Live chat, SMS, Facebook Messenger—customers today have near-instant access to help from a company at their fingertips. But sometimes, your customers just want to be able to find answers for themselves—in fact, according to research by Coleman Parkes, 91% of consumers said they would use an online customer support knowledge base if it were available and tailored to their needs.
“91% of consumers would use an online knowledge
base if it were tailored to their needs”
But besides being something your customers want, a well-designed customer facing knowledge base is also a welcome solution for companies wanting to scale their customer support, allowing them to direct their customers’ easier-to-answer questions to a knowledge base, while letting their agents focus on the tougher, more nuanced asks.
Which is kind of a win-win.
So whether you’re new to the customer service knowledge base structure, or looking to improve your existing one, we’ve pulled together a list of best practices so you can be sure of designing a customer-centric knowledge base that puts your customer—and their experience—first.
What is a Customer Service Knowledge Base?
Before we delve into the how’s of a customer facing knowledge base, let’s first get on the same page on what a knowledge base is.
A customer support knowledge base (also known as customer service knowledge base, customer self service, help center, customer service knowledge center, customer support knowledge center, customer facing knowledge base) can take different forms. It can be:
Internal Customer Support Knowledge Base. A place where your agents can find ready-to-use answers to questions your customers frequently ask, or where your employees can find out about their health benefits, or
External Customer Facing Knowledge Base. A page on your website, normally titled your ‘Help Center’ or ‘FAQ page’, where customers can go to find the answers they need.
In essence, it’s a library of information about your company’s product or services.
For the purposes of this post, we’re going to focus on the external, customer-facing knowledge base. Which means that from your company’s return policies, to your shipping rates, it’s the place your customers can go to get answers on their own, without having to turn to human help.
Customer Facing Knowledge Base Best Practices
According to a recent Gladly customer report, consumers have been less than impressed with their knowledge base experience, with more than half of consumers rating their experience as just ‘average’ or ‘poor’.
While certainly a disappointing number, on the bright side, it means there’s a huge opportunity to deliver on a knowledge base that knocks the socks off the competition.
Here are a few tips on doing just that:
#1 Let Your Customers Set The Agenda in a Customer Facing Knowledge Base
Your customer knowledge center is all about helping your customers help themselves. That means the content of your customer support knowledge base should be guided by what your customers want to know.
If so, you might want to write articles around your returns policy, and what payment methods you accept.
#2 A Customer Support Knowledge Base Shouldn’t Be Hide and Seek
While undoubtedly one of the top 5 games of my youth, playing hide and seek with your customer knowledge base articles won’t get you anywhere with your customers.
In fact, one of the top three complaints customers had with their Help Site experience was that the answers were poorly organized, and hard to find.
If your customer support knowledge base has a large number of articles, consider organizing them under simple, broad categories—that way, your customers aren’t overwhelmed by a long list of articles to go through.
You can also make it easier for them to find what they need by serving up your most frequently asked questions right up front.
You can do that by including answers to relevant questions on the page itself (eg. answers around your returns policy when a customer is looking at a product on your site).
Or, as we do with our self-service offering (what we call Sidekick), offer up your customers a compact Help Site-like experience across any or every page of your site.
And it also reduces the risk of them being distracted from their original purpose (eg. buying a pair of shoes that caught their eye), which could potentially lose you a sale.
#3 Make Your Customer Knowledge Base ‘Search-able’
We live in the world of Google, where the answers to even the most inane questions can be found in just a few strokes of the keyboard.
So unless your Help Center or FAQ page has just a small handful of articles, customers today don’t have the patience to skim through your customer support knowledge base to find what they need—as well-organized as it may be.
Instead, offer your customers the ability to cut through the noise and find what they need fast with a simple search.
#4 Optimize Your Customer Knowledge Center For SEO
And speaking of Google, sometimes your customers may look for answers about your products or services outside of your own website and help centers.
That’s why it’s important to optimize your knowledge base articles for SEO too, so they’re easily discoverable when customers search for answers online.
A few tips for an SEO-friendly customer support knowledge base:
Keywords and Tags. Just as you would do in a blog post, it’s best to include relevant keywords and tags in your knowledge base article. Then, once you’ve identified your keyword, try to use it multiple times in your article.
Interlinking. Including a link from one knowledge base article makes it easier for search engines to ‘crawl’ your platform (which is how search engines like Google discover content to display in search results). It also means means you don’t have to repeat content over and again, but can simply link a customer to it if they want more information.
#5 Set The Right Tone in Your Knowledge Base
Besides what it is you’re selling, your brand and tone is what your customers fall in love with. So it’s important not to lose that when it comes to your knowledge base articles.
#6 Keep Your Customer Support Knowledge Base Fresh
Take a page out of Victoria Beckham’s book, and be sure that you’re keeping your consumer knowledge base as fresh and up-to-date as her fashion. That means keeping an eye out for outdated content that could be improved, or may even need a total rewrite.
It’s helpful to have a designated knowledge base owner who’s in charge of updating your knowledge base articles when your guidelines, policies, or responses change. Otherwise it’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day, and you run the risk of your customers getting inconsistent answers depending on where they look for answers.
At Gladly, we try to eliminate that risk of inconsistency by offering a single source of truth for companies when it comes to their knowledge bases. Whether it’s for internal purposes (for agents to use when talking to customers) or external use (surfaced to your customers on a bespoke Help Center or FAQ page, or via Sidekick, our self-service channel), all articles are stored in one place.
This reduces the risk of forgetting to update the one article amongst the set of many, and also significantly reduces the time needed to make those updates.
#7 Easy Ripcord to Human Help
I know. This might seem completely against the purpose of this post, but a good practice for any self-service option (a customer support knowledge base included) is to provide an easy ripcord for a customer to get human help if they need it.
Because no matter how well thought out your knowledge base is, it’s impossible to cater to every unique situation or question a customer might have.
Final Thoughts: Customer Facing Knowledge Base
At the end of the day, a customer-centric approach should apply in every interaction you have with a customer, whether it’s between a human representative of your company or a virtual one. We hope these best practices for a customer-centric knowledge base will be a helpful guide to building a knowledge base that’s truly helpful to your customer.
Customer Service Knowledge Base Software
With Gladly’s Answers, you can create an experience that both your agents and customers will love you for using customer self service software. From AI-powered suggestions that point your agents to the right knowledge base article each time, to the single database where you can store all your important answers, and categorize them for easy reference by channel, or whether it’s for internal or external consumption.
Gladly is a customer service platform for digitally-focused B2C companies who want to maximize the lifetime value of their customers. Unlike the legacy approach to customer service software, which is designed around a ticket or case to enable workflows, Gladly enables radically personal customer service centered around people to sustain customer loyalty and drive more revenue.
The world’s most innovative consumer companies like Godiva, JOANN, and TUMI use Gladly to create lasting customer relationships, not one-off experiences.