What is a Knowledge Base?
A knowledge base is a carefully documented and written information bank about a product or subject that is available to the public for the sole purpose of fostering effective communication between a company and its customers.
A knowledge base can provide accurate, relevant, and analyzed information curated for easy accessibility and usability.
Uses of a Knowledge Base
A knowledge base is sometimes used to educate an organization’s customers on how to solve minor problems encountered while using any of their products. It can also include a complete guide on how to use products and maintain them. A knowledge base is customer inclined and is a pool of answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) by customers.
A knowledge base can also include information about the company’s dos and don’ts for recruits and also updated measures and advised company methods for responses to peculiar problems facing the company. For instance, a knowledge base can include the proper process or way to respond to social media outrage targeted at the company.
Importance of a Knowledge Base
An accurate and relevant knowledge base will help an organization communicate effectively with its clients. There will be no immediate need for the members of trained staff to attend to customer’s needs when there is a knowledge base that provides answers to customer’s questions.
The existence of a well-collected knowledge base will help customers attend to themselves without needing the guidance of trained staff. This will reduce the workload on the team and aid productivity. Trained staff will only step in when there is a problem the customers cannot solve on their own. Also, a knowledge base can help as a learning source for recruits. With the information at hand, the recruit can make informed decisions when representing the organization or dealing with clients.
From experience, people do not like to wait in line or be asked to remain on the phone when trying to solve a problem they encountered while using a product. They prefer being in control and having answers immediately. Without a good knowledge base, customers may be frustrated at having to wait on the phone while trying to solve a persistent problem. A good knowledge base will provide self-help services for customers, which will promote users’ experience.
Can Serve as a Learning Tool
In explaining the importance of a knowledge base to the company, staff, and customers, we have touched a little bit on how it is a learning tool. A knowledge base is a repository of resources and information on a product and a company. Now for the customer, a knowledge base is an excellent forum to learn about a product purchased, services acquired, and also information about the organization or the company.
For the staff, it is an avenue to learn about the company, its policies, customer engagement principles, and how best to manage the crisis.
With thousands of entries, the software can make informed decisions and suggestions.
Careful observation of the pool of information, data, and questions provided by users and visitors can help an organization collect data and understand what problems customers are facing and develop strategies on how to solve these problems.
Constituents of a Knowledge Base
Sources of information and data in a knowledge base can come from anywhere. They can include information from surveys conducted by researchers of the company and also policies formulated by the department in question or the organization as a whole. They can also have data from product manuals and how-to guides.
Type of Content in a Knowledge Base
A knowledge base consists of frequently asked questions. It is a platform for users to identify with a particular problem and get answers to them. A troubleshooting guide provides different suggestions to fundamental problems encountered by a user. Also, a knowledge base can use video demonstrations to help give the user a visual description of how to solve a problem.
Structure of a Knowledge Base
These structures may include; a landing page/ search field, topic categorization/tags, other pages, and footer information. The first thing the user sees when they enter a knowledge base or website is the home page. It is vital to have a search field because immediacy is the whole point of a knowledge base, and search fields emphasize the urgency of the information needed. Proper categorization from a pool of researched information will aid user experience and aid seamless navigation.
Benefits of a Knowledge Base
Lowers Workload for Customer Service
With a knowledge base, the trained staff do not have to attend to every issue as they have been covered in the knowledge base. This will help save costs and promote efficiency and productivity.
24/7 Customer and Company Interaction
At any time of the day, the customer can reach out to the company via its knowledge base to solve any problem.
Increases Website Traffic
It is essential to have customers and prospective customers visit your website as these groups of people can be converted into paying clients.
Immediacy and ease of accessibility to information are some of the ways to win a customer or keep them. Effective self-service allows customers to solve their problems at the click of a button, and this helps to increase customer satisfaction.
Consistent and Up-to-Date Information Bank
Adequate knowledge is useful for both the external and internal audiences of a company. Ease of access and use improves credibility and resource-saving.
Improves Productivity and Cost-Effectiveness
A solid knowledge base will help the company reduce the cost of training employees about company procedures as all the information needed is in the information bank. Also, it will help to direct company efforts from answering phone calls and questions from customers to more pressing matters.
Measuring Knowledge Base KPIs and Your Company’s Growth
KPIs (key performance indicators) are quantified values that measure the progress of any process, person, or team. KPIs are also specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). A knowledge base is a set of information about a product, service, or department within your organization.
The information age requires that your customers can instantly access all the information they need about your company. Furthermore, your internal stakeholders also need easy access to policies and procedures data to fulfill their roles.
Most of us can recall the special spot in our childhood homes that chronicled our growing heights. Similarly, these KPIs measure the effectiveness of your knowledge base in driving your company’s profitability and growth.
Types of Knowledge Base KPIs
Some broad KPI categories include strategic versus operational, qualitative versus quantitative, leading versus lagging, efficiency versus effectiveness, and production process KPIs.
Let’s focus on the last broad category:
- Inputs KPIs: evaluate the inputs for your knowledge base such as personnel, content, graphics, images, etc.
- Process KPIs: analyze all processes involved in creating your knowledge base.
- Outputs KPIs: assess the quality of items in the knowledge base like your company’s website, blog, and social media platforms.
- Outcomes KPIs: gauge how customers and stakeholders interact with your knowledge base and their satisfaction levels.
- Project KPIs: You may have projects (like an advertising campaign) to evaluate.
Benefits of Measuring KPIs
Some benefits of knowledge base KPIs are:
- Accountability: Defined metrics/KPIs empower employees and other stakeholders to take ownership of their roles, processes, and project outcomes.
- Transparency: KPIs define the expected results so everyone knows what needs to be done.
- Strategic Goals:: KPIs are critical in developing and evaluating your company’s strategic goals.
- Success Measurement: KPIs let you know how well your teams are doing and provide insights for future successes.
Popular Knowledge Base KPIs
A few knowledge base KPIs include:
- Search Metrics: These metrics help you to assess the reach and use of your knowledge base.
- Traffic: Your knowledge base must be accessible and useful to many persons (high traffic).
- Views versus Cases: The number of support ticket cases should decline as more people utilize your knowledge base.
- Common Issue Categories: As more people use your knowledge base to troubleshoot, there should be a reduction in less critical ticket categories.
- Bounce Rate/Time on Page: You want to reduce the bounce rate and increase the time spent on your site (ideally 2-3 minutes per page).
- New versus Returning: While you want to attract new visitors, you also want repeat visits.
- Feedback: If your articles and posts have many comments and other interactions, then that’s a great sign of customer engagement!
Embrace Knowledge Base KPIs
Knowledge is power and providing on-demand knowledge is like unleashing a superpower. So you need to document all aspects of your organization’s operations and make this information readily available. The profitability and growth of your company lie in the size of your network, which in turn, must be fueled by an effective knowledge base that serves the best interests of your internal and external stakeholders.
Knowledge Management Challenges
One of the most challenging things about documentation is extracting Knowledge from reluctant and or busy resources. This is the reason why technical writers are hired in the first place because managers don’t have the time or ability to round everybody up and get them to divulge their processes.
Sometimes the reason why it’s hard to get information from your subject matter experts is because they are simply so busy getting their job done that they don’t have the time. Of course with some prompting from management they will have to set aside some time however, they often need to be reminded and this is where a technical writer who has project management skills can be very effective. Such a technical writer can create a strategy to work with your resources and employees the schedule time to extract information in a way that allows your employees to continue to do their job and meet their objectives.
Another reason why it can be hard to extract information from subject matter experts can be that they are reluctant to give up the information for fear of losing control over their position. This is an understandable fear, however it must be overcome and the information must be documented so that way when that employee is not available the process will be available to those who need to backfill them at the time.
All organizations need to come up with their own list of best practices depending on their knees. The following is a list of best practices you can use to get started drafting your own.
The type of audience you are writing for should be one of your first considerations before you start drafting content. The type of language you use as well as the way you structure the knowledge article will differ depending on whether you’re writing for your senior engineers, your customer service representatives, or for your customer-facing portal.
Customers will not understand your software as well as your engineers will. That’s why you need a skilled technical writer who can write for the level of knowledge that is appropriate for your audience. For example your customers may not understand acronyms that you may use. So you’ll want to be sure to spell those out.
Adhering to Style
Keeping the look consistent across all of your articles will make it much easier for your audience to digest the content. The best way to keep the content consistent is by creating templates that Define the look and feel of your articles. Requiring anybody who inputs content into the knowledge base to use the templates will ensure consistent style across the board. Additionally having an approval process where there is one person assigned to make the final decision on whether an article is formatted correctly before it is published can help keep the adherence to style consistent.
Having a standard of using single sourcing for all information will save your business a lot of time considering you will not need to edit multiple sources when information changes. Single sourcing means that information resides in one place, and if it is referenced in other places is linked directly to that single source and is not repeated on other sources that need to reference it.
A knowledge base will become no good if the information and it is not kept up to date. Therefore an organization should establish a regular timeline upon which documentation should be reviewed in the future. This timeline should be flexible based on the type of application or thing you’re writing about. Of course if it’s very critical you will want to review documentation more often. Knowledge should be reviewed to make sure the information is accurate and timely, to verify if there are any changes in ownership to the information in the knowledge, or to see if the knowledge is Obsolete and should be removed from the knowledge Repository.
You want to make sure to remove articles that are no longer necessary. Having knowledge that is out of date in your knowledge base or repository can cause a couple of issues. The first is that it just loads more data on to the server then this totally needs to be, so of course the less knowledge there is out there the less data is on the server
Another reason you want to remove old knowledge articles is so it avoids confusion in case somebody finds the article and thinks that it might be relevant. When the knowledge isn’t there for somebody to find there will be no confusion as to if it is something that should be used or not.
Scheduling reviews for updating and or retiring articles is Paramount to keeping control over the freshness of your knowledge base. Many knowledge base software have the ability to set an expiration date for the article. In the absence of the ability to set an expiration date, it’s suggested that you work out a process to ensure that articles are reviewed in a predetermined time frame, often a common time frame maybe within 6 months or within a year of the Articles published date.
Performing a gap analysis will allow your organization to map out where there are holes and will help identify where information is missing and how to find it to add to the process. A technical writer can perform Gap analysis by interviewing the management as well as their team to find out what processes and information are missing and are affecting their ability to perform their tasks expediently. One way that the gaps can be identified is by using a gap analysis spreadsheet template that can be sent to the group you are assisting to have them list out areas where they see where they need more information, where they believe the information May lie, and then list out some other stuff here
Current documentation already available in your organisations network is a perfect place to start. Work with your team to find all potential resources for documentation that may exist. This includes looking on shared drives, individual laptops and desktops, Share point websites, And any other repositories where its potential that employees could have documented procedures and policies.
In the typical business organisation that does not have a dedicated technical writer, often tribal knowledge is the main repository of information. Tribal knowledge is when your employees have their jobs memorised but have never actually documented what their jobs are.
Often for engineers and other employees translating travel knowledge into written documentation is difficult; for one some employees are not comfortable writing and do not have the skill sets to do as such successfully, and another reason is because they are often so busy with their job they don’t take the time to document their procedures. This is another reason why a dedicated technical rider can be a great solution to ensuring Your employees tribal knowledge makes it into formal documentation.
Scouting for Information in Emails
Much good information is passed along in department-wide emails that often does not get put into the knowledge base. A skilled technical writer will always have their eye out for knowledge they can extract from day-to-day Communications within the organization.
Shadowing is the act of sitting behind the engineer and watching them perform their job. This can be done in the form of physically sitting there with the engineer at their desk. In this day and age of social distancing, this also can be done simply by using online applications such as Microsoft teams, Zoom, maybe name some others that allow you to share your desktop out.
How to Develop a Knowledge Base
How do you develop a knowledge base from start to finish? Here are a few steps below to get you started.
Identify a Knowledge Base Owner
This person can be the reviewer for all articles before they are published. This person also can be responsible for ensuring that all articles are kept up-to-date they would manage a system to ensure articles were looked at in a timely fashion whether it be every week, 6 months, or once a year. If your organisation employs a technical writer, then this person will be a perfect person for the job.
If your organization is very complex and how several departments comment it may be necessary to appoint multiple knowledge based owners. If this is the case then you will want to establish one employee to be the lead knowledge base administrator. This person can coordinate with all of the other knowledge base owners to ensure that they follow the proper protocol and processes to publish documentation.
Create a Process to Flag Problematic Articles
Establish a standard process to notify knowledge based owners of articles that need to be updated or retired. Some knowledge management software comes with features to make comments or add tags to the article.
Select Content Contributors
While all employees can write content, for each department it’s best to have 1 or 2 people who are the main contributors to your knowledge base. If your team has a dedicated SME or lead, they may be the best to make the primary contributions to the knowledge base. A content contributor is not necessarily the knowledge base owner. It could be the same person, however you may want to have multiple contributors that create articles for your knowledge base owner to approve. Typically you want to choose employees who are SMEs or are otherwise highly knowledgeable.
Establish standards for your knowledge base including article templates. By creating article templates ahead of time you will ensure that your content remains consistent no matter who publishes it. Some article templates you may want to create include:
- Problem / Resolution
- Escalation Process
- Service Request
Master of Style Document
To supplement your knowledge base templates, create a Master of Style document that defines the text format, color schemes, graphic format, video format, and writing style used within the knowledge articles. This will help not only as a guide for your contributors but also as a means to create a checklist for your reviewers to use to verify an article is adhering to the standards before publishing.
Design a Publishing Review Process
Whether you have one knowledge based contributor or you have several you want to create a publishing review process. Even if you’re using templates you still want to ensure that your employees are actually using them correctly. A publishing review process can encompass comparing the contributed document with the standards that are set in your master of style document. Reviewers that find any problems in the submitted content can reject it and return it to the contributor and request that they make the appropriate corrections
How to Manage a Knowledge Base
The 1st step in managing a knowledge base is to set up a regular time frame to review your articles. Discuss scheduling timely reviews (every 6 months, year, for example). Some KB software has the capability to set expiration dates so maybe mention some brands.
For a knowledge base that does not have the ability to set a expiration date, you can manually manage your content using an Excel spreadsheet.
Once you have identified articles that need to be updated, you next need to have a process to update those articles. The first step in this process is identifying if you have the information you need, and if not the next step will be to figure out how you’re going to gather the updated information. Once you’ve gathered the information, the next step will be to follow the process you’ve already established by creating your knowledge templates and update your knowledge article per your master of style document.
Remove Outdated Content
You want to remove outdated content as soon as possible from your knowledge base. Reasons why include:
- Saves space on the server
- Prevent mistakes made by using old out of date documentation
Adherence to Templates
Developing a common style for your knowledge base articles will help keep your repository looking consistent and professional. By having a predetermined style you can hold anybody who contributes to the knowledge base accountable.
Pre-formatted templates can be designed so that all articles have the same appearance in regards to fonts, colors, formatting styles, image styles, etc.
When you have multiple contributors writing documentation for your knowledge base, it is recommended that you have an approval process to ensure that the writers adhere to all of your standards.
The reviewer should have a checklist of items to ensure that the documentation fits the standards. if the document does not meet the standards then it will need to be returned to the contributor with a request to make the required updates.
Knowledge Base Software
Knowledge base software is a database used for knowledge sharing and management. The primary reason for having a knowledge base software is for your team and potential customers to be provided with detailed and accurate information about products and services. A knowledge base software works for all sectors and markets as it can be used in adequately describing a business or company’s goal, priorities, and services.
Types of Knowledge Base Software
Wiki is slightly different from other knowledge base software, as the portal consists of data contributed by different online users. On the other hand, a knowledge base software is maintained by either a private team or pitches received by a selected few.
Wikis are hypertext publications edited and managed by its audience with the aid of a web browser. These Wikis are enabled by a content management system labeled wiki engines. Contents here are without any specified creator or owner; they also lack any form of inherent structure.
Enterprise Knowledge Base Software
An example of enterprise Knowledge base software is HelpCrunch, which specializes in information gathering, storage, and retrieval. HelpCrunch is based on a wide range of practices used by different individuals, businesses, or organizations to identify, distribute, and create information for employees, customers, and a variety of other purposes.
HelpCrunch offers live chat, email marketing, pop-ups, ticketing, and knowledge base functionality. HelpCrunch is a simple, fast, and modern tool that is designed to make information storage as convenient as possible. The knowledge management system allows users to manually change SEO details for every article on the database for better detection.
Software as a Service (SaaS) model
Software as a Service, also known as SaaS, is a software distribution model with a third-party provider host which provides information online for public use. SaaS is another form of cloud computing, but the only difference is that information is made available for viewing.
An example of SaaS knowledge base software is Intercom. This platform permits users to create their knowledge base articles easily, with Intercom’s advanced editor’s aid. The editor also allows users to add multimedia files. Intercom provides lead generation, customer onboarding, and support, making it easier for customers to access your services.
Other SaaS models include Document360, Zendesk, Atlassian confluence, and LiveAgent.
Key Features to Look for in a Knowledge Base Software
There are a lot of features that enable users to conveniently and efficiently use the knowledge base software. Some of these features include search functionality, which aids users in quickly locating saved documents. Other features include user feedback, file attachment, and SEO settings.
One great thing about a knowledge management system is that it provides users with the ability to search for documents. Searchable documents range from personal files to other publicly or privately contributed information.
Knowledge management systems such as wikis and Document360 permit users to give feedback on information deposited online. This feature permits authors to understand the thoughts of their readers.
For efficient upload and input of information into the knowledge management database, file attachment buttons are available. As mentioned earlier, this button permits authors to add pre-saved data in the form of Ms. Word or other text documents.
Analytics and Reporting Capabilities
Analytics and reports help boost an author’s morale so they can generate more information for public use. A sound knowledge base system such as Document360 and Wiki provides authors with analytics and reports of the number of likes and views their page has, number of articles created, broken links, author activities, and the total number of searches.
A good knowledge base software should have a feature permitting authors and contributors to add information in their desired language. This feature enables convenience for individuals who are not familiar with the use of the English language.
For a knowledge base software to be termed “good,” it should conveniently serve its users. Organization and navigation are essential features necessary for authors, contributors, and information seekers to use the software seamlessly.
Text Editor Features
A text editor is a software used in either editing or creating new files with relevant information. Such a text editor has to be as easy-to-use as Microsoft Word, a standard tool for creating and editing texts.
For readers who aren’t aware, SEO means Search Engine Optimization. It is the criteria responsible for a page’s ranking on Google. SEO works with the use of simple keywords, which is most used by searchers on different topics. A good knowledge base software should be SEO enabled so your content’s visibility and ranking is boosted.
A knowledge base software is an excellent way of increasing traffic and understanding of your company’s services. This software reduces the number of phone calls arriving at your Self-service support center. Utilizing the assistance of a Knowledge base software for SaaS products helps in the better ranking of your page and customer orientation due to the convenience it provides to users.