Customers want answers and they want them now! According to one study, 31% of consumers expect a response from customer support staff the moment after they hit “send”. How are CS reps meant to cope? It turns out, the best thing you can do to keep your audience satisfied is by crafting a well-rounded self service platform, allowing your customers to help themselves first. And this all starts with a solid knowledge base.
What is a knowledge base?
What else comes to mind when you hear this term? We think libraries, encyclopedias, owner’s manuals, toolkits. And an online knowledge base can be all of these things rolled into one!
A company’s knowledge base is a collection of information which aims to answer any question a customer might ask. The content within the knowledge base can vary by media, and might come as articles, infographics, videos, or even audio clips. Knowledge bases typically include things like:
- Intro articles
- Product guides
- Step-by-step troubleshooting processes
- Tutorials and demos
- And more.
A knowledge base is usually populated by the company itself in an effort to keep information consistent and accurate. However some can incorporate moderated forums, allowing customers to assist each other with common issues.
Why create a knowledge base?
Everyone benefits from a quality knowledge base: company and customer alike.
Most customers appreciate the opportunity to do it themselves first before reaching out to your support staff. Tech-savvy millennials make up the majority of the consumer market in 2020, and more often than not will answer their own questions easily — with the help of your perfectly curated knowledge base.
Regardless of their relationship with technology, a knowledge base acts as a constant reference for your users. Consumers get the answers they want, when they want, without needing to wait in line. The immediacy for a self-serve knowledge base provides a huge benefit to customers. In addition, customers can learn more than they ever expected from your databases. Not only about their issue at hand, but more on their favorite products, processes, and your company as a whole. A minute or two on your self-help site can turn your customers into brand experts.
And the internal benefits of a good knowledge base cannot be understated. It’s a learning opportunity for your staff, as much as it is for customers. Knowledge bases — from FAQs to customer forums — can serve as training material for new employees, as well as long-term reps. It can help to identify common pitfalls and areas of your company negatively affecting the customer. And of course, it can give you a glimpse into your abilities, and what you’re getting right.
And a happy and educated customer base works wonders on your customer service ticket queue. Consumers who know what they’re doing allow your reps the freedom to spend more time on complex customer issues.
Writing a Knowledge Base
Revamping your knowledge base? Populating a new section? Just getting started? Here’s how to create the knowledge base of your dreams.
This is the first brick you should lay. Start by understanding the common questions your audience is asking (that’s the whole point of an FAQ page.) What are the routine issues? Are users finding your answers useful? Are their new problems which have been eliciting customer service calls? Your FAQ page is ground zero for self-service customer support, and should be populated with the most Googleable everyday customer inquiries. All the frequent asks: it’s in the name, right?
Your answers to FAQs should be brief, but informative. Avoid an essay response, but don’t just drop a link to a different page, either.
Write for the Common User
Know your audience, and cater fully to them. An engaging, easy-to-use self service section is one of the best ways to get customers to interact with your company. This means that your knowledge base should incorporate your brand and voice as much as any other aspect of your business.
And think about organization: information should flow smoothly and exist in a logical order. Think about what categorization strategy makes the most sense for you, based on customer habits as well as your own ease of access to self service materials. But don’t overdo it: too many subsections can make your knowledge base difficult to navigate, and may prove painful when you need to edit and expand.
A simple way to organize information is by complexity. The goal should be to build understanding as you go. The basic-basic stuff should be the first thing a customer sees, with more specific and complex information near the bottom of the page.
The information you include needs to be clear and easy to digest. Don’t overwhelm your users with technical jargon or peer-reviewed articles. Think about accessibility, and include media and content which reaches a wide range of customers. You should incorporate:
- Video content
- Tables and charts
- At-a-glance lists
- And an easy way to get in touch with your human support staff.
Common Knowledge Base Mistakes
- Over- or under-organizing. Every video tutorial on product maintenance does not need its own page. But your video tutorials probably shouldn’t be stored with your account troubleshooting texts, exchange and returns policies, COVID shipping info, etc., etc. Either option can make your knowledge base difficult to navigate, forcing frustrated customers will give up and go elsewhere.
- Getting too technical. Our expertise can make us forget that not everyone speaks the uber-specialized language of ecommerce and customer service. Not everyone knows your product inside and out the way you do. Jargony self service pages sometimes look like they were written for the experts, and not the customer. Think of it as a language barrier: a self help page written in a language you don’t speak is no help at all.
- Inadequate access. If you rely too heavily on one kind of media in your knowledge base, you run the risk of losing customers with varying sensory abilities. Images without descriptions or video without audio can be inaccessible to your blind customers. Video without captions is inaccessible to your deaf audience. Your knowledge base needs to be useful to every customer in your base.
Steps to Success with a Knowledge Base
- Define goals. What is it that you want to do with your knowledge base? Is it to provide transparency to your audience? Increase brand knowledge and customer education? Enhance the customer experience? Having a marked intention for your knowledge base can help to determine the kinds of information to include, as well as how to organize said information so your customers get exactly what they need from it.
- Organize, organize, organize. Departmentally, alphabetically, in rainbow order if you must. Your self-service platform should be the easiest thing in the world to navigate. Getting lost in a labyrinthine FAQ page is not an option, so don’t give your users the opportunity! Keep it simple, and base how you sort your info on consumer behavior.
- Update frequently. There’s little else that’s more frustrating than receiving outdated information. The moment something changes — with your products, processes, etc., — it should be reflected in your knowledge base.
- Remain on brand. A sudden change in voice is an all-too-easy way to turn customers off. Even your most technical and verbose information needs to maintain your voice and style. Ensuring this does the important work of keeping the customer experience consistent and enjoyable.
Final Thoughts: How Gladly Can Help.
Gladly’s mission is to make customer service easy, enjoyable, and radically personal. And this includes self service and knowledge bases! Educating customers and helping them get their needs met, however that happens, is our passion. And we’ve written a few articles on the topic. Head on over to our blog and check out 7 Customer Support Knowledge Base Best Practices for a more in-depth guide to creating your self service platform.
To see how else Gladly can work for you, see a demo of Gladly today.