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What Is a Knowledge Base? Everything You need to Know

Jul 29, 2022Faith
  • 8 min read
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    Gladly’s 2020 Customer Expectations Report states that 35% of your customers “feel happy and proud when they use self-service to resolve an issue.” One way to empower customers to resolve issues independently is by creating a knowledge base.

    A knowledge base is an important part of every modern support team because it helps your team resolve issues faster, improves efficiency, and empowers your customers with the information needed to make the most out of your services.

    The knowledge base concept explained

    A knowledge base is a central repository of information that covers all your customers need to know about your productized services. In a knowledge base, you’ll find different forms of content, including articles, help videos, step-by-step guides, glossaries, and lists. All of these resources make it easy for customers to find solutions to any problems they encounter with your product without contacting your support team for help.

    Types of knowledge base

    There are three types of knowledge base, depending on where they are hosted or organized.

    1. Shared document system

    The knowledge base lives on an external documentation system like Google Drive or Dropbox, which is set to “public” so it’s easily accessible to customers.

    Shared document systems are best used when you have only a few pieces of knowledge base content. There are, however, a few disadvantages to them:

    1. Shared document systems have limited customization options, which can affect the overall user experience.
    2. As the knowledge base grows, it will become harder to track how much content it contains, which can lead to content duplication.

    2. Wikis

    A wiki is a collaborative knowledge-sharing resource. It’s a great option for productized businesses that want a community-driven knowledge base rather than creating all the resources internally.

    Users can log into the wiki and directly contribute information or respond to questions from other users. Users might also be able to edit content. A good example is Stack Overflow — the community for software developers.

    Before you choose a wiki, keep these two cons in mind:

    1. Wikis can easily become disorganized, making it harder for users to find the information they need.
    2. There’s no quality-check process, so it’s easy to disseminate false information. Anyone can directly provide whatever information they want in response to a question.

    3. Dedicated knowledge base software

    A knowledge base software is a tool that helps you develop, organize, and manage self-service resources for your customers. Portal has a knowledge base software feature for productized services businesses.

    A dedicated knowledge base software is the best option for productized services businesses looking to scale. It can hold a large number of knowledge base resources in different formats, and you can customize the software for a better user experience.

    Why you need a knowledge base

    As your customer base grows, you’ll require a more seamless means of providing 24/7 support — without putting too much pressure on your customer service team, and a knowledge base can help you achieve this. Knowledge bases are especially important for productized businesses due to their customers wanting more off-the-shelf self-serve autonomy. Read more here.

    1. Knowledge bases support different learning styles

    People learn in different ways at different paces. A good customer support service should cater to people of varying learning styles and guide them at their own pace. Not all customers are comfortable interacting with live representatives, and many consumers may struggle to follow what your team is trying to convey. Thus, it’s so important to have an extensive knowledge base that caters to every type of customer.

    Keeping the customer support information in various media formats such as text, pictures, audio, and videos provides your customers with different options to pick from. Knowledge bases provide an alternative to face-to-face communication but without tarnishing the quality and integrity of the interactions.

    2. It helps you deliver knowledge contextually

    Another great thing about knowledge bases is that the users can control the speed and influx of information. With the right search tools, they can easily find an answer to their exact question without the need to go over the complete knowledge base. The search tools in digital and online knowledge bases improve your customers’ experience overall. Many knowledge base software can even link or suggest relevant KB articles at the appropriate times in the product.

    3. A knowledge base operates 24/7

    While your employees might only be available for help during office hours, a knowledge base operates 24/7. This helps you provide high-quality customer support to customers in different geographical regions and with varying routines — no matter when they have issues or questions, and without putting extra pressure on your support team.

    How to create a knowledge base

    Because of how extensive a knowledge base gets, it can be difficult to figure out where to start when building one for the first time — but this doesn’t have to be the case. Follow five simple steps to create your first knowledge base.

    1. Choose the type of knowledge base you want

    The type of knowledge base you want determines the type of tool you choose. Having a tool–knowledge base mismatch can create lots of extra work for your team. For example, if you want a shared document system, you’ll choose a tool like Dropbox or Outlook.

    Three important things to consider when choosing a knowledge base type are your budget, your goal, and how extensive you want the knowledge base to be.

    If you have a small budget, you should go for a shared document system because it has little or no development costs. If you’re looking to build a vibrant community around your services, you should consider a wiki. And if you want an extensive knowledge base with lots of customization options, choose a knowledge base software.

    2. Select the core topics to cover

    You can’t create all the knowledge base content at once, so you need to prioritize topics that empower customers to solve their most pressing problems. As time goes on, you can expand the content of your knowledge base.

    Selecting core topics to cover in your knowledge base is a straightforward process. Look through customers’ conversations with your support team and customer feedback surveys to discover recurring questions/issues. Then create knowledge base content to address these questions.

    If you’re launching a new productized services business, and you don’t have a database of customer questions, you can draw inspiration from your competitors’ knowledge base and conduct customer research to know the type of information customers expect in your knowledge base.

    3. Organize your topics into pillars and categories

    Once you have all your topics, the next step is placing them in pillars and categories. This creates a solid structure for your knowledge base, so users can find the content they need conveniently. It’s better for you, too — you can easily track the topics covered and update your knowledge base without duplicating content.

    Place related topics on your list in the same category. If you offer multiple services, you can create a separate pillar for each service. Or you can pick a collective term to define related topics in a category. For example, Portal’s knowledge base content is split into four categories: Account, General, Modules, and Platform.  

    Source: Copilot

    4. Produce your knowledge base content

    Knowledge bases mostly consist of written and video content, which serve different and sometimes complementary purposes. Knowledge base videos are best for how-to tutorials and troubleshooting tips. For example, Portal has video tutorials for its different features and processes.

    Source: Portal

    Knowledge base articles are best for answering general questions (where you’re not showing the reader how something works or teaching them how to complete a specific action). Portal, for example, has a knowledge base article explaining its payment processing fees.

    Source: Portal

    An effective knowledge base article answers one question for the reader in a concise and engaging manner. It also uses visual elements to communicate complex ideas to the reader. See our best tips for writing a knowledge base article your clients will love.

    Video and written content can sometimes be combined in one resource to help readers better understand the information you’re trying to convey — as Portal does here.

    5. Upload the content and promote your knowledge base

    Once the content is set, upload it to your knowledge base, and make your knowledge base live so it’s accessible to your customers.

    The exact process for uploading content depends on your tool. With Portal, for instance, you can copy and paste the article into the knowledge base content editor and publish it directly. Here’s how it works:

    Step 1: Log into your Client Portal

    Step 2: Click on “Knowledge base” and “Create an article”

    Step 3: Fill in the “Title” and “Tags” fields, then add your content. After adding your content, click “Create” at the top right corner of the page.

    Step 4: Now, your knowledge base content is live. You can modify it as required.

    Knowledge base examples for productized services businesses

    Need some knowledge base ideas to inspire you? We’ve curated some of the best knowledge base examples to help you get started.

    1. Solo Media Group

    Solo Media Group is an eCommerce development agency for Shopify stores. Its knowledge base is organized by category, and customers can directly search for information in specific categories. This makes it easy for them to find what they want quickly.

    The knowledge base also has a live chat option with a pre-recorded video from the founder plus embedded question prompts. This improves personalization and creates better experiences for customers.

    Source: Solo Media Group

    2. Vidpros

    Vidpros is a video editing subscription service for small businesses. While it doesn’t have a dedicated knowledge base page, there’s a simple list of frequently asked questions with straightforward answers at the bottom of the homepage. This is a great option for solopreneurs offering productized services.

    Source: Vidpros

    3. Integrated Finance

    Integrated Finance helps fintech companies build integrations to improve their workflow. In its knowledge base, it highlights popular questions relevant to customers plus answers. There’s also a link to the Slack Community (which serves as a wiki).

    Source: Integrated Finance

    Best practices for maintaining your knowledge base

    Your work doesn’t end when your knowledge base goes live. To make it truly valuable for your customers, you need to maintain it regularly:

    • Make sure all the links are accessible and working correctly
    • Update articles with new information, and prune outdated content
    • Add new content as required — like when you launch a new service or change a process

    All of these things are easier to implement with Portal. Portal allows you to create and maintain an interactive knowledge base for your productized services business seamlessly — with more administrative control. See how Copilot's knowledge base software works.

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