As your company grows, you’ll likely find your customer support team answering the same questions over and over. That’s when it becomes important to build out self-service options for customers to find the answers to frequently-asked questions independently, freeing up your team to work through higher priority questions
The most important tool at your disposal is a knowledge base. A knowledge base is a searchable collection of articles that customers can search through to learn more about your product and how to use it, including topics like onboarding, billing, shipping, and returns. Knowledge base articles are typically text-based, but may also include images or video tutorials that demonstrate step-by-step instructions.
What should you include in your knowledge base?
When you begin building a knowledge base, focus first on your navigational structure.
In some cases, your knowledge base should be segmented for different types of users: For instance, Rover includes one section for sitters, and another section for owners. Within each section, you’ll want to include a natural progression of topics: For example, “Getting Started,” “Account Setup,” “Tools and Tips,” and “Common Questions” might serve as your primary navigational categories, with other topics sitting beneath each of those headings.
When deciding what information to include in your knowledge base, try these strategies:
- Pay attention to your most popular content pages
Users are already providing you with data around what they’re interested in learning. Look at your website analytics data to understand where users are navigating most frequently, and on which pages they’re scrolling the deepest and spending the most time. You should repurpose content from these pages to make them easily digestible within your knowledge base.
- Look at the search queries that are drawing people to your website
It’s also valuable to look at your Google Searchmaster Console to understand the specific queries that users are inputting to get to your website. These results may surface questions that you’re not currently addressing on your website, but should be. Draw from them for inspiration in developing new content topics.
- Review your support tickets
Analyze your processed customer support tickets to understand which topics come up most frequently. Do customers need help understanding how to cancel a subscription, process a refund, or update permissions within their accounts? Many of these common customer questions can likely be handled via self-service if you are able to clearly articulate the process with a series of articles or screencasts.
- Conduct a customer experience survey
When your customers have completed a process on your website or app, ask them to take a survey to rate their experience. It can be as simple as asking them to rate how simple the process was to complete, or you could include a number of variable elements for a more granular view of what’s simple or difficult about the process. Use this data to help you understand which steps of your onboarding and account management process require further explanation.
Once you’ve decided what content to include in your knowledge base, map it all out within a structured information architecture, with subtopics nested underneath parent topics (i.e., Onboarding, Product Features, etc.). When developing your content, conduct SEO research to make sure that you’re using the most Google-friendly terms to describe each section of content. While your help section is designed to appeal to existing customers, by ensuring that you’ve created searchable content you can attract new customers to your site who are looking for content around similar themes.
Creating your knowledge base content
Once you’ve developed the structure and solidified your content needs, it’s time to start creating your knowledge base articles.
The tone you choose will depend highly on your brand voice—if you’re fun and irreverent, you’ll want to keep a cheeky voice and may even want to use GIFs throughout the copy to break it up and add some humor. If you’re more of a sophisticated, B2B brand, stick with your usual tone and terminology. In any case, though, don’t try to get too clever or use too much wordplay: Remember, the goal of your help center content is to be helpful, so you’ll want it to be as easy to understand as possible, especially as some audience members may not be native English speakers.
Make the content as easy to read as possible by breaking your articles up into short sections, including bullet points and numerical lists to help readers understand and process the information easily. Include photos or short video clips to demonstrate how to assemble or use the product, when relevant. Graphic headings can also add visual interest and help to break up the text.
Remember that most readers won’t read through your entire knowledge base from start to finish—they’ll skip around from one section to another as relevant, or locate the text via your search tool. Make sure that each section can stand alone, and that you’re not frequently referring to terminology or knowledge that was discussed earlier in another article. If you do need to reference other articles from the knowledge base, make sure that you include contextual links to them within the article so the reader can easily catch up.
Getting the right information
Beyond just knowing how to format the content and what voice to use, it’s important to think about what you’re actually going to say when writing knowledge base articles.
Your company’s website is likely a good place to start: You’re sure to have valuable information there that explains your product or solution. If you have a rudimentary FAQ, you can draw from that as you begin to develop your knowledge base content. But as you get deeper into the weeds, you may not have all the information you need on hand.
That’s when it’s important to target relevant subject matter experts (SMEs) who can speak to various aspects of your product or solution in more depth. Your content team can interview these SMEs, and even record video tutorials of them demonstrating specific techniques, to share on the knowledge base. They may even be able to help think of questions that hadn’t occurred to you yet, particularly if they interface with customers themselves.
If your company offers a software or hardware product, it will also be important to gather insights directly from your engineering team so that you can share the technical specs and details of the product’s feature release cycle.
Helping customers navigate the knowledge base
Once your knowledge base has been developed, you can cut down on your support tickets if you can convince customers to use it as a first port of call when they’re visiting your site or app. But how do you do that?
Discoverability is key. Consider putting a search bar right on your home page that customers can use when they’re looking for help.
You can also look at using a self-service tool that offers natural language processing, so that customers can ask a question in their own words and see snippets of content from the knowledge base that’s relevant to their search. If their question isn’t answered in the content, you can provide options to route them to customer support team members. This kind of customer support model enables your customer base to act independently, with immediate access to additional help if they decide they need it.
Some customers may want to review the entire knowledge base, so make it easy for them by giving them options to “bookmark” their spot or save specific articles for easy reference. When you make updates or additions to the knowledge base, be sure to make note of what’s been changed.
Why a knowledge base matters
More and more, customers are drawn towards self-service as an empowering model of customer service—81 percent of customers try to solve problems themselves before reaching out to a customer support representative.
By building out a detailed knowledge base that’s intuitive for customers to navigate, you can provide all the information they need at their fingertips. Your knowledge base software should make it simple for customers to begin onboarding, learn about product features, and answer common questions. It will streamline and improve the overall customer experience and reduce customers’ reliance on support staff.
That doesn’t mean customer support representatives aren’t important to your business: On the contrary, by reducing their need to answer repetitive common questions, they’ll be accessible for customers who have more high-touch, complicated questions that require customized support. Your team members will be able to provide higher-quality service and spend more time with each customer, improving customer satisfaction.
Make sure to update your knowledge base frequently, so that it can serve as a single source of truth throughout your organization. By building a best-in-class knowledge base filled with tools and techniques to answer all of your customer questions, you’ll be able to substantially increase your customers’ self-service rate and provide better customer support across the board.