The benefits of a customer-facing knowledge base for your business

Catherine Heath | November 13, 2019

First, what is a knowledge base? According to Hubspot, a knowledge base is: 

“A centralized database for spreading information and data. Knowledge bases support collecting, organizing, retrieving, and sharing knowledge.”

A knowledge base can be either internal, external, or a combination of both. An internal knowledge base forms part of your Knowledge Management strategy. In this article we are concerned with an external customer-facing knowledge base. 

Think of your knowledge base as like the superstar customer support agent who is always available for your customers.

It’s becoming the gold standard for businesses to offer a self-service customer facing knowledge base to accompany their products and services. Though it takes time and effort to create, the value of a knowledge base has been aptly demonstrated. 

Now, we'll go through the top benefits of investing in a customer-facing knowledge base. 

1. Save time on customer queries

Businesses take on average 12 hours to respond to customer email queries, while customers expect businesses to respond to their emails within an hour. A self-service knowledge base, in comparison, can theoretically help your customers instantly. 

Having a successful knowledge base means you can improve the resolution rates of your customer queries. Instead of your agents having to answer each inquiry personally, you can deflect potential inquiries by having a knowledge base article available. 

Even better, an existing email reply from one of your agents can be quickly turned into a basic knowledge base article. Write once, reuse many times. 

Of course, if you want your customer knowledge base to be successful then you need to ensure that your customers can find your content. Promote your knowledge base at every opportunity, including through contextual help, customer support email footers, and linking prominently from your brand website. 

2. Attract new customers

Customer Acquisition Cost is how much it costs to convert a potential lead into a customer, and it’s an important metric for every business to think about. The average Customer Acquisition Cost in the software industry is $395 per customer – the goal is to lower this cost for every customer.

A public-facing customer knowledge base, therefore, has the potential to contribute towards – and even reduce the cost of – your marketing efforts. Potential customers will be impressed by your investment in customer support, which is a factor that savvy buyers will be taking into account when researching your product. 

“Every customer interaction is a marketing opportunity. If you go above and beyond on the customer service side, people are much more likely to recommend you,” says Stewart Butterfield, co-founder of Slack.

When faced with competing, similar products, many customers will choose the product with a strong self-service knowledge base, because it shows you care about your customers enough to provide them with helpful content. 

And once your knowledge base is up and running, it doesn’t require sales staff to pitch to potential leads, so it’s a relatively low-cost marketing method. Your knowledge base is there for all to see, and this is a good argument for linking prominently to your knowledge base from your company website. 

3. Improve the Customer Experience

Customer Experience is a vital part of creating a successful product. Customer Experience is the end-to-end experience and interactions that customers have with your brand, from the beginning of the customer journey to the end comprising of multiple touchpoints. 

A knowledge base is one touchpoint in the customer experience, and a chance to make the best impression you can. 

Unlike your customer agents, your knowledge base is available 24/7, and your knowledge base articles can be accessed instantly. If you write a knowledge base article once, you can later help multiple customers with ease. 

“Customer support is not an expense to be minimized, but an opportunity to be maximized,” according Dharmesh Shah, co-founder of HubSpot. Rather than being a cost center, improving the customer experience can increase revenue by $823 million over three years. 

4. Develop a self-service strategy

Customers nowadays expect a self-service customer support strategy – and 40% of customers prefer self-service to the alternative option of contacting a real person. A self-service strategy means that your customers can help themselves without the aid of human intervention, but self-service support must still be developed alongside a friendly, helpful customer support team.

In self-service, problems are solved before they have the chance to come to the attention of your team, saving untold hours of work. Customers are empowered to find the information they need without having to wait for an email or pick up a phone. Your self-service strategy covers all stages of the customer journey, and can range from onboarding, to troubleshooting, to product discovery. 

"The best customer service is if the customer doesn't need to call you, doesn't need to talk to you. It just works," says Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. This insightful quote is the core of what it means to provide customer self-service.

5. Improve customer retention

It’s common knowledge that it costs a lot less to retain existing customers than to acquire new ones, but it’s also correspondingly difficult to generate customer loyalty. A big part of your customer retention strategy means giving your customers what they want: access to self-service. 

“Offer your customers a long-term relationship, then do everything possible to build and maintain it,” says Brian Tracy, Author and Motivational Speaker.

We know that customers prefer to solve problems themselves rather than seek the aid of a human – research shows that a whole 67% of customers prefer self-service over speaking to a human. You will retain more customers by giving them what they want immediately, rather than forcing them to wait hours for information they could have found themselves in a knowledge base. 

If you are a SaaS company, your churn rate will be much higher if customers become frustrated with your software and don’t receive adequate support. Many customers stop doing business with a company just because they can’t access proper information. If you improve your customer retention rate by just 5%, then you stand to increase your profits by anywhere between 45% to 95%

6. Invest in proactive customer service

According to Forrester Research, one of the top trends in customer service is businesses exploring proactive customer service. “Businesses can’t afford to react to what their customers want; they need to anticipate their needs,” says Parker Harris, co-founder of Salesforce. And who knows your customers better than you? 

There’s a big difference between ‘reactive customer service’ and ‘proactive customer service’. Reactive customer service means waiting for problems to come to you in a passive manner. In contrast, proactive customer service means actively anticipating the needs of your customers, and providing them with solutions before they have the chance to even ask for them. Proactive customer service includes making an investment in your knowledge base software system. 

Companies who are ahead of the curve are increasingly investing in proactive customer service. The reason for this is that proactive customer service shows that you care about your customers. You have developed an accurate model of how customers use your products and services, and have created content to support them throughout the customer journey. 

It’s easier to get started than you think. Your help desk software is in-built with the analytics that can show you your most common customer queries. These topics can then be turned into knowledge base articles that you promote to your customers. 

7. Raise your SEO ranking

All public-facing content has the potential to contribute to your ranking in the Search Engine Results Page (SERPs) if properly indexed. This includes your customer-facing knowledge base. 

When customers are searching for queries that your knowledge base ranks for in search engines, this results in your content being shown to the searcher. If they click on your content then your SEO ranking slowly improves. 

While you shouldn’t be publishing clickbait content, improving your SEO ranking is important for your marketing efforts, since your brand will be exposed to more potential customers. Even better, these customers are directly interested in your products and services so your audience is relevant. 

SEO efforts also benefit your existing customers, since many of them will be searching online for information. You are meeting them exactly where they are if you index your knowledge base properly. We’ve published a whole post covering Search Engine Optimization for your knowledge base

8. Cut costs on phone calls

Every business cares about its bottom line, and a customer knowledge base can represent significant cost savings in customer support. 

It shouldn’t be your sole motivating factor for investing in a knowledge base, but a self-service interaction costs a heck of a lot less than the equivalent in phone or email support. A self-service knowledge base means you can also be a lot faster in helping your customers, and 66% of customers say that valuing their time is the number one thing they seek in a good online experience with a business. 

Even better, customers actually want to help themselves and they don’t want to be tied up in a phone queue. One agent on the phone can only help one customer at a time, but a knowledge base can help multiple customers – at any time of day. 

Final remarks

There are many benefits that come from investing in a customer-facing knowledge base. Your customers will end up happier and your team will too. From saving time on customer queries, to cutting costs, to improving the customer experience, it’s just good sense to build a robust knowledge base for your customers and it’s exactly what your customers want. 

Now, check out how you know when your company needs a knowledge base

Or, take our very own knowledge base software for customer-focused teams for a spin. 

About the author
Catherine Heath
Catherine Heath

Community builder at KnowledgeOwl. Blogs. Copy. Documentation. Freelance content writer for creative and ethical companies. Contributing to open source and teaching technical tools.

Catherine blogs on her personal websites Away With Words and Awkward Writer. She runs the Write the Docs Northwest meetup group. 

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