A small amount of initial planning will bring your knowledge base together faster.

What is a knowledge base?

Knowledge bases are an excellent way to take the accumulated knowledge of your organization and map that experience to a series of articles and topics you share with your customers. Don’t let the name throw you if you store your content in a different way – many people call this function a Wiki, a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page, or articles – the point is that all of these knowledge functions make it easier for you to serve customers.

Knowledge bases often ship as an included feature with customer service systems like Desk.com, Zendesk, and Help Scout. There are other stand-alone options including providers like HelpDocs, HelpJuice, and Mindtouch – these all serve different segments of the market and have the general goals of either presenting customer-facing content in a help center or doing both that and providing internal agent knowledge through your case support tool.

Why do you need a knowledge base?

The business case for a knowledge solution looks like this: do you prefer to answer the same questions over and over again, or would you prefer to share the relevant information quickly with a minimum of effort (and in some systems, automatically)? The answer is not often “I want to answer questions about login endlessly.”

A great knowledge base orients the visitor to what’s available by arranging articles into logical groupings of topics and articles. That knowledge base is easily searchable using the language visitors normally use when they are speaking. I haven’t seen a knowledge base yet that has a Siri or Cortana or Google integration, and it’s probably only a matter of months before vendors adopt that interface. Let’s put aside for the moment whether structured knowledge queries or natural language processing will deliver the best results, and talk about the specific benefits of knowledge bases.

  • You’ll Save Valuable Time By Not Doing The Same Thing Repeatedly – every day, you see the same 10 to 15 (for your business this might be 5 or 50) questions in your Tier 1 Support Queue. Future you will thank you for writing articles instead.
    1. You’ll Train Customers and Employees for Proficiency – as customers give you feedback and employees create and refine knowledge articles, they will self-identify as experts and you may even be able to offload some of your support volume outside of the four “virtual” walls.
  • You’ll create Shareable Content that Improves SEO – each knowledge article, when written in an engaging and readable way and titled effectively, increases the likelihood that people using your product may find you from other inbound destinations. This content linking improves your search domain authority, which also reinforces the chance that new people will find your company through long-tail content.
  • Most Knowledge Bases are Readable Without Login – since the purpose of a knowledge base is to make the information widely available, you get to read great examples and find structure and content to repurpose. Here are a few excellent examples.

How Do I Get Started?

Great! You’re ready to start – here are a few suggestions to streamline your process and spend more time writing great articles.

    1. Decide the Main Purpose of Your Help Center – is your primary goal ticket deflection, knowledge enhancement, customer training, or feedback on features or service?
    2. Make a Big List of Your Most Frequent Questions – go ahead and find a kitchen timer or use your browser or phone to make a 15 minute time limit. Write a list of the top 20-30 questions you get that require an Agent to do something.
    3. Start the Writing Process, Even If Your List is Not Done – create a short (50 word) and long (250-750 words) version of each one of the items on your list.
    4. Arrange Your Questions into Logical Groups – if the topics for your knowledge base are not obvious, ask yourself: do the questions fall into natural categories (based on activities people do with your product, area of product/service, etc) or do we need to identify or invent a scheme to arrange them?
    5. Write Like a Human, Not Like a Robot – this one’s easy – write the content you want to read. Some ideas are to name questions with human-like questions, e.g. “how do I…” or “why do I need to …” or statements “5 steps to set up your…” and to take out words when explanations are unclear. Or just take words out, full stop.
  • Involve Your Team in the Process – a Knowledge Base is a shared document. Ask your team (and maybe your customers) to read your content to confirm understanding.

How Do I Know When I Need a New Article?

SPOILER ALERT: add new articles whenever you get a question that customers or internal people ask more than twice.

A great article will answer the question, remove the need for the customer to ask again or will make it very clear how to answer the question. Conversely, a bad article will be loaded with jargon and will not be easy to digest.

How Do I Know When I am done?

SPOILER ALERT: you are never done. There are always new feature, new products, and new people reading about the product. Do not lose sleep over this fact.

You will get really close to done in most knowledge bases after you publish 20-30 informative, carefully written articles reviewed by multiple stakeholders.

Now What?

After that it’s easy to arrange the content, tag for similar topics, design from a template or lightly customize, etc. You will want to pick a KB that helps you understand if customers and trialers think the content is any good – there are many solutions that help with a simple :thumbsup: :thumbsdown: and others like Answerdash.com that are much more in depth with contextual info. Good luck, and I ‘d love to hear your thoughts about what makes an amazing knowledge base.

Greg Meyer loves talking to customers at Kustomer, where he takes on many roles in product marketing. Kustomer is a leading CRM for Support teams and is building a platform to deliver amazing customer service placing the customer at the center of each interaction.