What Is an Internal Knowledge Base & How To Build One?

Good customer service runs on good information.

Agents need to be ready with an instant answer to any question, or the customer will walk away unhappy — even if the eventual resolution is effective.

The information shared with customers also needs to be consistent. No one likes to be bounced around between departments that all say something different. 

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to ensure your agents have accurate information at their fingertips. Most companies are siloed and store information in a hodgepodge of locations and platforms.

An internal knowledge base guarantees that everyone in your organization can access the information they need when they need it, and that answers are always consistent. 

This article will introduce the benefits of building an internal knowledge base and how you can get started. 

What is an internal knowledge base? 

A knowledge base is an online library of information about a service, topic, product, or department. An external knowledge base faces your customers and lets them search for actionable solutions to their problems. 

Customers love it — 88% of them expect organizations to have an online self-service portal1.

Knowledge base example

An internal knowledge base is the same thing, but its purpose is to help your agents get the information they need. It can include onboarding information, product guides, troubleshooting workflows, company procedures, and more. 

Here’s why an internal knowledge base matters: employees spend more than 25% of their time searching for the information they need to do their jobs.2 That’s over 500 hours per year! Why you need to have an internal knowledge baseThink of how much more they could accomplish if the information were instantly available with a quick search of your internal knowledge base. 

A lot of companies today still do not have a central repository for all the things that agents need to know. The information might be out there somewhere — on a printed document, in an email, in the mind of a busy coworker, or in that shared file that no one remembers how to find. 

None of that is helpful when an impatient customer needs a quick answer. 

An internal knowledge base solves the problem of disorganized and inaccessible information. It lets agents give customers the right answer at the right time. Your team knows the value of fast information — 90% of frontline employees say that the ability to access information anywhere, anytime is important to them.3

Why you need an internal knowledge base?

With an internal knowledge base, customer service representatives do a better job and customers have a better experience. 

Here are the key benefits of using an internal knowledge base: 

Onboarding

Internal knowledge base for onboardingWhen a new employee joins the company, they need to get up to speed quickly. With an internal knowledge base, there’s no confusion about what sources to consult or where to turn with a question — everything they need to know about the company, products, and procedures is right there in one centralized location.

The larger your support team grows, the more important it is that each team member quickly becomes self-sufficient. Teams scale more effectively when new members have easy access to the information they need. 

Training (and retraining)

Customer service processes inevitably change. An internal knowledge base helps ensure that these changes are communicated to everyone on the team consistently and efficiently. 

Training documents, checklists, and materials can all be stored in your knowledge base so employees can access them when processes change or if they need a refresher. 

Speed and productivity

Today’s customers have high expectations — and they’re getting higher all the time. 68% of customer service leaders in the U.S. say they’ve seen an increase in customer expectations since February 2020.4

Increasing customer expectations

A knowledge base lets you give customers the instant, detailed response they require. 

Integrating your internal knowledge base with an agent-facing bot makes it quick and painless for admins and agents to find the answer to a customer’s question. This saves the time spent on hunting down hard-to-find answers and improves agent productivity. 

Consistency between departments

A customer’s confidence in your business drops quickly if they experience inconsistent service. Regardless of who they talk to or the channel they use, customers should be receiving consistent information. 

69% of U.S. consumers shop more with brands that offer consistent experiences in-store and online. Unfortunately, many companies have issues with knowledge sharing across teams or locations.5  

If your business struggles with informational silos, you’re not alone. Up to 20% of companies say they’re unable to break free from a siloed business structure that impedes their chances of success.6 

An internal knowledge base breaks down departmental silos and keeps teams on the same page. 

Communication and collaboration

What do you do when you need every team member to know about an updated procedure or a new product feature? Send an email? 

Every week, 16% of workers miss information shared in emails and 6% feel overwhelmed by emails piling up in their inbox.7 Other internal communication methods have similar problems. People miss updates, forget new information, or feel confused about conflicting communication. 

An internal knowledge base is like the organization’s collective brain. When you add new information or update existing content, everyone has access to it. 

Good knowledge base software also fosters collaboration. Articles might have multiple contributors, but with a knowledge base, you’ll never be confused by multiple versions of the same document floating around. 

Screenshot of a knowledge base software

How to create an internal knowledge base

The most important step in building an internal knowledge base is choosing knowledge base software. It should be efficient, flexible, and easy to use. 

Once you’ve chosen your knowledge base solution, you’ll need a knowledge management strategy. This is the process of deciding what to include in the knowledge base and how to organize, deliver, and maintain it. Having the right knowledge base software will make this part go smoothly. 

Choosing the best knowledge base software

The features that make an external knowledge base valuable are also important for an internal knowledge base. 

Look for knowledge base software with these key features:

i) Close integration with support tools An internal knowledge base works best when it’s an extension of the software you use for ticketing and customer engagement. Agents lose valuable time if they have to search through a separate solution each time they need an answer. 

ii) Conversion of agent responses to content Your agents spend a lot of time writing up solutions to customer issues. No one should have to duplicate all that work or waste precious time on duplicated effort. Get knowledge base software that allows you to quickly convert agent responses to articles in the knowledge base. 

Pro tip: Make sure that you’re able to integrate your knowledge base software with your communication tool. This helps you quickly convert questions that pop up in daily conversations into knowledge base articles.

Converting tickets into knowledge base articlesiii) Templates Articles should be easy to create. Having templates for different types of articles saves you from starting from scratch with each new topic. It also provides consistency for the reader.

iv) Multiple content types Some information is best conveyed in a written document, while other information is more helpful as an image or video demonstration. It can also be useful to have both for people with different learning styles. Good knowledge base software allows for a variety of formats. 

v) Search A search box is an essential feature of any knowledge base. It can mean the difference between combing through endless articles and finding the one you want in seconds. 

Screenshot of the search bar within an internal knowledge base

vi) Categorization Your knowledge base should be less like a big pile of papers and more like a set of perfectly labeled and color-coded file cabinets — or at least the digital equivalent. 

Employees can find information in the internal knowledge base more quickly when it’s arranged with multiple levels of categorization. 

Some companies divide content by product while others start with broad categories like “order fulfillment” or “onboarding.” You should have the flexibility to decide the best structure for your knowledge base.

vii) Artificial Intelligence A knowledge base with AI can learn how to give you the right information before you even know what you need. 

Our own Freshdesk knowledge base makes use of an AI-enabled chatbot called Freddy AI for CX

Freddy AI can be both customer-facing and agent-facing. On the customer side, it suggests the best information from the knowledge base to answer customer questions. It can even engage customers with follow-up information and guide them to a faster resolution. AI for your internal knowledge baseFor agents, Freddy AI Assist Bot provides the resources and information that agents can insert into their response. You can also build guided workflows on the Assist Bot to help agents take the conversation forward in the right manner. 

With Freddy’s agent-facing AI, agents can also respond to tickets faster by using solution articles and canned responses that the AI suggests based on ticket text and other metadata. That spares them the work of composing long emails for each ticket or looking through old conversations to find the best template for a response. 

Setting up your internal knowledge base

Since your customer support team is going to be using your knowledge base the most, speak to them to figure out what information you need to include. Customer service agents know which issues come up frequently and what information they have to search for again and again. 

Talk to people in other departments as well. For example, HR can make sure the employee onboarding process is covered in the knowledge base, so you can also include answers to questions new employees frequently ask. 

Not all of your content will be new. Gather any existing documents that agents use frequently and make a plan for incorporating them into your knowledge base. 

Here are some questions to think about when you’re setting up your internal self-help portal:

  • How will you structure your knowledge base and categorize content?
  • Which topics should be articles and which are better suited to video and images?
  • Who will be responsible for the content in each part of the knowledge base?
  • Who should have access and editing capabilities for each part of the knowledge base?

For tips on developing knowledge base content, check out this guide to writing the perfect knowledge base article

How to implement an internal knowledge base

You’ve chosen your knowledge base software and created content to answer every question you can think of. 

Now, how do you actually use the knowledge base?

When organized well, your knowledge base should be intuitive for your employees to figure out how to use it. You can still provide some training on how to use the platform, if you’d like. Overall, the whole team should have confidence that they can turn to the internal knowledge base for accurate answers. Knowledge base implementation

Maintenance of knowledge base content 

Knowledge management is an ongoing process, and for your knowledge base to remain the go-to resource for agents, it has to stay up-to-date. 

Choose someone to completely manage the maintenance of the content or put a different person in charge of each broad topic. Make a plan for how frequently to update solution articles. A good knowledge base tool will include version control capabilities. Agents should never have to wonder if they’re looking at the most recent version of an article. 

You also need to make a plan for where you will source future content. What will the criteria be for deciding to turn an agent’s answer into a knowledge base article? How about taking topics from community forums or article comments?

Analytics and reporting features can help you understand how to further develop your knowledge base content going forward. This works for both external and internal knowledge bases. 

Look at data like article views and likes to see what your customers find most useful. The same information will tell you which articles your agents use frequently. 

Screenshot of knowledge base reports

In conclusion 

It only takes one bad customer service experience — like a long wait, inconsistent communication, or an outdated answer to a question — to send your customer to a competitor. 

That means every support agent needs to have easy access to the collective knowledge and experience of the entire company. 

With an internal knowledge base, no team member falls behind. It also allows representatives to provide the highest quality customer service, and makes it easy to scale your service. 

Ready to get started? Talk to a knowledge base expert at Freshdesk.

Sources:
1 – https://www.statista.com/statistics/810374/share-of-customers-by-if-they-expect-brands-to-have-a-self-service-portal/
2 – https://www.cioandleader.com/article/2019/06/18/employees-spend-significant-time-searching-information-do-their-jobs-study
3 – https://explore.axonify.com/20-brd-1045-2019-ipsos-state-of-frontline-employee-workplace-training
4 – https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.freshworks.com/the-new-cx-mandate/&sa=D&ust=1607044019120000&usg=AOvVaw3cZy-_UPr2aWSQih_P7_NE
5 – https://www.forrester.com/report/2018+Customer+Service+Trends+How+Operations+Become+Faster+Cheaper+And+Yet+More+Human/-/E-RES142291
6 – https://www.adobe.com/content/dam/acom/en/modal-offers/pdfs/0060629.en.aec.whitepaper.econsultancy-2018-digital-trends-US.pdf
7 – https://www.nextiva.com/x/business-communication-report/