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Building a Knowledge Base That Works

The best way to share essential information with your customers and employees.

The best way to share essential information with your customers and employees.

Knowledge bases are an incredibly useful tool for any business looking to provide excellent customer service. Nearly 70% of customers prefer to solve their issues on their own, rather than call or email a customer support team, and this is where a knowledge base steps in.

What’s more, a knowledge base can help streamline workflow within a company, leading to higher employee satisfaction.

This article will give you all the information you need on what makes a good knowledge base, the benefits of having one (or several!), and how to build your own.

What is a knowledge base?

A knowledge base is a store of information that has been collected, organized, and made easily accessible for its target audience. The process of collecting all this information is known as knowledge management, which pulls together all the data one might need to access at any given moment. Finally, dedicated knowledge base software is used to turn everything into a self-service resource.

In a business, customer support teams often use knowledge base tools to answer client questions, which can range from the mundane to the specialist. These tools can be internal only or customer facing.

The latter gives customers the autonomy to look for answers to their questions in their own time. It is not uncommon to find artificial intelligence built into these knowledge base systems in order to speed customers’ search for answers.

Types of knowledge base systems

There are 2 types of knowledge bases, namely, the internal knowledge base and the external knowledge base. Depending on the kind of information that needs to be shared and how this can or should be shared, people can choose to use either one or both of these knowledge base systems.

Internal knowledge base systems

Internal knowledge base systems are used by employees within the same company. They often take the form of shared storage systems on a local file server, which can then act as a centralized repository of company knowledge.

This is known as a self-hosted knowledge base, as it is kept on your company’s own server.

Another example of an internal knowledge base system is an intranet, otherwise known as a company wiki.

Now, let’s take a look at the kind of information that would appear in an internal knowledge base.

Examples of internal knowledge base information

· Company policies · Best coding practices · Employee benefits · Content creation guidelines · Copywriting style guide

External knowledge base systems

Unlike a private internal knowledge base, which is for employees only, external knowledge bases are, as the name suggests, created for the public. They are usually geared toward the customers of that business. A customer knowledge base can help lighten the load of your support team by providing self-service content.

An external knowledge base can be a great business asset. But, before you create an external knowledge base, it’s a good idea to consult with your sales and marketing teams for style guidance to ensure brand consistency.

An external knowledge base is also easy to set up, especially if you have access to customer relationship management (CRM) software that includes it in its offering. If you want to make the following pieces of information readily available to your customers, consider creating an external knowledge base.

Examples of external knowledge base information

· Frequently asked questions (FAQs) · How-to articles · Shipping information · Billing information · Account settings

The benefits of building knowledge bases

Both internal and external knowledge bases can make a huge impact on your business—from better customer service to streamlining employee workflow. Here are just a few ways where building a knowledge base could improve your business.

Higher customer satisfaction

Excellent customer service is essential to the success of any business. It ensures customer loyalty by making new and existing customers feel comfortable, safe, and looked after when purchasing from your company.

According to Forbes, customers prefer self-service to other forms of customer service. Not only do users prefer it, but customer-facing knowledge bases also allow companies to provide better customer service overall.

When customers can get the answers they’re looking for through self-service, they make fewer calls and send fewer emails. This reduction in direct contact reduces the pressure on customer service teams, reducing wait times for those customers who are calling or emailing in. What’s more, unlike a customer service team, a knowledge base is available around the clock.

Higher employee satisfaction

As we’ve just seen, external knowledge bases give customer support agents more time to manage customer inquiries. But it’s not just your customer service team that could see higher employee satisfaction—with an internal knowledge base, you might see employee satisfaction rising across the board.

Having quick and easy access to the knowledge customers need reduces frustration, especially for team members who are often asked the same question repeatedly, which frees up time for meaningful collaboration. Self-service options also empower employees to be more self-sufficient.

Reduced customer support costs

As we’ve already seen, external knowledge bases provide an alternative for customers to find answers to questions they would otherwise ask customer support teams.

So, not only does an external knowledge base reduce the number of calls overall, but it can also make each call that does come through more cost efficient. This is probably because the calls that get placed come from customers dealing with urgent requests or an uncommon question.

Reduced onboarding costs

Another area where costs can be significantly reduced with a knowledge base is new employee onboarding.

An internal knowledge base usually includes dedicated how-to guides for common company policies, onboarding forms, and even a searchable database for specific job-related information.

This self-service option again reduces costs that would otherwise be spent on lengthy training programs, freeing up resources and company time that can be better spent elsewhere.

When your onboarding process is well organized and properly executed, it can significantly increase retention rates for new hires—by up to 50% according to recent research.

Using an internal knowledge base as part of your onboarding process not only cuts costs at the point of induction but could also maximize your investment by increasing new starter retention.

Increased productivity

Well-designed internal knowledge base software with good search functionality can drastically reduce the time that employees spend looking for essential information, allowing them to work more productively.

According to a study by the McKinsey Global Institute, a well-designed and properly operated internal knowledge base can reduce the time spent searching for answers at work by 35%, giving employees more time to focus on their job.

Better analytics, better business performance

If you are using CRM software to manage your external knowledge base, you will be able to glean useful insights and metrics from your customer data.

For example, you could easily analyze what your customers search for most regularly to see where your product might be improved or where your knowledge base might need updating.

Improved company valuation

On its own, individual employee knowledge is an intangible asset that can be lost when people leave. Having a well-documented store of business processes and company knowledge turns this potentially intangible asset into a physical one that adds structural value to your business.

The value of this asset will be felt on a day-to-day basis, but it also has long-term benefits. By building a knowledge base, you create a transferable asset for your company that, should you decide to sell your business in the future, will set you up for a higher valuation.

How to build an effective knowledge base

Building a strong knowledge base takes time, care, and attention to detail, but it will be worth the investment. In the following section, we‘ll look at:

· How to choose a knowledge base that would best fit your company · Knowledge base best practices · How to choose your knowledge base software · What information you should include in your knowledge base

Determine why you need a knowledge base

Building a knowledge base begins with a need. What problems relate to your business that a knowledge base could help with? Which areas of your company could be improved by introducing better knowledge management?

Understanding your company’s pain points will help you figure out what kind of knowledge base you’ll need to create.

You probably need an external knowledge base if you find your company dealing with the following issues.

Overwhelming customer queries

One of the first indicators that you could benefit from an external knowledge base is an overwhelming number of calls and emails from customers looking for information.

New customers will often ask the same questions upon purchasing your product or service—even a simple FAQ page can help alleviate the pressure on your technical support teams.

Lengthy wait times for customer support

Customer experience matters. If your support team is experiencing a high volume of inquiries, it can be hard for them to respond in a timely manner.

Long wait times create frustration among customers, which can damage your business reputation down the line. By providing essential information through a self-service knowledge base, wait times can be reduced.

And, if you would like to avoid the following scenarios, setting up an internal knowledge base could be the answer.

Inefficient knowledge sharing

When your employees spend valuable time searching for information that could be at their fingertips, it slows their work. A well-set-up internal knowledge base can eliminate this problem, especially when a strong search function is built into your knowledge base software.

Closing potential future knowledge gaps

One of the biggest benefits of setting up an internal knowledge base is that it allows a company to record valuable knowledge held by perhaps only a handful of people in the business. If these individuals, known as subject matter experts (SMEs), were to leave the company, they would also leave behind a large knowledge gap.

An internal knowledge base can fill this gap and provide an ultimate guide to specific information that can benefit everyone. It can also take the pressure off your SMEs, as they will have fewer questions to field and more time to dedicate to building their specialist knowledge.

Know what goes into a great knowledge base

Once you’ve determined what kind of knowledge base will make the biggest difference to your business, you can start thinking about how to create the best possible system for your customers, employees, or both.

Easy navigation

One of the most important things about a knowledge base is the user interface. It needs to be easy to use and have clear navigation tools to ensure your users don’t get lost in the system.

Simple search tools

Much like its navigation, the search functionality of your knowledge base should be simple and clear. The search function is arguably the most important knowledge base tool because it grants your users access to all the information they might need.

Clear data architecture

Your knowledge base structure, or the way that the data is processed and organized, determines the usability of the system. If you are dealing with specialist data, having a strong classification system will help your employees find what they need more quickly.

When creating a data architecture for a customer-facing knowledge base, accessibility is key. Good structuring guidance includes grouping similar kinds of information together and breaking complex concepts into more manageable blocks.

Relevant and accurate information

Whether it’s your customers or employees using your knowledge base, you want to make sure that they’re accessing the right information. This means taking care to check that what you are uploading is free from errors, relevant to the subject at hand, and up-to-date with current business practices or product specifications.

SEO-optimized content

One of the major benefits of external knowledge bases is their ability to boost your company’s search engine optimization (SEO) and make your website appear higher in Google search results. To make the most of this, you’ll want to actively implement SEO practices in your knowledge base copywriting.

Choose the right knowledge base software for you

Good knowledge base software can ensure you implement the best practices we’ve just covered. Whether you choose to use one of the knowledge base templates offered by your CRM software or you create a self-hosted knowledge base, picking the right software can make a world of difference.

Factor #1: Usability

The usability of your software covers all the interface functions we mentioned above, from navigation tools to search functionality. Other helpful user tools include collaboration features like article versioning, which you can use to keep track of what edits were made by whom and when.

These features are particularly useful for knowledge bases where multiple people might be involved in keeping the information relevant and updated.

Factor #2: Sustainability

When it comes to knowledge bases, sustainability refers to how well a system of knowledge management will hold up over the long term.

Much of what makes a knowledge base sustainable lies in its structure and how easy it is to update each piece of information so that the knowledge base continues to be accurate and useful.

This includes the ability to remove information that is no longer helpful. Some software even offers built-in prompts to review information that hasn’t been updated by a certain date.

Factor #3: Scalability

As your knowledge base grows, you’ll need software that can grow with it. It’s important to have a categorization system that is both flexible and consistent, but scalability also needs to be built into the software.

Factor #4: Costs

However you choose to create your knowledge base, there will be some initial up-front costs. For example, building an intranet will be initially expensive and will require continual reassessment and upkeep.

Hosting servers or CRM software systems often charge a monthly fee. It’s important to choose a plan that you can reasonably keep up with so you don’t have to sacrifice your knowledge base further down the line. <

Factor #5: Analytics

Different software programs have different options for data and metrics. Make sure to choose a knowledge base software that provides the kind of analytics you will find useful, whether that’s seeing what topics employees are searching for most regularly or which pages your customers are visiting the most.

Factor #6: Integration

There are lots of knowledge base software options that can be integrated with whatever software you are already using. This might be CRM software for an external knowledge base or a work management platform for an internal knowledge base.

Gather your company resources

When you’ve chosen the software you want to use to create your knowledge base, you’ll need to choose what information you want to upload. Of course, this will depend on the kind of knowledge base you’re building, but there are a few approaches that will work across the board.

Upload existing company knowledge content

It’s likely that you already have plenty of company knowledge documentation, even if it hasn’t been organized into a formal knowledge base. Going through existing files to find data on relevant subjects is a great way to start building your knowledge base.

Consult your SMEs about creating new content

Once you have put together your existing company knowledge, it’s time to create some new content.

This is a great time to consult your SMEs on what kinds of information they think would be useful in their respective areas of expertise. Turning their implicit knowledge into explicit assets adds long-term value to your knowledge base.

Decide how you will categorize information

There are various content management systems that you can put to use in your knowledge base. When you’re choosing how to categorize your content, keep in mind how users will be interacting with the information you’re providing and how you will keep things organized in the long term.

This will ensure that your knowledge base remains organized as it grows with your business.

Make your content live

Now that you’ve figured out what needs your knowledge base will address, chosen your software, and uploaded all your content, you can make it available for your customers or team members to use.

How to maintain your knowledge base

Making your content live is just the first step—your knowledge base will need to grow and change with your users’ needs. Knowledge base management is key in keeping things running smoothly.

Ensure your knowledge base stays up-to-date

Over time, certain pieces of information that were included in your initial knowledge base will cease to be useful or accurate. Also, new data will need to be created and incorporated.

Some knowledge base software programs come with automatic prompts to review articles after a certain period of time, while others allow you to sort through information in the order it was uploaded. Whichever approach you take, it’s a good idea to continually review your data and update it whenever needed.

Stay consistent in how you manage knowledge

When you have multiple people working on updating your knowledge base over time, things can quickly get messy. Setting clear content creation guidelines at the start can go a long way in ensuring consistency throughout your database in the future.

Keep knowledge sharing simple

As your knowledge base grows and accumulates new content, it’s easy for overly complex systems to come into play. This may impact overall usability and you might need to perform a knowledge base audit to see where things can be improved and simplified.

Optimize your business with a knowledge base

Creating a successful knowledge base takes a lot of preparation and effort, but it’s absolutely worth it. From reducing onboarding and customer support costs to increasing employee and client satisfaction, a well-designed and consistently reviewed knowledge base can create lasting value for your business for years to come.

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