Guide to Knowledge Base Software

Angela Stringfellow

11min read

The knowledge base has become a central part of many customer service operations, and for good reason – customers expect them. According to survey data from Forrester, 67% of US adults in 2012 indicated that they had used an FAQ or knowledge base at a company website. By 2015, that number grew to 81%, with the vast majority of consumers embracing self-service customer support. Companies that are looking to upgrade their help desk platform are often not choosing whether to include a knowledge base, but rather how to to implement a knowledge base most effectively.

While a knowledge base can add tremendous value to customer engagement efforts, they can also be challenging to deploy. One of the most important steps when implementing a new knowledge base software is to create a well-designed plan and then launch it systematically. If customers visit a knowledge base that is not well organized or easy to navigate, they may choose to look elsewhere. There are several factors to consider when planning for a new knowledge base software. We've created this guide to provide an understanding of how knowledge base software works, the most common use cases for knowledge bases, how they can benefit your customer support efforts and your business as a whole, and how to get the most out of your knowledge base platform.

In this guide, we'll cover the following topics:

  • What is Knowledge Base Software?
  • How Knowledge Base Software Works
  • Use Cases for Knowledge Base Software
  • Benefits of Knowledge Base Software
  • Best Practices for Leveraging Knowledge Base Software

What is Knowledge Base Software?

What is Knowledge Base Software?

Knowledge base software provides a platform for the sharing of self-service content that is related to products, services, or brands. The actual information that is placed in a knowledge base is usually tailored to the needs of customers and can be organized by product line, department, customer, or any other chosen segments. A knowledge base can either be self-hosted on a company server or hosted by the software provider, depending upon the configurations offered.

A highly customized library. A knowledge base is a tool that is based upon knowledge management principles and has played an essential role in supporting customer experience and self-service initiatives at many companies. One of the great benefits of a knowledge base software is the flexibility and high level of customization that most systems offer. They can be set up internally for support staff to access, shared more widely through customer portals, or even placed directly on a website for public access.

A marketing and sales tool. A public knowledge base can not only serve as a useful self-service platform but can also aid your marketing and sales efforts by providing more in-depth information about the specifics of your products or services. For example, a prospective SaaS customer may be looking for a software application that offers specific functionality or feature sets. By reviewing knowledge base articles covering those features or functions, customers can gain a better understanding of whether a software application meets their needs. In fact, your sales representatives can even point sales leads to specific knowledge base resources to help nurture leads and overcome objections during the buyer's journey. Another way a knowledge base benefits your marketing and sales efforts is through analytics. If your existing customers are searching for or accessing how-tos about certain features more than others, for example, you can create valuable content focused on that feature or even take steps to improve your product.

A curated form of a wiki. A knowledge base can have content pages and look very much like a wiki, yet a significant difference is that the content of a knowledge base is curated by an internal group. It is usually the customer support team that has the task of identifying the FAQs, manuals, articles, and other information that should be shared on the knowledge base. The best knowledge bases are also highly collaborative with frequent and relevant updates.

How Knowledge Base Software Works

How Knowledge Base Software Works

A knowledge base software collects information in a centralized location and makes it accessible through an interface. When knowledge base software is deployed as a cloud-based solution, employees access the system through a unique web login. Customers can gain access through a dedicated portal that can be customized and configured for any desired audience.

A company can collect articles, FAQs, documents, and other important information and easily place them in the knowledge base. A knowledge base library is meant to be a dynamic resource that includes interaction from customers and continues to grow, fueled by a consistent flow of new information.

Use Cases for Knowledge Base Software

Use Cases for Knowledge Base Software

You can find knowledge bases in use across a diverse range of industries and among companies of all sizes. Since the content and user base of a knowledge base can be scaled to meet the needs of a business, it can be used as a robust long-term platform. Here are a few examples of how a knowledge base can be used in different business environments.

Keeping startups organized. A startup is often a fast-moving environment in which the team must balance the needs of investors with their ability to create and release a new product or service. By using advanced knowledge management tools such as a knowledge base, a startup can consolidate its essential product information in a single place and share the library with customers and investors. It can also be a great resource, in combination with a help desk system, for support beta versions of products being tested in the market.

Enabling small business collaboration. When operating a small business, it is vital to complete work efficiently and make use of limited resources. Having a knowledge base at the center of customer support activities can help streamline your customer interactions and allow you to provide more insights and promptly resolve many customer inquiries by leveraging your software. A small business that understands customer experience and uses these tools effectively is much more likely to experience a high level of customer satisfaction and repeat business. Not to mention, happy customers who tell their friends and family can bring new business to your door through word-of-mouth marketing. According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family members more than any other form of advertising. And data from McKinsey indicates that word-of-mouth marketing is the driving force behind 20% to 50% of all purchasing decisions.

Scaling enterprise needs. Large organizations can become very fragmented, with many departments having multiple layers of management and, in some cases, different ways of doing things. A knowledge base software fits very nicely into such an environment because it can be implemented with a cloud set up and easily accessed across the entire company. Many large companies will already have some form of document management software in place, and a knowledge base can help transform that information into something more customer-friendly that can be accessed by a wider audience. It is also possible to set up separate knowledge bases for different departments, products, or customer segments, which gives companies the flexibility to meet both internal and external expectations.

Benefits of Knowledge Base Software

Benefits of Knowledge Base Software

A knowledge base allows a company to present relevant information to customers in a way that is efficient and tailored to their needs. Among the many important benefits of using such a system are:

  • Reduced cost
  • Enhanced customer trust
  • Improved team collaboration
  • Consistent content quality
  • Simple and effective sharing
  • Self-service customer support
  • Reduced time to issue resolution

The Customer Contact Council, a division of the Corporate Executive Board, studied more than 75,000 people who had phone interactions with customer support representatives or through self-service channels such as chat, email, the web, and voice prompts. This study found that, surprisingly, delighting customers isn't the primary driver of customer loyalty. The key to fostering customer loyalty, it turns out, is reducing customer effort, or the amount of time and energy they have to put into finding answers or resolving issues. Among customers who reported low effort, 94% said they'd purchase from the company again, and 88% said they'd spend more with the company. On the other hand, among customers who experienced difficulty getting resolutions for their issues (higher customer effort), 81% said they'd tell family and friends about their negative experience.

Another interesting finding from this study is that 57% of customers who called customer support did so after visiting the website. This finding indicates that self-service information was insufficient to meet customers' needs (or that relevant information was difficult for customers to find).

A knowledge base that is used in combination with a shared inbox and customer portal can improve engagement and lead to greater customer satisfaction. In addition to these, many organizations also find that leveraging a knowledge base makes training new employees easier and leads to cost savings over time as more information is added to the system and utilized. It is ultimately up to each company to find the best way to implement a knowledge base software platform and find ways to get the most benefit from the flexibility they provide.

Best Practices for Leveraging Knowledge Base Software

Best Practices for Leveraging Knowledge Base Software

The thought of organizing all the product and service-related information that a company may have can seem daunting. Several considerations must be taken into account when building an initial knowledge base library, and there are a few best practices that can help you get started with your new system.

Begin with a logical structure. Since your knowledge base will grow over time, it's best to begin with an intuitive and easy-to-navigate structure for your information from the start. You should add categories to your articles for easy searching and divide them into logical sections that will help both customers and help desk staff easily find the information they need.

Standardize with templates. Some of the most useful content in a knowledge base are articles that describe solutions to common issues and provide other how-to information. Just like website articles, it is best to create articles that are linked to related pages and include useful attachments. One of the best ways to make this easier for staff that will generate this content is to build simple templates and content guidelines that can be used for any new topic that needs to be added.

Share useful content. Since you want customers to visit a knowledge base and leave with answers to their questions, you want to make sure that the information you add to the library is thorough and useful. Embed media such as pictures and videos into articles to help illustrate and explain complex ideas. It's also a good  idea to put a regular review process in place that keeps the content fresh and updated with the most recent product or service information.

Measure and make improvements. Knowledge base software improves upon traditional document management platforms by giving you information about engagement. When a knowledge base is combined with a shared inbox ticketing system and customer portal, you will be able to view comprehensive metrics about your customer support efforts. Making these measurements a part of your organizational goals and deliverables will keep your team focused on improvements that matter most for your customers.

Build a community. A knowledge base may be a useful reference, but ultimately, the real goal of this tool is to create engagement between customers and your business. Making use of the messaging features, email integrations, and customer dashboards will allow you to create a unique experience for every customer that will make them want to return. You should also provide them with access to your support options such as a customer portal, allowing them to submit support requests, check the status of an open support inquiry, and view all of their previous customer support requests and answers. The ability to check the progress of open support tickets lets customers know that you're actively working on resolving their inquiry, so your customers will never feel ignored or like their requests have gotten lost. Over time, a customer portal becomes a valuable knowledge resource, enabling customers to find relevant information and resolve issues without the need to call your customer support staff.

What to Look For in Knowledge Base Software

When it comes to balancing price with features of a new knowledge base software platform, it's crucial to look at your key requirements. It can be easy to overlook a critical component only to discover limitations during your implementation. These are some of the most important features to consider in your system.

Intuitive search function. Even with a logical structure and layout for your knowledge base library, you will still need to find some information by searching. A knowledge base software that has a robust search function and allows for the use of tags will make it very easy to find articles and documents quickly when you need them.

Simple backend dashboard. Your customer support staff are going to be spending a lot of time in the knowledge base system, so look for a knowledge base software solution that offers an intuitive, user-friendly dashboard. Software that allows for a unique login for each staff member also may allow users to customize some layout details to suit their preferences. They should also be able to easily navigate between a shared inbox and other software tools without having to navigate through too many additional menus or views.

Integrations with frequently used software. Each knowledge base software developer may have different priorities when it comes to integration with other software tools. Always look at the list of supported third-party integrations to see if your existing team collaboration and communication tools are listed. In addition, consider what additional software components are provided on the platform. As mentioned previously, a knowledge base that is connected to a shared inbox ticketing system and customer portal provides one of the most flexible configurations available for comprehensive, seamless customer support.

Customizable settings. The best knowledge base software systems will provide a fully usable system right out-of-the-box with minimal downtime and training requirements. That said, there is also some benefit to having a platform that you can customize to suit your unique needs. Some of the most valuable customizations are for security settings and the ability to create unique customer portals. Also, look for the ability to add custom branding to your portal for a unified look across your knowledge base and other systems. Another consideration is the flexibility of the pricing plans that the company offers. A simple price-per-user structure that can be scaled as your business grows is one of the best and most practical options available.

When it comes to customer support today, the knowledge base has become a clear requirement in the mind of many consumers. A knowledge base provides a flexible platform for companies to share important information with their customer base. Everyone seems to be chasing unique customer experience these days, and if you are able to give customers what they need at the moment they need it, you're already a step ahead of the competition.

Further Reading on Knowledge Base Software

Visit the following resources to learn more about knowledge base software and how you can leverage it to benefit your customer support, sales, or marketing processes.

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