Every company’s reputation relies on its customers.
If the world’s beaten a path to your door but you end up doing a bad job dealing with customers, word is going to get out and you’ll lose sales no matter how good your mousetrap is.
Just as much as marketing relies on the relationship with prospects, the customer service branch of your company needs to rely on its relationship with existing customers. Believe it or not, companies compete on this front just about as much as they compete on the merits of their individual products!
In recent years, a new tool has come into play in the arsenal of customer service teams everywhere. That’s the customer service knowledge base, also known as an externally-facing knowledge base.
By now, in 2020, it’s outgrown its early quirks and moved into the spotlight as a tool that can really make the difference between a positive and a negative customer service experience.
What is a Customer Service Knowledge Base?
A knowledge base is similar in principle to a wiki. It’s a collection of articles arranged into a hierarchy, much like how an encyclopedia might be broken up by subject or geographical area.
The subject, though, is your product and how to use it. It might cover, for instance, everything from the initial setup process to advanced power user techniques – there are no limits in size.
An editor or team of editors is in charge of handling the design, layout and structure of the pages and the categories so that users can drill down and quickly find all of the information they might need on a specific topic.
Generally, most companies choose to fully integrate their knowledge bases with their main websites. That means the URL, page title, and even the overall design will fit seamlessly into your website’s design theme, and there won’t be any way to tell that you didn’t code it from scratch on your own servers.
Even easier than a good structure, though, is search. Knowledge bases are known as being somewhat similar to search engines, in that you put in a query and get back the articles related to that query. However, these search bars are fine-tuned specifically for help-related searches.
As you put in a query, you’ll instantly see the articles that match up, even arranged by order of probable relevance after the very first word. A lot of engineering goes into the search bar specifically, because that’s what your customers are going to use as their very first point of contact.
Once they find the article title matching what they want to know (for example: “how to make a date appear on the auto-generated reports”), the goal is that they can learn how to do the task as soon as possible. The articles are brief and to the point, and after reading there’s even a quick rating they can complete to let you all know how hard it was to follow the instructions.
That all sounds fine and dandy for the customer, but what’s in it for you?
Why a Customer Service Knowledge Base is Important?
Think about it – people like helping themselves. They’re not necessarily interested in waiting for a long time in a phone service queue, or in trying not to fall asleep while waiting for a text chat support rep to finish typing. If there’s a single place where they can access high-quality support, then you no longer have to pay for any live people to work as your full-time instant customer service team.
Even if you’re offshoring phone support to a place with lower wages, you’re still looking at a monthly savings of a couple thousand dollars by going with a knowledge base over an actual phone team.
And when a decision like that makes your customers happier because they found their answers quicker, it’s a win-win for everyone involved.
You also end up with a stronger sense of authority cultivated in your own company in the online community.
When you Google a tech support question, you’re probably going to find answers from Quora, StackOverflow, Tom’s Hardware, and so on. Only rarely do you come up with actual usable tech support answers from the software maker’s own website – but when you do, it’s a great feeling, right?
Finally, the people writing the software are taking responsibility for supporting it directly!
Of course, you’re seeing this more and more with the rise of knowledge bases. Having this kind of information right there on the website looks sleek and professional, and allows your users to have increased faith that you’ll be the company to look to for answers.
All this extra content on your own domain, with the appropriate traffic going to it, is of course going to have a side benefit: increasing your search engine rankings.
Companies spend a lot of time and energy fine-tuning their websites and creating interesting content to publish all in the hopes of getting a few more clicks and bumping up a few more slots on the search engine ranking totem pole.
The addition of a knowledge base is sure to drive that up by quite a bit.
And perhaps you’ve already noticed, but when you search for a general tech support question, you’ll often find results from people with similar products. That means that if you have a knowledge base well-optimized for SEO, your software solutions are going to appear when people search for problems they’re having with your competitors.
When they come across your website, you now have an opportunity to impress them and clinch another sale.
Sound like a dream? Keep reading and find out how to make your customer service knowledge base into the best it can be.
Seven Steps to Building and Keeping a Top-Quality Customer Service Knowledge Base
If you follow these seven principles, your knowledge base will be ranked up there with the best of them.
1. Know Your Audience
Starting out with documentation requires great understanding of your audience. A great way to do this is to create a “buyer persona” that breaks down all basic characteristics of your audience.
As HubSpot puts it: “A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.”
Here is a simple example of a buyer persona from HubSpot: