It’s where your customers will go when they’re confused about a feature, they can’t log in to their account, they need more information on your returns policy, or a feature isn’t working. It might be called a “Knowledge Base,” “Support Center,” “Help Center,” “Documentation,” or even live on the “Customer Service” page. It makes room for virtually every question a customer has asked—or may ask.

When designed well, it can:

  • Direct customers to the answers to whatever range of questions they have
  • Teach them how to pose their questions more effectively
  • Improve their experience with both your website and your product/service, since it helps them find their answers quickly

That’s a win-win for everybody.

What’s the difference between a “knowledge base,” a “help center,” and so on?

For the most part, there’s little to no difference between them. Whatever the page is called, it’s a collection of resources that customers can use to troubleshoot their problems and answer their questions.

The one difference is that a help or support center often has other resources available, as well. Articles and other self-services resources will be showcased, but there may also be a live chat option, a phone number to call, or an email to reach out to.

Reasons to create a knowledge base

Customers prefer to help themselves

According to an Amdocs survey, 75% of customers prefer an online self-service option to using a call center. Additionally, 91% say they’d “use a single, online knowledge base if it were available and tailored to their needs.” (The word “if” is the most important word of that statistic).

Think about it from your own POV. If you’re already frustrated with a product or service, do you want to call a 1-800 line and sit through a series of recorded menus, pressing buttons and hoping that the hold time is short? Or would you rather look up the answers on your own?

Granted, some people do want to talk to a person—that’s why phone support will never be obsolete. But others want to learn on their own, fix the problems themselves, and feel empowered by their capacity to do so. If your support center helps them accomplish these goals, they’ll love your product and your website all the more for it.

It educates and supports your own team

If you have an especially complex product or service, it’s possible that there are questions your own support team doesn’t know the answer to. Having a full knowledge base on your site isn’t just a boon for customers—it helps your team, too. The better your documentation, the quicker your team members will be able to answer questions.

It can also help your support team provide a more uniform experience to customers. If your whole team is referring to the same documentation, then they’ll be more consistent in answering questions. In fact, if you have a small support team, a knowledge base is one of the most cost-effective ways you can help them manage their workload. A comprehensive knowledge base can reduce the number of tickets that your support team gets. And, of course, it costs substantially less to set up and maintain support documentation than to hire additional employees for your support team.

It helps you build better products (and offer better services)

Creating a thorough knowledge base can be both daunting and tedious. But making yourself do that work often gives you insight into your customers.

As you write out the answers to commonly-asked questions, explaining the steps and procedures customers need to take, you’re very literally putting yourself in your customers’ shoes. This makes it easier to take note of the problems, pain points, and imperfections customers experience with your product, and think about how you can improve them in the future.

What should I include in my knowledge base?

Your knowledge base needs to answer every potential customer question, including extremely niche ones. The goal here is to create the most comprehensive source of information possible.

That means you need to:

Explain everything

In a knowledge base, there’s no such thing as over-explaining. In fact, you should write your support documentation as though the customer reading them is a brand-new user. Cut the jargon, and don’t assume that your customers know what you’re talking about when you use industry or product terminology.

To that end, consider getting your whole team involved in the process. Ask your technical experts how they explain certain terms to customers who aren’t specialized or technically-minded. Ask your customer service team how they break down complex procedures over the phone. What does the list of customer questions your teams have answered this year look like? If your team isn’t already tracking the questions they get, now’s a great time to start.

Here are some other ways you can create support documents that are clear and easy to understand:

  • Using simple titles that are created from the customer’s POV (i.e., “How do I do X?” instead of “Using the X Feature”)
  • Making them skimmable by using bolding, headers, and bullet-point lists
  • Including videos and how-to graphics to supplement the text

Repurpose your content

We’ve talked about FAQs before, and hopefully you already have one. This is a great place to repurpose that content. Many businesses include a “Quick links” or “Popular topics” section on their knowledge base, which is essentially a product- or category-specific FAQ.

You can also make things easier for yourself in the future by making all of your support copy reusable and interlinked. For example, if one page explains a specific product feature in depth, link to that page any time that feature comes up in another question or answer. Doing this means that if that answer or feature changes, you won’t have to rewrite every article—you’ll only have to update one of them.

Go multimedia

In general, multimedia content is becoming more and more common on the internet, and your support documentation is a great place to make use of it.

Everyone takes in information differently. If you want your knowledge base to cater to the broadest range of customers possible, you have to account for this fact. Wherever you can, supplement text with images, diagrams, and videos. Videos in specific are invaluable for walking your customers through more complex processes or topics. They’re also easy to create by using simple screencasting software like Loom or Camtasia.

Don’t forget to ask for feedback

The most important thing you can do when it comes to support content? Let your customers tell you where your language is too vague, or which screenshots don’t help them.

Using this feedback, you can return to the drawing board and clarify those aspects of your support documentation that customers find…well, unsupportive. Make it as easy as possible for customers to send this feedback. One way to do this is by letting customers rate articles based on how helpful they are (a feature that Zoho Desk offers), or having a comment form at the bottom of the page.

You should also be keeping an eye out for additional questions that you need to add to documentation. Looking at customer comments, along with the terms that visitors are searching for (that don’t have a corresponding page yet), can give you a head start there.

The more time and effort you put into building a solid knowledge base, the less time you’ll be spending, in the long run, on customer support. And that time will pay off doubly, because your customers’ faith in your overall capacity to preempt and answer their questions will soar.

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