledge base content and develop reading habits.

    Another CEO, who chose to remain anonymous, claims that knowledge base content seems to be more effective  compared to help from customer service staff. This is due to the short time-to-response.

    What are the best practices for knowledge base development?

    1. Dedicate expert staff to the knowledge base development process
    2. Use a dedicated mobile responsive software for storage and notifications for knowledge base related content
    3. Ensure standardization and consistency in the style, readability, value, and quality provided in the knowledge base article. Aim to deliver on client needs, or solutions to a problem for the user in an easy-to-read format. The Hemingway app or Flesch Kincaid readability scale in Microsoft Office word could help improve readability.
    4. Use definitions - For technical products or services, an explanation of the technical terms and abbreviations improves client experience.
    5. Avoid repetitions - look out for repeat mentions of exact content in different areas. For topics asked from different angles, links to appropriate content can be useful.
    6. Call attention to changes, updates, and improvements in real-time. Using a notification system by email or a blinking icon, visible to users could help. Frequent surveys asking your users for their preferred method of notification could help..
    7. Add a component where users can add to topic areas in which they need help.
    8. Consider more common user types - Majority of users are auditory or visual learners. Having all major formats as part of the knowledge base article (video, gifs, and text) ensures the needs of each user is represented.
    9. Reduce the number of incoming calls to allow you time for other aspects of the business like prospect qualification and outbound calls
    10. Keep the communication lines open -  Avenues for feedback is invaluable. Monthly surveys and real-time feedback for every knowledge base topic (addition of a thumbs up or down) could generate new ideas and provide value for the  user
    11. Frequent assessments of feedback- For knowledgebase with the feedback or ratings, regular assessments of user feedback or ratings (an average of thumbs up or downs) could indicate the extent to which value is given to the user. Adjustments where possible should help in this case.
    12. Make the existence of a knowledge base evident to users - Add a gentle reminder and add links calling attention to the presence of a knowledge base on the topic on your support medium. Let your users know that a support option is available, however, access to the knowledge base may provide solutions faster than the support crew.
    13. Reflect user search intent - Users search with long tail keyword phrases. Reflect user search intent in the phrasing and the title of knowledge base articles to improve visibility. Namecheap and Siteground do this well with a high recognition of keywords which direct the user to links dedicated to the subject or issues of concern.
    14. Ensure the presence of a regular in-house review system to ensure up to date information.
    15. While creating policies, find a way to say yes to the wants and needs of users.
    16. Add a search bar, prioritize and optimize the knowledgebase search system for frequently searched keywords. Clients are conditioned from regular use of search bars on Google and Bing search engines. They look out for a similar experience in a knowledge base.
    17. Optimise the permalinks of your pages dedicated to answers to topics in the knowledge base
    18. Monitor searches and the results. For users of dedicated software like Zendesk, the back-end analytics shows unsuccessful searches. Common threads in these searches can be used to create new knowledge base articles.
    19. Use categories - similar to blog posts, groupings help with discoverability and helps with user navigation.
    20. Repurpose as Blog Posts- Ran Out of content ideas for your Blog? Use knowledge base content. Posts on Medium improves the reach of your articles, bringing in more leads for your business.
    21. Ensure the knowledge base is easy to access and navigate.

    Should I make my knowledge base public or private?

    The decision to make the knowledge base private or public will depend on your target audience and the aim of creating knowledge base content. If your knowledge base contains sensitive information (roadmaps, trade secrets), meant for internal employees, its best to keep it private and vice versa.

    A category structure makes it easy to organize knowledgebase content into public and private sections. Most dedicated knowledge base software, for example, Freshdesk provides settings you can adjust to fit your company needs.

    These settings can be adjusted to prevent non-users from submitting support tickets. However, they can ask questions. Intercom offers this provision for its subscribers with restrictions at different subscription tiers.

    Public visibility and an optimized content can be a steady source of free publicity and lead generation in real-time or in the future.


    Formats for knowledge base presentation

    Formats include blog posts, GIFs (voiceless videos, and fleeqs or screenshares), actual videos. From internal research,  providing answers in a stepwise fashion has brought positive feedback from our clients.

    Hybrid and dedicated systems are also known as multichannel support apps offer a knowledge base fused with a support system. These systems use varied channels (inbox, mobile phone, social, chat, and forum). This enables analytics/monitoring and can help with the content generation process.

    Other companies like Invanto (a learning management system) use the crowdsourcing method. They encourage answers from the community or forum in response to questions from fellow users. These questions and their answers are stored within an open knowledge base system. This encourages interaction and community building among users while supporting customer loyalty. The need for customer support is reduced with input from expert users within the community.


    What can I use a knowledge base for?

    You can use a knowledge base for a host of actions,

    1. A stored set of responses to support tickets or inquiries
    2. Troubleshooting, during non-office hours (links to relevant areas of the knowledge base may help your company provide a great customer experience, at all times).
    3. Client Onboarding - You can store demos introducing your client to your services, software and related products.
    4. Launch phase of a new product- This helps induce familiarity with your service or product.
    5. Onboarding of Support Staff or New Hires - very important
    6. Legal resource to help with processes in need of approvals, trademarks, contract development and processing, policies and related information.

    For inspiration, these companies provide great knowledgebase examples

    1. Amazon AWS- Amazon uses a category based knowledge base platform to present its articles.
    2. Teamwork- Presents its knowlegebase as a project containing support articles on issues their users may have.
    3. Thrivethemes - Thrive themes presents their knowledge base related articles as search-optimized blog posts.
    4. Namecheap - Section based artciles related to areas in which users have technical issues
    5. Siteground - This domain hosing service provides an extensive knowledgebase that answers all potential questions that users may have. The optimization is stellar, with an attempt to reach the support team your topic in the chat box prompts a related question and answer. You are offered a do-it-yourself approach or encouraged to contact the 24/7 support service.

    Recommended software for knowledge base development and storage 

    • Dedicated Website Pages
    • WordPress Plugins and Themes - WP Knowledgebase, Hero Themes.
    • Sharepoint 
    • Google Drive
    • Dedicated Knowledge Base software
    • Multichannel Apps - Zendesk, Intercom, Crisp, Teamworkdesk, Freshdesk, intercom, helpscout. More commonly used software among digital marketers include Intercom, Zendesk, Freshdesk, Teamworkdesk.

    In this post, Zapier provides a list of 20 customer support tools (open source, free and paid). You can look through for a host of options.

    Next Steps: Create or Amp up your knowledgebase 

    Creating and maintaining an effective knowledgebase your clients love can be a massive project. However, it is a noteworthy and essential part of customer service.

    Once done, it increases the odds of scaling your business with higher rates of customer satisfaction and a lower number of billable hours. These time-savings can be diverted to outreach and inbound business activities.

    As a service provider, what challenges do you have with knowledgebase development? 

    Share with us and our readers below.

    About the Author digitofumedia

    All about top-of-the-funnel marketing strategies.