Avoid knowledge base tumbleweed: how to get your customers to self serve

Catherine Heath | January 5, 2021

So you’ve set up a knowledge base by following best practice guidelines and filled it with awesome, well-written content to help your customers - but no one is using it! 

This is a common problem and we want to help you with it. 

Look at it from the perspective of your customers. You know your knowledge base is there because you built it, but your customers are approaching it from the outside. You can’t expect customers to use something that they don’t know is there, even though you know your knowledge base will be super helpful to them. 

The benefits of self-service are enormous. Take for example, that 70% of customers now expect a company’s website to offer a self-service portal. These customers have a need for speed – labelling it something sensible. We recommend something like “support”, “help” or “documentation”. It has to be easy for customers to find and make intuitive sense. 

3. Understand and promote the benefits of self-service

Just like any product or service, you need to understand the benefits of your knowledge base in order to communicate them to your customers. A knowledge base is not just a way to cut support costs, but improve the customer experience and lower customer effort. 

  • Your knowledge base is available 24/7 – customers may need help any time of day and may be operating in different time zones. There is no need to wait for your customer service team to come online. 
  • Your knowledge base offers quicker response times – no waiting for an agent to get through the queue to answer the email, or wait on hold for a live agent. Customers can skip straight to the answer. 
  • Bypass human interaction – many customers would prefer not to talk to a human at all. There is a do-it-yourself mentality for customers that want to solve problems for themselves. 
  • Help more customers – there’s no way around it. Your knowledge base means you can help even more customers in a given timeframe, without increasing the capacity of your support team. 

4. Suggest content in your email responses

This is an easy one - train your support team to suggest relevant knowledge base content when a customer emails them with a query. 

You need to slowly implement a process of teaching your customers to self-serve rather than solely relying on your support agents for help. It’s not about rejecting customers and sending them to an article, but gently offering helpful articles that could help customers just as well as a human.

Instruct your support agents to politely link your customers to your knowledge base whenever your customers ask a question relating to existing content. Being able to answer customer queries with a knowledge base article is a great time-saver, and will improve morale among your agents. 

Customer support emails are also a great way to find new content for your knowledge base. If a customer has a problem that is not answered in the knowledge base, tag that email as requiring documentation. To keep your knowledge base current, regularly gather ideas from your team for new content based on the queries coming in from customers. 

5. Build up your knowledge base SEO

Customers don’t always search the company’s website for help. Many users instinctively turn to Google when they encounter a problem, so you need to meet them halfway. This means you need to make your knowledge base public for your customers.

There are no quick wins with SEO but you should optimize your knowledge base articles to show up in search engines. Include meta descriptions in your articles and title your content in a way that reflects natural search behavior.

If your content is useful and you’re directing traffic to it, your pages will start to rank for your customers’ search queries. When customers search for queries relating to your product or service online in popular search engines such as Google, your documentation will show up in the results. 

You should also submit a sitemap to Google, the most popular search engine by far, so the search engine knows your site exists.

Eventually, you’ll be driving your customers to your knowledge base with no effort whatsoever. 

6. Include new content in your newsletter

You probably have an email marketing strategy in place for your existing subscribers - and if not, it’s time to start one! Email marketing is great for engagement, driving conversions and building your company brand. 

An email marketing strategy consists of sending regular updates to your subscribers, often involving a monthly or fortnightly news email in which you can include links to your new knowledge base articles. 

Try to base your new content around a theme, such as saying that this month you’re working on helping customers to improve their understanding of your software platform. This makes your content seem more timely and relevant.

7. Embed a widget in your application

If you’re using the right knowledge base software, you can embed a widget in your company website, company intranet, or web-based software application. A miniature version of your knowledge base will appear inside another system. This approach means that customers can find contextually relevant articles from your knowledge base without context-switching. 

Requiring users to switch to an external website includes an extra step that may result in lost users. Using the widget, customers can stay inside your application while also being able to search your knowledge base. Even if you don’t provide relevant articles, a widget can contain your whole knowledge base, in which users can also search for articles they think might help them. 

The widget is a fast and easy way for customers to find useful content directly in your application. 

Your turn!

These are just a few tactics you can use to increase traffic to your knowledge base. Customers will appreciate your efforts to help them help themselves, and it’s only a matter of time before customers start regularly turning to your knowledge base for help. 

Creating a consistent knowledge base strategy takes time and effort, but you won’t regret it, as you’ll be vastly improving the productivity of your support team in the long term.

KnowlegeOwl provides sophisticated, affordable software that allows you to make your own knowledge base. Contact us at support@knowledgeowl.com today to find out more.

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