Best knowledge base features
Catherine Heath | September 1, 2021
Every company needs a knowledge base. It’s helpful for your customers to be able to troubleshoot problems on their own and access self-service content that takes the load off your support team. 91% of customers would use an online knowledge base if it were available and tailored to their needs.
If you provide a powerful knowledge base that answers common customer questions, you can increase customer satisfaction and reduce churn. These are goals any business should be striving for.
When customers have to speak to a member of your support team, something has already gone wrong. Customers prefer to be able to solve problems themselves, and a knowledge base is the way to help them do that.
It’s not enough just to have a knowledge base – you need to equip it with the best features to enable customer self-service support.
But what features should your knowledge base have?
Robust search engine
Many customers will arrive at your knowledge base knowing exactly what they are looking for. This is where search comes in. Every knowledge base should have a robust search bar that enables customers to instantly search all of your articles for the one they need, that matches the speed and accuracy of Google.
You need to have autosuggest search so impatient customers are shown relevant articles as they type. Autosuggest instantly suggests possible articles for customers who can then click on the right one if they see it.
Your search should also be fast, returning matching results instantly when the customer presses enter or hits the search button. KnowledgeOwl provides full text search, so when the customer searches for a query they are redirected to a search results page that provides the full text search results.
The KnowledgeOwl search returns all relevant articles that could possibly be related to the search term. Results are sorted by relevance so the less relevant articles will show up lower in the search results.
When your knowledge base contains a certain amount of content, you need to make use of navigation elements that form part of your Information Architecture. If you were using a simple FAQs page you wouldn’t require navigation since all the content would be displayed on one page. Knowledge bases, however, tend to contain dozens or hundreds of articles, so these need to be organized in a logical fashion.
The layout of your knowledge base should be reflected in the navigation – categories and articles should be clearly displayed for those customers who are browsing your knowledge base.
Here’s an example from our own knowledge base, KnowledgeOwl support. The navigation menu can be hidden by customers who don’t need it, but it is always available for customers when they want to browse.
The categories are collapsible so that customers are not overwhelmed with content when they view the navigation. They can expand categories to view subcategories or the articles contained within a category.
Remember to make your top-level categories as broad as possible and then break it down into further subcategories if needed. Name your categories something that will make sense to customers so they’re not left scratching their heads.
Sometimes, when a customer visits an article it might not have precisely the answer they need. This is where related articles come in handy.
Related articles greatly increase your customers’ engagement with the knowledge base and your ability to provide them with the answers they are looking for. Often, customers may be interested in learning more about your product and related articles help them do that.
In software like KnowledgeOwl, you can automatically generate lists of related articles for every article in your knowledge base.
Let’s face it – a lot of customers run into the same problems over and over again. If this happens, consider improving your product or services for a better User Experience.
Nevertheless, it can still be helpful to provide a popular articles list for customers who are landing on your knowledge base. This is a list of most-viewed articles by customers on the knowledge base and eliminates the need to search for a relevant article.
Customers will appreciate you surfacing popular content and the fact that you’re saving them time.
Table of contents
At the article level, sometimes you will be creating long articles that could do with a bit of extra navigation. A table of contents at the beginning of the article will help users scan for the content they’re looking for and eliminate the need to read the entire article from beginning to end.
Here’s an example from KnowledgeOwl of an article that makes use of a table of contents:
A table of contents should clearly display the subsections within your article and provide the ability to quickly navigate to the desired subsection. Within KnowledgeOwl, you have the capabilities to create snippets which you can copy and paste in any article that needs a table of contents.
Alternatively, you can use a topic display category with individual articles for each section. Topic display categories give you an automatic Quick Links section at the top and the option to have each article they contain within an expanding/collapsing accordion.
Within your knowledge base articles, you will sometimes want to call attention to certain pieces of information. This could be a warning against changing something in the system or a useful aside that customers might find helpful.
The best way to call attention to information is using call-outs where you highlight the content in a different color that will catch your reader’s attention.
Here’s an example from our own knowledge base of the use of a call-out when we wanted to emphasize a note for our customers.
Don’t be afraid to use call-outs whenever you want to highlight particular bits of information for your customers. It improves the readability of your articles and ensures your customers don’t miss out if they’re scanning quickly through content.
With the best will in the world, a knowledge base is never perfect. The best way to keep improving your knowledge base is to solicit customer feedback on your articles.
There are two ways you can ask for feedback directly from your articles. First, offer a simple rating system such as a thumbs up/thumbs down rating, or a rating out of five stars for the helpfulness of your content. Second, encourage customers to comment with a comment form at the bottom of each article.
You can easily gather customer feedback with these kinds of forms and use it to improve your knowledge base for the future. If you do get a comment from a customer, make sure you reply so they don’t think that their feedback has just disappeared into the abyss. If an article gets a significant number of thumbs down, consider improving it.
To supercharge your knowledge base you need to endow it with these powerful features to improve the customer experience. From robust search, to simple navigation, to table of contents, you need these features to make sure your customers can get the most out of self-service.
Without a knowledge base, your customers won’t be able to help themselves and you’ll have a significantly higher support load. Make sure you help your customers to solve their own problems with a richly-featured knowledge base.