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 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 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 knowledge base game, 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 Knowledge Base?
Before we delve into the how’s of a customer-centric knowledge base, let’s first get on the same page on what a knowledge base is.
A knowledge base can take different forms. It can be:
Internal. 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. 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.
Now that we’re clear on what it is we’re talking about, let’s jump right into some best practices for a customer-centric knowledge base, so you can create a resource your customers will love to use.
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
Your knowledge base is all about helping your customers help themselves. That means the content of your 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 Don’t Play Hide and Seek
While undoubtedly one of the top 5 games of my youth, playing hide and seek with your 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 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.
Better yet, give them access to your knowledge base across your entire website, and not just on a bespoke page.
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.
Being able to help your customers in the moment, rather than making them break away from what they were doing to find your Help Center or FAQ page, is a better, faster experience for your customers.
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 it ‘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 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.
Tagging your articles with the right keywords is key to discoverability for your search, so be sure to account for synonyms too. For example, your knowledge base answer might have the word luggage in it, but it may not be discovered by a customer that uses ‘suitcase’ instead in their search.
#4 Optimize 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 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
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.
Admittedly, it might seem a challenge to inject your personality when talking about your returns policy and billing details. But keeping a consistent tone is key to keeping an overall, consistent brand identity that your customers will relate and build a connection to.
#6 Keep It Fresh
Take a page out of Victoria Beckham’s book, and be sure that you’re keeping your 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.
So when it comes time to make updates, knowledge base owner(s) don’t have to manually search and track down all the various instances they’re used in, but can make all the changes they need in one go.
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 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.
In those instances where your customers try (and fail) to find what they need, being able to quickly direct your customer to human help can go some way to reducing the frustration they may feel.
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.
With Gladly’s Answers, you can create an experience that both your agents and customers will love you for. 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. Watch a demo, and see what a truly customer-centric knowledge base can do for your customer experience.
Your customers are talking—Are you listening?
Get the 2019 Customer Expectations Report to see what it is your customers want from customer service.Download the Report