knowledge base

Introduction

Help your customers help themselves by using a knowledge base.”

– Anonymous

Okay, we admit that we came up with that, but there’s no denying the profundity of the statement. Especially so in this ever more busy world where customers are time-bound and are looking to ‘Google it‘ to find information to quell their needs.

While self-service customer support has quite a few ways to go, it is certainly being helped by the fact that providing excellent customer support to clients can make them come back to you in droves and prompt them to be four times more loyal to your brand. Of the numerous channels, this support can be proffered by, SMS, live chat, chatbots, and Facebook Messenger is a few of them, customers sometimes need to find answers on their own for themselves. This sentiment is so prevalent among them today that 91% of consumers claimed that they would use a knowledge base if it was tailored to their needs.

How to Create a Knowledge Base

“The goal of documentation is to turn novices into experts.”

Steve Losh: Programmer and Blogger

Before getting started with the how-to, let’s begin with the what.

What is a knowledge base? 

A knowledge base is a central repository of helpful documentation for your customers that equips them with the knowledge and intricacies of your service or product.

Okay, that was a little too textbook, but the idea of it is out there. Documentation, for the sake of your customers (and your customer experience), is important. It’s the hidden goods behind all the razzle-dazzle of your products or services that describe any and all aspects of how your product or service functions. It’s something that every brand must-have because it does away with several complications associated with seeking customer support.

However, many brands are of the opinion that people don’t read the documentation. That is true, right until the moment they run into a dead end.

“The reason why it doesn’t seem that people read documentation is that those are the ones that never call you. They read it and they got their answer and you never hear from them.”

Joe Cieplinski, Creative Director, Bombing Brain Interactive.

People use knowledge bases. Think guides and help sections. While they might not consume every last syllable in your manual, they will refer to it from time to time to learn about certain aspects of your product or service design. According to Gartner, most people would prefer finding help on their own through knowledge bases rather than call a support center.

However, when it comes to creating knowledge bases, there lies a gap in making useful content available to customers. That’s why it is crucial to invest time in planning and forethought on how to compose knowledge base articles so that they are helpful to customers. Here are seven best practices you can follow to compose comprehensive and practical content for customer support.

1. Create a strategy

The foremost step in producing superlative content for your knowledge base is to create a content strategy. The strategy should form the basis of what you plan to help customers achieve with it. As such, you should seek answers to a few questions, such as:

  • What information is absolutely essential to your customers?
  • What are the pain points of your customers?
  • How to sequence and categorize the content in your knowledge base?
  • What are the different ways you can answer different queries?
  • What’s the role of your knowledge base in your overarching customer support strategy?

When you have answers to the aforementioned questions, you will find it easier to design a compelling framework for the content to include in your knowledge base. It will not only provide you with an idea of the kind of topics you need to include but also how best to make the content available to customers.

Source: Asana

Take Asana, for instance. When you have answers to the aforementioned questions, you will find it easier to design a compelling framework for the content to include in your knowledge base. It takes the unusual approach of calling its knowledge base a “guide” and keeping the search bar absent. Instead, it filters and categorizes articles into four divisions, namely tips on Asana, joining a live webinar, courses, and tutorials.

2. Learn of your target audience

Source: Buyer Persona Institute

Just as content marketing requires you to identify buyer personas, you need to build customer personas for your knowledge base’s content strategy. To effectively create your customer personas, find precise information about customers on the basis of their demographics, professional history, and expectations.

Once you know your target audience, you can create better content based on their topics of interest. This also prevents writer bias from adversely affecting the quality of your content and improves the odds of providing your knowledge base users with a better customer support experience.

Source: Mailchimp

Mailchimp, the world’s favorite email automation platform, does a great job at this. Their idea is simple. They begin by segregating their users into categories while also making support accessible to them.

This not only allows customers to solicit support when they can’t find something on their own but also lets Mailchimp ask customers questions on how helpful the article was. This gives them further knowledge of their customers by asking for qualitative feedback and allows them to improve the comprehensiveness of their articles for different user segments.

3. Gather data and conduct proper research

When it’s time to begin composing your knowledge base, research is foremost. Says Sam Carpenter, entrepreneur, and author of Work the System, “This (creating documentation) is not a feel-good exercise. It’s the mandatory foundation for creating tremendous efficiency. This is the one-time heavy lifting.”

When there’s so much at stake, how do you know where to begin, though?

Begin by documenting the most seemingly evident things. Go after existing content such as blogs, how-to guides, and FAQ(s) from your content marketing maneuvers. However, don’t stop there and look for internal information, whitepapers, e-books, and more that could help your customers. Revisit old customer support too as it can help you understand customer pain points and get sufficient resources in order for your knowledge base.

4. Use practical language that readers can understand

Simply conducting sweeping research of your product and making it available to users isn’t enough as they will most likely be dumbfounded by everything you have on offer. Remember, the goal is to make the content easily comprehensible by them.

Says Gregory Ciotti, Content Marketer at Shopify, “Write as if the customer is a beginning user of your product. Skip the advanced terminologies and jargon.”

Don’t presuppose that your users are familiar with what you are talking about. Use ordinary, unembellished language. Over-communicate with them. A knowledge base designed for the customer is one that they will enjoy using. For this purpose, it is essential to make your content easy to read and possibly even easy to skim for them so that they can gain the general gist of the article and move forward.

5. Include visuals to aid comprehension

It’s always a good practice to not simply rely on text for your documentation goals. Experiment with tutorials, how-to videos, tutorials, walkthroughs, and even GIFs to explain the simplest concepts to help customers understand what you’re saying.

No matter how intricately designed your knowledge base is, it is vital to ensure the inclusion of helpful visuals for your content. It makes your content come full circle and really helps readers understand how to go about something.

Source: CrazyEgg provides a helpful tutorial as part of its documentation on what Overly Reports are

Cater to all categories of learners. Old text is great for a vast majority of your customers, others may find it too assiduous an exercise though. Include helpful images and visuals for such learners when explaining something. Another idea could be to include stepwise guides for more analytical learners. You can also complement this with graphs, pie charts, or whatever else that you feel will add extra meaning to your content.

6.  Make the knowledge base accessible

Canva knowledge base

Source: Canva

Any good knowledge base or help center you go to will always have a prominent element: the ubiquitous search box at the top of the page. Beneath it, you are likely to discover a skeleton of the knowledge base, with different categories of articles, manuals, and tutorials to assist users in getting started, find out more about features, and resolve common issues.

How you present information to the user is really important. If you throw expert tips at them right from the bat, they will be puzzled. Including a search box and listing information chronologically allows them to avoid the noise and initiate themselves with the fundamentals of your product or service. Using icons related to your text to make stuff easy to find and improve search functions is also good practice, as is allowing the predictive search feature to help customers find certain articles faster.

Ensuring the availability and easy accessibility of the knowledge base can be helpful to your customer base. Cloud-based storage with distribution via custom links or custom QR codes can allow for faster access, while gated content can be distributed with access control to ensure secure distribution of the knowledge base.

7. Update and improve the knowledge base regularly

Last but not least, update the content of your knowledge base regularly. Curating knowledge base content is a never-ending process and you should improve its content continuously to keep it both relevant and useful for customers. This is especially important if there are product or service updates or changes introduced to your branding or company in any way.

Just like how important training your support staff on service or product updates is, so is actively improving the content of your knowledge base. The same also holds true for producing new articles for new improvements or products.

Conclusion

Creating a knowledge base can not only help you scale customer support and success but also cut down costs, enhance their overall experience, and improve your RoI. Apart from that, it also allows you to educate and empower the customer instead of simply reacting to them. While there exist many ways to create it, it all comes down to putting yourself in their shoes and finding issues that come up with customers to build a knowledge base that’s truly helpful to them.

Author bio:

Ashwini Dave

Ashwini is passionate about Business, Entrepreneurship, E-commerce, emerging technology, and Digital Marketing. She is working with Acquire as a digital marketing expert. She is a free soul and adventurous scholar who spends her free time with herself and loved ones, music, as well as watching & playing sports. She is ocean addicted and on roads being a thrill-seeking traveler to get new experiences as she looks at life as our very own works of art. 

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ashwini-dave/ 

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