A knowledge base is a great tool for improving your customer experience. When your customers have questions, they can easily access your knowledge base and get the answers they need without having to reach out to or wait for your support team.
Any business set for growth can’t rule out the use of knowledge base software. Knowledge base software helps you deliver the highest returns related to risk — and maximize the amount of customer and staff learning — all with the lowest possible investment.
If you’re looking to improve your customer experience by providing your customers with the information they need at the exact moment they need it, follow these nine knowledge base best practices.
9 knowledge base best practices
Whether you’re creating your very first knowledge base, looking to expand an existing knowledge base, or thinking about switching to different knowledge base software, these nine best practices will help set you on the right path for improving your customer experience.
1. Optimize your knowledge base content for search engines
When customers have questions about your product or services, their first step in getting an answer isn’t necessarily to call your customer care team, send an email to your support team, or initiate a live chat on your website. In many cases, a customer’s first step in finding answers is performing a Google search.
To deliver a great customer experience, your customers should be able to find the answers to their questions at the top of Google’s search results.
Ensure that your knowledge base is optimized for search engines by making sure the content you create includes the keywords that your customers will likely search for when they’re in need of information.
There are many different ways to find out exactly what problems your customers are looking for answers to using search engines. An easy place to start is to just type your brand and product names into Google’s search bar. Its auto-suggest tool will show you some other popular, related searches:
Another tool you can use to get into the minds of your customers and what they’re searching for is AnswerThePublic. This free tool allows you to enter a broad keyword into it to get a list of questions people are asking that include that keyword, as well as lists of related keywords:
By writing content around the keywords you discover and using those keywords in the title and content of your knowledge base articles, you can make sure your articles show up when customers search Google for answers to questions about your product.
2. Structure your knowledge base logically
If the way your knowledge base is structured isn’t user-friendly, people will leave without taking the time to find the answers you’ve worked so hard to document.
Knowledge bases tend to grow organically as new FAQs are added or new features are documented. But if you don’t have a greater structure in mind, you can end up with an unwieldy mass of information that’s difficult to navigate and hard to maintain.
A set of “How do you X?” pages on its own is not good information architecture. It’s important to make sure that the content in your knowledge base is logically organized into categories and collections.
Canva’s knowledge base is a great example of how to structure a knowledge base logically:
- There’s a search feature right at the top that enables customers to quickly search for any questions they need answers to.
- Beneath the search bar, there’s a “Popular searches” section that highlights some of the most common questions that users ask.
- Articles are structured into collections in a left-side navigation menu for customers who prefer to browse through articles to find what they’re looking for.
- Key categories and featured articles are also displayed prominently in the main body of the page for quick access to important articles.
By structuring your knowledge base in a logical way, you’re not just creating a better customer experience; you’re also investing heavily in educating your customers using content.
3. Ensure your knowledge base’s search feature works excellently
To create a better experience for your customers, the knowledge base that houses your documentation must have a feature with an excellent search engine.
Even if your content is organized into categories and collections, many customers won’t take time to scroll through those categories to find what they’re looking for. They’ll just use your search feature.
Because of this, your knowledge base’s search feature must deliver fast results, irrespective of the number of articles it has to parse to find a match. Beyond that, it should also be able to handle misspellings and other common typing errors, yet still deliver the results that customers are searching for.
But there are non-technical aspects to providing a great search feature, too. It’s important to use your customers’ own words to describe the answers you’re providing in your knowledge base, rather than your own internal labels for concepts and features.
For example, if you call a feature “pre-fills” — but all your customers think of them as “templates” — your article titles and copy need to say “templates” in addition to your own term.
The reporting tools in your knowledge base software can help you learn more about how your customers are searching for information in your knowledge base.
Help Scout’s Kelly Herring recommends working through your failed searches, creating articles for things customers are searching for that you haven’t already covered, and updating existing content to use the language your customers are using to search for that content.
4. Allow customers to provide feedback
You can’t create a better customer experience if your communication is just one way. Inviting your customers to submit feedback on your knowledge base articles gives you insight into where you need to improve your documentation.
For example, your customers can evaluate the usefulness of your knowledge base articles by rating how satisfied they are after reading them — or how helpful an article was on a scale of 1-5. With this information, you can refine your articles over time to deliver the information your customers need the most.
To achieve this, your knowledge base software should include features that let customers provide feedback, as well as reports showing you what types of feedback your different articles are receiving.
5. Keep your authoring interface simple
It should be as simple as possible to add new articles, graphics, and videos to your knowledge base — and to update existing articles.
Having a simple authoring interface makes it easy to quickly create new articles for frequently asked questions — and to make adjustments when customer feedback suggests that existing articles aren’t meeting their needs.
6. Conduct user testing
In addition to passively monitoring your search and feedback metrics, direct user testing can help you spot potential problems. Can users find the right document? Is the page readable to them? Does the search feature return the expected results?
Create some sample knowledge base tasks and have typical users talk you through how they would solve them. Watch, learn, and improve!
7. Use a style guide
According to NerdWallet’s Emily Kinzig, “Taking time to decide what you want your tone and approach to things like bullets, phrasing, etc. to be early on can help with ensuring a consistency of voice across articles that may be written by different people.”
Be kind to your future self by making some decisions on style and voice up front. Your company may already have a style guide you can adapt, or take a look at Help Scout’s brand handbook for inspiration.
8. Set up regular content reviews
Median’s Derek Homann recommends “having a very specific cadence for reviewing/updating content to make sure it doesn’t go stale. My rule of thumb was that each FAQ had to be reviewed at least once a quarter.”
Planning ahead for reviewing and updating your existing documentation means you can (mostly!) find and fix issues before they impact your customers.
Your knowledge base tool may let you sort your content by updated date, or you can keep your own list and make maintenance a recurring documentation task.
9. Treat your knowledge base like a product
Documentation should not be an afterthought, constantly lagging behind the customer experience. Considering it as a product means making documentation a required part of a new release, including it in your testing schedules, and assigning regular resources.
Denise Twum of SmugMug recommends finding people outside your team to help make that happen: “Try to identify other stakeholders outside the support team who may be interested/invested in the knowledge base, as it is one of the public faces of your company.”
In particular, if you’re documenting a frequently changing product, it is important to make correct documentation a formal part of the release process. Ashley Sachs of Whereby faced that challenge:
“We have a super small distributed team and the [developers] work pretty fast … we were running into the devs releasing things while I was sleeping and not even knowing about it until a customer asked a question or mentioned it on social media. So documenting the process helped with communication and accountability, as well when it came to myself and the dev team collaborating.”
The role of your knowledge base in your customer experience
A great knowledge base can help you boost conversions, improve retention, and reduce marketing costs. When customers can easily find the information they need to best utilize your product or service, they become your unpaid marketers and brand advocates, which results in more sales and higher profits for you.
I love the way Jeff Bezos puts it: “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”
If you’re concerned about improving your customer experience every day, you may want to consider how a knowledge base can help you achieve that goal.
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Owen McGab Enaohwo
Owen McGab Enaohwo is the CEO and Co-Founder of SweetProcess, an easy-to-use and intuitive business process management software that makes it possible for company executives and their employees to collaborate together to quickly document standard operating procedures, processes, and policies.