by Niamh Lynch
Published on 30 September 2014
Knowledge bases. Yeah, I hear ya. It's not the most exciting part of your business , is it? People don't rave about knowledge bases on Twitter, or center their purchasing decisions on how good your FAQ is, but don't make the mistake that other businesses do.
Just because it's not the sexiest side of help desk software doesn't mean that it's worth skipping or doing the minimum required. Building a good knowledge base is essential to the long-term maintenance of your brand. Sure, it's probably not going to set anyone's soul on fire, but a good experience with a slick knowledge base and the understanding that it's a great place to look for answers or even inspiration goes a long, long way towards cementing your brand as a great bet in the minds of your clients (and in saving your customer success team time and money by automating the answering of those simpler questions.)
So lets get started.
If your knowledge base isn't everything it should be, there are a few probable reasons. Time is one. The sheer size of the job might be another. Unless you have a very simple, very niche product, there's probably a lot you can say about your product or service. Once you round up existing content, produce new documentation and string it all together, you're going to have lots and lots of material. Deciding what to use, how to organize it and what to leave out can be very overwhelming.
You may have started to tackle the job and created some essential content. But where do you put it, and how can you be sure that people will find it when they need to? Is it properly formatted? Can you find it on Google? Does it look good? Is it even in the right category? After spending too much time scratching your head in front of a computer screen, you may well have decided that you couldn't waste any more on the job and simply gave up.
Sound like you? There's a simple answer to the problem of both time and size. Get yourself some help desk software, hook it up and get to work. A knowledge base creation module is included in the vast majority, and will provide a step-by-step guide to creating content. It will pre-organize the knowledge base hierarchy (the key job, some would say), and once it knows what to do, automate lots of it. So your knowledge base software will tell you what to do, and then go and do most of it. Read this to get the basics of how help desk software aids customer support, and then keep the following three principles in mind to make sure your knowledge base is ready to wow:
Knowledge bases have come a long way from FAQs - a really long way. It's no longer helpful to think of them as FAQs' bigger, brighter brothers, though. You're going to need to change your mindset a little. Zendesk sums it up perfectly when it talks of "online self service", rather than just a knowledge base. With this concept, it combines the Knowledge Base (obviously), Community (forums) and Customer Portal (a non-immediate request for information). These are all self-contained, relatively passive sources of information for your clients that nonetheless add up to an above-average experience.
Other knowledge base software will divide it up differently, or add more or fewer modules to the concept, but the take-away is this: your knowledge base should be part of a bigger machine that works in perfect harmony with both the knowledge base itself, and the rest of your customer support services. Check how your CRM tool sees the concept of "self service" and see if it works for you.
The concept of "bells and whistles" differs from one knowledge base creation tool to the next, but some offer genius features that are so innovative, you'd be mad not to take advantage. Take Freshdesk , for example. For a start, this piece of software has an "email to kbase (the knowledge base module)" feature. So, when your support agents spend 20 minutes writing an email to explain the finer details of a problem to a client, they can mark the email to send to the software, which converts it into a draft knowledge base post to be published at your leisure!
Need another example of the awesomeness? Another of Freshdesk's features helps you deal with the time issue we mentioned above - it integrates directly into Google Analytics, so you can find out immediately what your customers are looking for, and concentrate on answering those questions first. Other tools have their own special features, and they're rarely shy about letting you know. Don't look this gift horse in the mouth!
In the olden days, knowledge bases had some bullet points and, if you were really lucky, an expanding menu or two. Not any more. These days, your knowledge base can look as bright and shiny as any other page on your website, often with less effort. The knowledge base can be a really boring place. Now's the time for images, videos, illustrated/annotated screenshots, screencasts, slideshows , whatever you think might help your customers understand the issues they're likely to encounter.
When you use knowledge base software like the module offered by Kayako , this is as easy as adding an image to a blog post. Just make sure the extras are completely relevant - and that they display properly - and you won't regret it.
Remember, just having a knowledge base isn't enough. It's the under-appreciated workhorse of your customer service offering, and it deserves a bit of love. Incorporate these three tips into your knowledge base creation, and you'll end up with a help desk you can be proud of!