How to create an outstanding knowledge base from scratch

Catherine Heath | August 10, 2021

A knowledge base is a vital part of your customer support strategy because you’re enabling your customers to help themselves. 

Many companies know they should be obsessed with customer support, and they have their agents talking to customers through email, on the phone, and through live chat. But sometimes the best customer support happens when customers don’t need to contact you at all. 

The right knowledge base strategy will help you to scale your customer support operations while enhancing the overall customer experience. If you’re struggling to keep up with customer support tickets, or simply want to improve your customer service, then you will want to create a knowledge base. 

What is a knowledge base?

First of all, what is a knowledge base? 

A knowledge base is an online library of information relating to your products and services. It contains guides, tutorials, and frequently asked questions that help your customers solve basic problems and answer simple queries. 

Your knowledge base should be a self-service portal that can be easily accessed by both customers and employees alike. Instead of requiring customers to contact support, your knowledge base can serve as the first port of call for customers with questions and problems. 

Imagine that a prospective customer has a few questions about your product. A task that could have taken ten seconds by checking a knowledge base turns into ten minutes when they have to contact support. 

A knowledge base is usually hosted by specialist knowledge base software like our very own KnowledgeOwl. It’s a website for your self-service content that is organized into categories and comes with a prominent search bar for customers searching for queries. 

The benefits of a knowledge base

Knowledge bases have many benefits and that’s why they are so popular with companies looking to improve the customer experience. 

  • A self-service knowledge base can deflect basic customer queries, reducing the load on your support team and allowing you to do more with fewer agents. 

  • Customers are able to find instant answers on your knowledge base and they can avoid having to contact support. 

  • Your knowledge base is available 24/7 so you can provide round-the-clock support for your customers without hiring more agents.

  • The majority of customers prefer to solve problems themselves, so your knowledge base will enhance the customer experience and create loyal advocates to your brand. 

  • Your customer support team will be happier without having to constantly field basic queries, and they can spend more time on meaningful tasks.

  • A knowledge base can help you attract new customers by answering basic questions about your products and services.   

  • An internal knowledge base reduces the amount of questions that staff are asking each other and encourages better knowledge-sharing. 

How to create a knowledge base

First and foremost, remember that a knowledge base is documentation for your customers. You’re not writing a blog post or a novel – you’re providing informative articles to help your customers answer questions and solve problems. 

Your knowledge base should be: 

  • Well-organized into sensible categories

  • Easy to search with a prominent search bar

  • Accessible by customers searching for information

  • Save your customers time and solve their problems

Now, with that out of the way, let’s launch into how you can create your very own outstanding knowledge base for your customers. 

1. Invest in the right knowledge base software

If you haven’t already, then you’ll need to do some research to find the perfect knowledge base software for your company. You really need to invest in the proper software in order to have the right information architecture and user experience for your knowledge base. 

We can save you a lot of time by offering you our very own KnowledgeOwl, which is suitable for creating many types of knowledge base – both public and private. 

You can get up and running right away with our in-built templates designed with user experience in mind, and easily customize your knowledge base to suit your company’s branding. You can easily add new articles and arrange them into categories for quick access by your users. 

We’ve published a post comparing the many types of knowledge base software out there, so feel free to check it out. 

2. Design your knowledge base properly

If you select the right knowledge base software then it’s likely that the templates you can choose from for your knowledge base already contain the core design elements. All you need to do is supply the content for your new knowledge base. 

A knowledge base should contain these features: 

  • Clear menus – your knowledge base should be easily browsable by customers visiting your site. Make sure you have a sticky menu bar that customers can refer to when searching for content. 

  • Search bar – some customers arrive at your knowledge base with content in mind and these are the users who will benefit from having a search bar. Make sure you have predictive search and a search bar that can handle typos. 

  • Contact us option – there’s always going to be a time when customers need human support. Make it easy for them to contact you from every page of your knowledge base to make the handoff from self-service to one-to-one support seamless. 

Your knowledge base should have a homepage clearly displaying the topic categories. Think about having a section that displays the “top articles” on your knowledge base. 

To learn more about design, check out How to Make Sense of Any Mess by Abby Covert. 

3. Select content for your knowledge base

It’s not easy to come up with topics for your knowledge base but you need to be choosing articles that answer a real need on the part of your customers. 

Start with the basics – list every single question that a total stranger might have about your business. Then, go through your Getting Started material – outlining the onboarding and setup process that every new customer goes through when getting acquainted with your products and services. 

But don’t stop there. You can go into more detail for topics relating to particular areas of your product. Make sure you look into previous customer support tickets to help you identify common issues. This is how you find content for your FAQs section mentioned earlier. 

Don’t forget to create categories for your new articles to help users make sense of the information you’re presenting them.

4. Establish a writing process

Whether you have one person working on your knowledge base or a whole team of people, you should be following a particular formula every time you sit down to write knowledge base articles

First, pay attention to the titles you are choosing for your articles – they should be clear and action-oriented, starting with words like “How to…” or “Using...”. 

Make your content as descriptive as possible so that users walk away with new information relating to how to solve their problems. 

Link to further resources at the end of your articles and also interlink between articles in the body content. Promote further content discovery with your knowledge base.  

Make sure you have a process in place for reviewing content and set time aside to make this happen. Check every knowledge base article for typos and optimize for user experience – format your articles with headings, bullet points, and call-outs to add variability to your content.

5. Add a visual element to your knowledge base content

You can take your knowledge base to the next level by adding visual content, whether that’s images, diagrams or videos. Visuals keep users engaged by appealing to different learning styles, and as they say a picture is worth a thousand words. 

The most common type of visual is screenshots of the user interface to show customers how things work. But you can also create instructional videos and GIFs to really bring your content to life. 

Don’t overuse video and images at the expense of the text. Some users prefer not to use video so it’s good to give your readers options. It should always be possible to follow your instructions if the image or video was removed. 

6. Make your knowledge base public

Got all your content ready? Then it’s time to publish your knowledge base and send it out into the wild. Don’t be afraid to promote your knowledge base on social media and in the auto-responder customers get when they contact support – if customers don’t know that you have a knowledge base then you can’t expect them to use it. 

KnowledgeOwl allows you to publish your knowledge base with the click of a button, so it’s easy to create content behind the scenes and then launch once you’re ready. 

Make sure to double check all your articles before making them live – customers won’t trust your knowledge base content if it’s riddled with errors and typos. 

7. Gather feedback and improve your knowledge base

A knowledge base isn’t the kind of thing that you can just set up and leave to it. Your knowledge base requires ongoing maintenance and an investment in the quality of the content. 

You can track whether there has been an increase in customer satisfaction or whether there has been a decrease in support tickets. Use your knowledge base analytics to find out what customers are searching for and find out which pages get the most engagement. 

You need to regularly audit your knowledge base on a monthly or quarterly basis. Add new products and features to your knowledge base articles and delete content that has become irrelevant. 

In order to stay on top of ideas for new topics for your knowledge base, keep a lookout in the customer support queue for common questions. Instead of handling them manually every time, add a new article to the knowledge base. 

Final remarks

If you’re willing to make the upfront investment in a knowledge base, it will end up saving you lots of time down the road and make your customers and support staff much happier. A knowledge base is one of those rare things – a win-win for everyone involved. 

Consider taking our knowledge base software KnowledgeOwl for a free spin. 

About the author
Catherine Heath
Catherine Heath

Catherine is the Community Builder for KnowledgeOwl. She is also a freelance writer based in Manchester. She writes blogs, social media, copy, and designs owl-based images. 

You can find out more about Catherine on her personal websites Away With Words and Catherine Heath Studios.

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