An In-depth Guide to Building a Great Knowledge Base
Are you buried in such an overwhelming amount of support tickets that your team is having a hard time coming up for air? Or do you and your team keep getting the same support questions over and over again, no matter how many times you answer them?
If you are (or if you have been in the past), you’re probably wondering what the best way to scale your customer support is to avoid these problems. But you probably already know that it can be hard to do without decreasing the overall quality of your service.
The solution? A knowledge base. With a knowledge base, also known as a customer portal, your users can solve their own customer support issues, leaving you time to deal with more serious inquiries. It can save you time, money, and peace of mind.
Here’s the ultimate guide to building a kickass knowledge base that solves customer issues and satisfies their support needs. We’ve detailed each step involved and included plenty of knowledge base examples that you can take inspiration from.
You can use the index below to navigate to the section that interests you the most:
What is a knowledge base?
Put simply, a knowledge base is an online library of information or guides about a service, topic, product, or department. This library serves as a source of self-serve customer service. All customers have to do is search for their question or find it in the right category to get actionable solutions to their problems.
The data that you include in your knowledge base usually comes from a few contributors that know the ins and outs of the relevant topic (typically support agents who have a flair for writing, or technical writers). You can have knowledge base articles about your terms and conditions, as well as your products, services, hardware, or software.
A knowledge base can include troubleshooting guides, FAQs, product tutorials, or any other essential details that your customers might find useful. Here’s an example of what a knowledge base looks like (most knowledge bases look something like this one from GoDaddy).
Why is a knowledge base important for your business?
A knowledge base is essential for any business because it helps deliver a better experience to your customers, eases the workload of your support staff, and improves onboarding.
1. Meets customer expectations
Customers want to solve problems on their own. In fact, 66%1 of customers already prefer to start their support journeys with self-service.
So you have to give your customers the tools they need to solve problems themselves. A knowledge base is the best first step to achieving that. With a knowledge base management system, customers won’t have to repeat their issue or be passed around between agents (which they hate), they are likely to find solutions the first time they search your content.
As we discovered in our New CX Mandate report, 65% of customer service leaders are investing 24% more in self-service.
2. Enables 24/7 customer service
The patience of customers is decreasing every year. In 2020, 31.2%2 of customers expect an answer to their customer email in an hour or less. Some customers expect immediate help no matter the time of day, and employing support staff around the clock is expensive.
A comprehensive knowledge base is a cost-effective solution that lets your customers solve their own problems 24/7, 365 days a year.
3. Supports different learning styles
These days, a good knowledge base article isn’t just text. It includes step-by-step instructions with screenshots and often video.
So with a single resource, you can support every kind of learning style, from auditory to visual and even kinesthetic (through implementing instructions).
4. Offers assistance in different languages
Using a multilingual knowledge base is a great way to offer support in different languages. By translating your knowledge articles, you can support customers from all over the world in their native tongue.
Support reps can even rely on foreign language articles to help, despite limited language skills.
5. Serves as a great resource for customer onboarding
Today, you’re probably already sending new customers a welcome email when they first sign up. Why not send them some knowledge base articles on how to get started within those same emails?
Making sure that your customers understand how to use your product from the beginning is a great way to avoid unnecessary tickets. So, give new users short explainer videos and links to relevant articles to help them get started.
For instance, Pipefy adds simple hyperlinks to relevant guides, templates, and features in onboarding messages and emails.
6. Reduces workload of your agents and makes their life easier
Knowledge bases also increase ticket deflection and are an effective tool for scaling your customer service effort. Plus, they can also act as content repositories for chatbots, giving them the data they need to solve customer problems better.
On the agent side, an internal knowledge base can help agents understand company policies and learn work-related tools and software. It’s the perfect educational tool for new recruits.
With a good internal KB, a fresh support rep can handle almost any issue smoothly, without causing damage to the customer relationship.
How to create a knowledge base: a step-by-step guide
If you want to create a knowledge base that solves your customers’ problems, it needs to be consistent, easily browsable, and up-to-date. Follow the steps below to create a knowledge base that will help your customers and service reps.
Step 1: Choose the right knowledge base software
When picking a knowledge base system, you shouldn’t just choose the first free option you can find. You must make sure the platform has the necessary features to power an easily usable customer portal.
Essential knowledge management software features that you need to look for are:
- Article/tutorial templates
- Formatting options
- Search function, tags, and categorization (for easy navigation)
- Version control and multiple language options
- SEO optimization
- Helpdesk & chatbot integration
Although we’re a bit biased, we think the Freshdesk knowledge base tool is a great choice for any company. It has all the aforementioned features, and you can curate knowledge base content with our rich text editor and easily add in the attachments you need.
Plus, adding meta information to optimize your content and make it more discoverable is a breeze with our automatic indexing. You can also easily control content visibility in Freshdesk, making it simple to keep your private knowledge base and public knowledge base separate.
Step 2: Choose knowledge base topics
It’s easier to select topics for your knowledge base than it sounds. All you have to do is search for trends in the questions you usually receive.
Search through old tickets to find frequently asked questions
If your customer support team is getting several of the same questions over and over again, start writing knowledge base articles answering them.
Search through old tickets and record the number of queries related to particular problems. If a large percentage of queries are related to a recurring issue, like resetting a password or how a specific product feature works, record those topics and write content that solves those issues.
Use analytics for further insights
You can learn a lot from what people search for on your site. You can do this on Google Analytics too:
– Head to “Behavior” and click “Site Search.”
– Then, click “Overview” to look at the common terms that people are searching for.
You can also compare specific periods and sort results by “Absolute Change” to check out trends that have risen over time.
Step 3: Develop the knowledge base articles
Once you’ve lined up your topics, it’s time to start planning and writing the content. Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind while developing content:
Use visual aids (screenshots/ GIFs/ videos)Visual aids alone can improve learning by 34.3%4. And the more interactive an exercise is, the more it helps with retention and understanding. Creating and managing a knowledge base using video is something a modern-day support strategy must include.
For those reasons, it’s always good to include more than just text in all of your knowledge base articles. Experiment with video tutorials, GIFs, pictures, and diagrams to give customers a visual of what you’re explaining.
Try apps like Skitch or Preview to add additional instructions to your images or draw attention to specific elements, as Drip does in their knowledge base.
Use custom templates to improve the agent-side workflow
Speed up new article creation with custom templates. This feature is available in most knowledge base software and allows you to:
- Improve consistency by saving and reusing specific formats of content.
- Speed up article production by filling in the basics.
- Ensure easy navigation by adding a Table of Contents, and including links, and other elements.
Step 4: Structure your knowledge base
If you don’t structure your knowledge base documentation, your customers won’t be able to find what they need quickly (or at all). Most knowledge bases are structured with a basic home page for all of their support-based articles.
It’s also a common practice to include the most popular knowledge base articles on the home page. This example of Evernote’s knowledge base homepage demonstrates that clearly:
Here are four simple steps using which you can categorize your knowledge base the right way:
i) Group articles from the same topic
The first step is to sort articles and group similar topics together. The Freshdesk knowledge base is a good example of this. All of the articles on “Solutions” are grouped into different categories such as ‘’Setting up support channels’’ and ‘‘Bringing in your Customer Base’’, and so on.
Next, sift through the most popular articles in your knowledge base and make them prominent on your homepage for easy access, like Evernote did. The brand also offers a community program where users share tips, tricks, and information about their software.
ii) Add a search bar
The next element that every knowledge base needs is a visible search box.
With a search box, your users will be able to easily access the information they need in seconds instead of sifting through different categories to find the specific article they’re looking for. Add a search bar to the top of your knowledge base like this one from MyEducator.
This functionality turns your knowledge base into a sort of customer support “search engine.” Rather than trying to navigate categories or tags, customers can type in a few keywords to access what they need.
Pro tip: Don’t forget to integrate your knowledge base with any live chat options you might offer, as well. Alternatively, if you don’t offer support on live chat, then you can deploy a help widget, or even a chatbot on your knowledge base. This way, if your customer can’t find what they need in your knowledge base, they can immediately connect with a customer service representative from the same page.
iii) Cross-link relevant articles
One of the easiest ways to make your knowledge base more effective is to cross-link articles that are related. That will enhance overall user experience. This process is pretty straightforward. You don’t need any complex features to interlink other articles within each new one you write.
Here’s how Adobe does it within their knowledge base articles:
You should link to further content for any terms, features, or tools that the customer needs to use to solve an issue.
iv) Tag each article for easy discoverability
To make sure the content is easily searchable, incorporate keywords and tags in your knowledge base articles just like you would in blog posts. You should also adjust your title to reflect problems that customers are likely to search for solutions to.
Step 5: Maintain your knowledge base
A knowledge base is never finished. Content management should be done on a continuous basis to keep the information up to date.
Update articles whenever necessary
It can be easy to assume that once you’ve created knowledge base articles about your product or service, you won’t need to update them for a long time. However, the truth is that a knowledge base needs to be continually reviewed and updated as your company, products, and features change.
If a customer finds the article they need, follows every step, and then finds out that the information is outdated, they won’t be happy. That’s why you need to update your support portal with every new product release, process change, or feature that you introduce.
Track customer feedback and make changes accordingly
Make sure that your knowledge base always reflects common questions and tickets. Do weekly or monthly checks to make sure that you’re covering trending issues.
The team at Guru says6, “…you need to ensure that your team constantly updates its KB to reflect any new ‘trending’ queries they may be receiving on a weekly/monthly basis.
For example, if you found that you received over 100 queries over the past month about how to renew a contract with your company, you could then compose an all-encompassing blog post or article that clearly highlights how to do this.
How can AI transform your knowledge base
Artificial intelligence is a complete game-changer for customer service. Implementing a smart “virtual customer assistant” can reduce support calls, emails, and chats by 70%7.
Launching an AI-enabled chatbot can go a long way in improving the self-service experience you deliver too. Let’s explore how the combination of an AI and a knowledge base can help you provide a better customer experience and improve agent productivity.
Answers customer questions in seconds
Instead of the customer having to search for the answer manually, an AI-powered bot can deliver an accurate response in seconds.
Chatbots remove the need for painstakingly searching the knowledge base for an answer. For example, if a customer is wondering how long it takes to process a refund, it can deliver a clear, single-sentence answer.
You can see how successful your bot is at answering these questions with easy-to-understand analytics.
But that’s not all.
Help new support reps offer better support with real-time knowledge base recommendations
Knowledge bases can be hard to navigate for new support reps, and it can slow down support ticket resolutions.
Imagine a brand new technical support rep trying to navigate the knowledge base to figure out complex technical issues. Even “regular” support involves some rare and complex requests, like how to process a damaged item.
Imagine if every new support agent had to confirm these kinds of requests with senior staff. It would slow every ticket down considerably.
Plus, if there’s no support system in place, it’s easy for new reps to make mistakes. That can have grave consequences (32%7 of customers will stop being your customers after just one bad experience). With intelligent recommendations, AI enables your agents to answer quickly and correctly to earn lasting customer loyalty.
Improves key customer service metrics
In our customer happiness benchmark report 2019, we noticed clear trends between using bots and an improved level of service.
First response times were a lot faster. Companies with bots needed only 13 hours for their first responses. That’s 6 hours less than competitors.
And customers were significantly happier.
Companies with bots had, on average, 7% higher CSAT scores than companies without them.
However, you may worry that developing a chatbot on your own will require a significant investment of time and money.
The beauty of it is that you don’t have to. With a no-code chatbot builder, you can design and deploy a chatbot without a million-dollar budget or AI team.
An AI that’s already integrated with your knowledge base and helpdesk
You don’t always need to develop an AI or set up custom integrations from scratch to get these benefits. Freddy AI for CX is a mix of an AI-powered customer-facing chatbot and a virtual assistant for your reps that can be deployed in no time. Freddy AI seamlessly integrates with your helpdesk and improves customer satisfaction and agent experience by:
- Answering questions based on knowledge base data and following up with relevant messages or questions after analyzing the intent of the query.
- Providing instant resolutions to complex issues without requiring agents to step in.
- Enabling agents to solve tickets a lot faster and more consistently (Assist Bot).
- Increasing agent productivity by automating backend support processes.
If you want to take your customer support to the next level, an effective knowledge base is an absolute must. We’ve already established that building a kickass knowledge base isn’t hard. Get started today to save your team from the growing pile of support tickets they deal with every day and to give your customers the peace of mind that comes with self-service support.
If you’re looking for affordable and extensive knowledge base software, give Freshdesk a chance. It’s free for unlimited articles and agents.
1 – https://info.microsoft.com/rs/157-GQE-382/images/2018StateofGlobalCustomerServiceReport.pdf
2 – https://www.toistersolutions.com/blog/how-quickly-should-you-respond-to-email
3 – https://supportdriven.com/2015/09/01/advice-from-the-future/amp/
4 – https://smleo.com/2020/02/05/the-effect-of-visual-support-on-learning-a-psychology-case-study/
5 – https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2018-02-19-gartner-says-25-percent-of-customer-service-operations-will-use-virtual-customer-assistants-by-2020
6 – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/knowledge-base-what-why-its-important-you-need-constantly-kotch/
7 – https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2019-05-28-gartner-says-the-future-of-self-service-is-customer-l
8 – https://www.pwc.com/future-of-cx