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The Basics of Creating and Managing a Knowledge Base

Written by

 Jeremy Gallemard

If you’ve been managing any sort of FAQ content on your website in a manual way, it’s time to end that madness. Putting in the time and effort to build a comprehensive knowledge base will not only help your customers become more autonomous—whenever they search for the information they need about your business, products, or services—but also help your customer support team be more effective in how they address customer needs overall.

Here, we’ll provide a few tips on how to create and manage a knowledge base that will work hard to boost your business’s bottom line and lead to generally happier customers.

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What is a knowledge base?

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you already have a fairly solid idea of what a knowledge base is and the value it can bring to your business. But to make sure we’re all on the same page, here’s a simple definition for knowledge base to work with:

“A knowledge base is a self-serve customer service library that includes information about a product, service, or topic.”

In terms of putting definition into practice, you can think of a knowledge base as a repository of useful information that responds to the most frequently asked questions that your current or potential customers ask about your products, services, and general business operations. 

Now why is this important? Easy. By anticipating your customers’ questions and organizing them thoughtfully within this content library, so to speak, your knowledge base essentially becomes the fuel for all of your customer self-service solutions—from chatbots to help widgets to dynamic FAQs. Therefore, the goal of a knowledge base isn’t merely to create endless amounts of content, but rather to create the right content that can help customers effectively address their questions and needs autonomously.

The benefits of a knowledge base

For starters, a well-built and well-maintained knowledge base has been shown to reduce the amount of time it takes consumers to find information on a brand’s site by 66%.

This is important because 90% of consumers today expect an immediate response from brands whenever they have questions or concerns.

Given the rise of new and more accessible ways for consumers to connect with customer support teams digitally, whether by email or live chat, the stakes have certainly been raised. Unfortunately, this has also created a spike in the number of requests into customer support teams every day, making it harder than ever for customer service agents to respond to those inquiries in a timely manner.

So knowing that customer expectations continue to go up, it’s incumbent upon brands and businesses to not simply meet them halfway but rather exceed their expectations at every turn. This is why a robust knowledge base is a must-have in today’s customer service environment.

Among the many benefits a knowledge base offers, here are a few worth keeping top-of-mind:

  • Improved customer experience: It’s no surprise that 93% of consumers are likely to be repeat customers at companies with outstanding customer service. A great end-to-end customer experience can go a long way towards building brand loyalty. Even more, by centralising critical information within a knowledge base, you can transform your website into something that actually provides immediate and measurable value to customers, helping them do more on their own whenever they visit.
  • Optimise support agent time: While the goal of customer self-service solutions is, first and foremost, to make it possible for your customers to be more autonomous throughout the customer journey, the other equally important benefit is how they give time back to customer support agents by reducing the number of tier-1 inquiries. Making simple information, like store hours or return policies, easily accessible through customer self-service solutions allows customer support agents to focus on more complex or personalised customer needs that can’t necessarily be automated via knowledge base content.
  • Strong ROI: Although businesses must invest in building a knowledge base—and, thus, deploying customer self-service solutions—the long-term value of doing so far outweighs the initial investment. By taking the steps to not only create a better and more functional customer experience but also optimise how customer support agents spend their time, the end result will be happier customers, increased conversions, more effective support teams, and the list goes on.

Now that we’ve clearly demonstrated the importance of having a knowledge base to power your website and its customer self-service solutions, it’s time to do the heavy lifting.

How to create a knowledge base

Building a knowledge base doesn’t just happen overnight. In fact, part of the challenge of any knowledge base implementation is figuring out what knowledge exists and then identifying the best way to organise it all—and in a way that responds directly to your customers’ most frequently asked questions.

At SmartTribune, we’ve launched over 140 successful knowledge base implementations. As such, we’ve learned a thing or two about what works best. Here’s how we break it down:

Phase 1: Exploration

Part of developing the right knowledge base strategy for your business includes having a deep understanding of what gaps currently exist that are misaligned with your customers’ needs. As a starting point, you need to do a deep dive into the current context:

  • Study all current website data and analytics; 
  • Analyse customer service data to understand how customers are currently using on-site content or engaging with your customer support team; 
  • Benchmark the site experience against other brands in your competitive set; and 
  • Interview key stakeholders across the entire customer service experience.

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Phase 2: Confirmation

It’s not uncommon to go into a process like this without having a few hunches. But as much as you might be inclined to trust your gut instinct blindly, there is oftentimes a disconnect between what a business believes to be the core problem(s) in the existing customer experience versus the real gaps or pain points customers are actually facing. To get over this hurdle, we recommend doing the following: 

  • Defining core customer personas; 
  • Outlining the expectations that each customer persona has of your brand;
  • Mapping the on-site journey for each customer persona;
  • Determining where there are breaks or rough spots along those journeys; and
  • Creating and confirming hypotheses about what needs to be fixed in order to address the needs of each core customer persona.

Phase 3: Categorisation

Now with a game plan in place—and a clear understanding of what hurdles you need to overcome to deliver on your customers’ primary needs and expectations effectively—it’s time to create the organisational structure of your knowledge base. This is done in a form akin to a decision tree, one that’s specifically tied to the most frequent problems customers face whenever visiting your site. The simplest way to do this involves the following steps:

  • Transpose customer problems into the questions they would ask customer support;
  • Write these questions onto flashcards;  
  • Organise these flashcards around the customer needs they address; and
  • Use these groupings to determine the core customer request themes that will eventually form the backbone of your knowledge base.

Once you’ve got the structure of your knowledge base defined, it’s time to start building out content. It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time around. What’s most critical at this stage is ensuring that you have jotted down the right response and all the necessary information that goes along with it. There will be plenty of time to wordsmith and clean up your responses, so that they are consistently in the singular voice and tone of your brand.

However, as you begin to put the proverbial pen to paper, it’s important to note that a single sentence is rarely a sufficient response to a customer question. Remember, the purpose of customer self-service solutions is to help and reassure your customers throughout their journey and experience with your brand.

Not giving them enough of an answer, especially to more complex questions, will leave them feeling frustrated and, ultimately, unhappy with the customer service experience. And knowing that today’s consumers have incredibly limited attention spans, you have only a short amount of time to win them over. As a rule of thumb, when answering any question, provide a little useful context to surround it.

Finally, don’t feel compelled to rely on words alone. Sometimes an image or a video is worth its weight in gold. When appropriate, use visuals, including charts, graphs, and screen grabs, to bring added life to your answers. In fact, some people are more visual learners than others, which means they may miss critical information by only looking at blocks of text.

How to manage a knowledge base

A knowledge base is not something you do once and then let run on autopilot for all eternity. Quite to the contrary, you must constantly nurture and enrich it with new information, especially as you learn more about what your customers need from you.

As a starting point, here are a few simple tips and best practices for ensuring that your knowledge-filled masterpiece always works hard for your business (and your customers):

1. Keep content updated at all times

As the saying goes, the only thing in life that is constant is change. The same can be said for the content you create for your knowledge base. Whatever you launch with is likely to change over and over again as your business ebbs and flows. Therefore, you have to stay on top of it to ensure that the information being communicated to your customers, via a dynamic FAQ or other self-service solutions, is always up-to-date. Failing to do so can quickly render all your hard work obsolete, and in the worst case scenario, create unhappy customers.

2. Improve content through customer feedback

This is a variation on the theme of the tip above. However, the focus here is less on whether or not the content communicates the correct information and more about whether it’s communicating that information in a truly useful way. Because you live and breathe your brand or business every day, the content you initially create might make perfect sense to you but, at the same time, may leave your customers scratching their heads.

Don’t stress too much about this at first. It happens all the time and, the good news, it can be easily remedied through customer feedback. The great thing about customer self-service solutions is that, aside from providing customers with useful information, they also invite customers to share their ideas about what would make that content better—or how to position it from a living and breathing customer’s point of view.

Whether you give them the opportunity to “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” responses or give them the space to provide more qualitative feedback, all of this will give you rich insights to make your content even stronger.

Just keep in mind, however, that while most customer feedback will be useful and actionable, there is no way to make every customer happy. So avoid being overly reactionary to customer feedback and, instead, be thoughtful in how you put it to good use.

3. Measure performance and optimise for success

There are a lot of indicators that can tell you what’s working (versus what’s not) in your knowledge base. As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to create a simple, yet consistent metrics dashboard to monitor performance over time. Be sure to measure the following: 

  • Where on-site clicks and impressions are coming from (i.e. attribution) 
  • The questions or categories that your customers view most frequently 
  • The questions or categories with the most positive or negative votes
  • The number of inquiries that get escalated to customer support (i.e. escalation rate)
  • The (number of) searches that surface knowledge base content
  • The (number of) searches that surface no content at all
  • Customer satisfaction (i.e. CSAT score)

By collecting and reviewing this data regularly, you can take immediate action on improving the content within your knowledge base and, more broadly, the entire customer experience.

Don’t leave your customer hanging

Building a comprehensive knowledge base serves many different purposes and, when done right, can boost your business’s bottom line for the long-term.

But as you can see here, it’s not something that can be magically built overnight either. When you put in the time and effort to build a tree of useful knowledge directly aligned to what customers want, need, and expect from your brand, you make it possible for customers to be more autonomous whenever they visit your site. Not only will the ease of finding information make them happy, it will also clear the way for your customer support team to dedicate their time and attention to complex customer inquiries.

If your business is ready to put useful knowledge in your customers’ hands, the team at Smart Tribune is here to help you on that journey. Be sure to schedule a demo today!

Jeremy Gallemard

Hello! I'm Jérémy, President & Co-founder of Smart Tribune. With my background in the digital & customer experience space I'm happy to share my insight & practical advice on customer experience today & what it might look like tomorrow. Happy reading!

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