How to Build a Better Knowledge Base

by Trevor

featured_how-to-build-a-better-knowledge-base

How close to 24/7 does your SaaS have team members available to answer queries or support tickets? If you’re like most, the answer is nowhere near 24/7 which means you better have a viable alternative to actual humans for answering important customer questions.

Your customer support can make or break a SaaS as far as encouraging retention of customers so it’s important you’ve put the effort into making their lives as easy as possible. They don’t want to search for how to get help; they want easy options which allow them to find answers quickly themselves.

A good knowledge base can provide a solution that both you and your customers can live with. The key though is that it must actually be useful and it must be easy to use.

Customers who click around forever or who come up with too many irrelevant hits for their typed searches will probably give up in frustration. How can you build a better knowledge base?

Which tools help create a good knowledge base? Check out our quick guide:

Assign an Owner

Let’s face it, some website knowledge bases you come across are a complete mess, rendering them ineffective to users. Some companies have taken a kind of scattered approach where they try to have their knowledge base come together “organically”, meaning no one takes real ownership of getting it together.

You’ll find that assigning one owner, even if the knowledge base is just one aspect of their job, will help to create a better experience. Having that one person as an owner can have advantages because:

  • They are familiar with the knowledge base and can ensure there is a cohesive system without any double-ups.
  • They can uphold standards for the content of the knowledge base.
  • They can monitor for issues and ensure that any new information is added to the knowledge base.
  • They can prioritize and assign content (there’s nothing to say they have to do it all themselves!).

The aim is that you create a resource that is actually useful, rather than a “we did it because we thought we should” kind of approach. That one person can be your gatekeeper.

Include the Right Content

Documenting your processes and best practices can seem like a real drag, but it’s one of those things that if you put the time in upfront, you can save a lot of time later on. Let’s say you have a particular “how to” question which is always coming up as a support ticket or customer service request; how much simpler would it be if you documented a clear, step-by-step answer to that question which you could direct people to in your knowledge base?

You’re busy with a million things running your business, but don’t underestimate the power of good documentation to take a load off your plate in the long run. Good knowledge bases have been shown to reduce support tickets and (as this Zendesk infographic shows), customers actually prefer self-service options over contacting a support agent.

zendesk-self-service

It’s not just customers who will find your knowledge base documentation helpful, it’s employees too. If you’re growing your team, a lot of your time can be taken up with answering questions or training people on your product. Creating good knowledge base information will help new employees to learn on their own.

You might wonder where to start and which content you should be creating. The simple answer is to start with the basics. Go through your software and explain each little piece and how it works. Keep track by having a master list of topics which need content created and assign to others where you can. You should also keep a list of customer support questions that come up — these may be prime candidates for new content or to update what you already have.

Structure Documentation Well

If you want your knowledge base to really be effective for users, you need to uphold standards for how you structure documentation. Everyone has had that experience where they need to follow instructions or learn about something through reading, but find that the formatting of the document or instructions are so bad that it’s a chore to get through. (Instructions for putting together furniture rate highly up there! Some are very illogical and certainly not user-friendly).

Your documentation for each item on your list should be logical and start with the natural starting point for the user. For most software examples, that would involve an instruction such as “from the home screen click on the X tab.” Never assume that someone will know — you need to write as though they are a brand new user and structure in logical steps.

Format and language should also be considered. Large, wordy paragraphs may put people off or lose them. Use formatting such as headers, bullet points and numbered lists to help break content up. With regard to language, be as plain as possible and use a consistent tone across your content.

Multimedia is a great idea to spice up your documentation and acknowledge that there are different learning styles among your users. For example, visual learners will appreciate images, gifs, video walkthroughs and screen shares. Having these different types of media will help reinforce the learning and reduce support questions later on.

zendesk-knowledge-base

Source: Zendesk

Make the System Simple

The structure of your knowledge base plays a big role in whether your customers will actually use it. There are a number of tools out there to help you build a good knowledge base system, but here are a few pointers as to what that actually means:

  • It should be easy to find and use language a user would expect. For example, via a “help” tab, “support center” or even simply “knowledge base.”
  • It should be well-organized. Users should find it is logical to search for what they need, such as by looking under categories for related topics.
  • Have a “getting started” section (or similar) near the top so that people can clearly see where to start with the basics and won’t be put off by your advanced content.
  • Make common questions prominent. You probably already know what those are, so highlight those with something like a “most popular” list.
  • It should have a good search function. We’ve all seen websites with terrible search functions. No matter what you type, you get two dozen unrelated hits, none of which answer what you were looking for. Test out your search function and make sure it comes up with logical responses, including related keywords where possible.

Promote Your Knowledge Base

Tell your users that your knowledge base is there! As part of onboarding, you should make it very clear to customers how and where they can get help, which should include directing them to your knowledge base.

As a bonus for creating all of that content, why not use some of it in “weekly tip” newsletters or even as quick tip social media posts? It’s a good way to maximize use of your content investment and remind customers about your knowledge base at the same time.

Need a good knowledge base tool? Check out some of our favorites:

Final Thoughts

As SaaS we often have limited time and resources, yet we need to ensure that we’re keeping our customers engaged and providing the support they need.

A big part of the customer experience is how well they feel supported and how easy you make it for them to get that support. Rather than waiting to get in touch with a representative or hear back from a support ticket, customers want self-service options and an effective knowledge base will serve that purpose.

Have a good plan and assign someone to be in charge of looking after your knowledge base. Create good, logical content using different mediums and promote its availability to your users. An effective knowledge base might take work, but it will save you even more in the long run.

Kill your churn. Keep more of your customers. Get an invite to Retained.

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