Over the past couple decades, the ideal customer experience has changed dramatically in response to evolving consumer expectations. The rise of online business has widened consumer options, changed consumer expectations, and redefined how merchants look at customer success.

The evolution of online consumption has benefited both consumers and businesses; however, it has also changed the interaction between a brand's employees and customers. No longer is white-glove service the norm. Most customers expect and demand instant self-service implementation, which means products must be simple to learn and use. Also, onboarding information must be easily accessible. That's where knowledge bases come in.

So, what exactly is a knowledge base, and how does it work? How can you have a knowledge base that sets you apart from your competitors and takes your customer service and user experience up a notch? We'll answer all these questions in this guide. By the end of the article, you will understand the benefits of keeping a knowledge base and how to write one for your product.

What is a knowledge base?

A Knowledge Base (KB) collects published documentation ranging from detailed guides, troubleshooting instructions, manuals, and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). The main idea behind a knowledge base is to provide the users with every piece of knowledge they would require to use a product or a service. A knowledge base makes it easy for users to find solutions to their product-related problems. A knowledge base may refer to the knowledge base software that contains all the information or the content itself, depending on the context in which it is used.

What is a knowledge base for?

So, now we know what a knowledge base is. But what are KB articles used for?

Answering customer questions

We mentioned that the core purpose of a knowledge base is to provide solutions to problems that customers may face, empowering them to solve their issues without customer support team involvement. So, naturally, your knowledge base should cover all common questions that your company gets from customers. In this way, a knowledge base is similar to an FAQs section, and indeed, your KB might contain a FAQ section. Creating a solid knowledge base and pre-emptively answering these questions takes the load off of your customer help center, reduces support tickets, and frees your customer support team up to handle more complicated problems.

Provide an overview of new features or services

In addition to answering questions about products already in use, a knowledge base provides companies a centralized place to aggregate detailed guides and manuals about new services and products. This repository frees your employees up from menial tasks, such as constantly explaining a product's overview to each potential customer. It allows your team to focus on more skill-demanding tasks. Be sure to organize new content as it is added before knowledge management gets out of hand. Simple hygiene practices will allow your team to access information quickly and conveniently and makes it easier to navigate customer queries.

Step-by-step guides

Step-by-step guides and manuals about products and services provide users with easy access to all the information they might need. Step-by-step directions must be detailed enough to easily navigate every customer through the process at their own pace.

Creating step-by-step guides takes the brunt of the burden off your customer support team without negatively impacting your customer service's integrity.

Why do you need a knowledge base?

Even if you have an excellent customer support team, why is it still a good idea to invest in a knowledge base?

Knowledge bases support different learning styles.

People learn in different ways at different paces. A good customer support service should cater to people of varying learning styles and guide them at their own pace. Not all customers are comfortable interacting with live representatives, and many consumers may struggle to follow what your team is trying to convey. Thus it's so important to have an extensive knowledge base that caters to every type of customer.

Keeping the customer support information in various media formats such as text, pictures, audio, and videos provides your customers with different options to pick from. Knowledge bases provide an alternative to face-to-face communication but without tarnishing the quality and integrity of the interactions.

Many people prefer self-service.

Building on the previous point, many people have different preferences regarding customer support. While some people like the option of live chat with an employee readily available from the help center, others prefer less direct communication and the choice of self-service instead. It's essential to have a self-service portal in your knowledge base to cater to these DIY customers.

A knowledge base operates 24/7.

While your employees might only be available for help during office hours, a knowledge base operates 24/7. This way, a knowledge base caters to people in different geographical regions and with varying routines while providing the same high-quality customer support.

Deliver knowledge contextually.

Another great thing about knowledge bases is that the users can control the speed and influx of information. With the right search tools, they can easily find an answer to their exact question without the need to go over the complete knowledge base. The search tools in digital and online knowledge bases improve your customers' experience overall. Many knowledge base software can even link or suggest relevant KB articles at the appropriate times in the product.

Pitch your knowledge base as an extra service.

You can even position your knowledge base as a value-added service. While it's best practice to keep this service free and fairly accessible, you can gate your knowledge base to incentivize product registrations.

How to create knowledge base content

So, we get that knowledge bases are an excellent investment for your business, but how can you create one? Well, here are the essential steps to keep in mind and get you started.

Understand what you need to cover.

Before you create a knowledge base, research what features and tools are the least intuitive for your current customers. You can look for user experience trends and feedback through user analytics and product heat mapping tools like Hotjar. These tools allow you to see which areas your users click on the most, where they spend the most time, and how long they spend on each page or stage. More importantly, identify your customer pain points — what problems are they facing, and how can your knowledge base help them overcome these challenges? The easiest way to understand these pain points is to conduct customer surveys and interviews.

Collect existing information

Once you know the information to cover, you can use search engines and SEO tools to look for similar content and take notes. It is also a good idea to look at your competitors' resources and see how they are managing their knowledge base. By adequately analyzing their content, you can identify the areas where their content is lacking and ensure that your knowledge base covers these points.

Additionally, you might already have existing information for your knowledge base, such as FAQs and other documentation. Gather these resources as well.

Organize your information

Once you have managed to get your hands on a few resources and have collected the information for your knowledge base, the next step is to organize this data efficiently through knowledge management. Keep your customers in mind and understand the problems they are trying to solve. Sort out the information in folders and groups so that the users have easy access to all the information they will need in the order they will want it.

Create new content

While you might already have some existing content for your online knowledge base, there may be some topics that require new content after you conduct your research. Now's the time to present that information in a way that is easy for your customers to digest.

Maintain and improve your knowledge base

Once the initial knowledge base has been written, organized, and launched, keep in mind that a thriving knowledge base is current and up-to-date. Over time, you will need to update your resources. It's a good idea to take stock of your content with each product release cycle.

Types of Knowledge Bases

Now that you understand what a knowledge base is, let's look at different types of knowledge bases and how they're typically created.

Shared document systems

A knowledge base can be as simple as a shared folder that contains local files like MS Word files and PDF documents. Online knowledge bases include shared document systems like Google Drive and Dropbox. Such knowledge bases can be an internal knowledge base where only the company employees have access to the information or an external knowledge base where the data is published and accessed by the public. These shared document systems have the potential for problems, such as file duplication and accessibility issues.

Wikis and Intranets

Wikis are an example of external knowledge base software that allow users to find and edit information easily. This type of knowledge base is usually public. The information is typically divided into different categories, and the articles follow a particular template and format. On the other hand, intranets are an example of an internal knowledge base where the information is usually only accessible by the company staff. Both Wikis and Intranets are editable by their user bases.

Dedicated knowledge base tools

There are several options for knowledge base management tools. Depending on your company's size and setup, you might be able to find different plugins and software that cater to your needs. Specific knowledge base tools come equipped with reporting capabilities that tell you what people are looking for on the internet and their findings. This reporting allows you to better understand how users are interacting with your KB content. Examples of knowledge base tools include Zendesk and Confluence.

These tools are all good for certain things, but they lack in one area or the other. To create and maintain a practical knowledge base, you need something more. Enter Portal.

Create better knowledge bases with Portal

Portal is a modern client portal for innovative businesses that provides your business with all the essentials for creating and maintaining a quality knowledge base. Portal's knowledge base software covers everything that a business could need, including file-sharing, electronic signatures, messaging, live chat integration, and of course, tools for creating a dedicated knowledge base.

With Portal, you can create a robust brand image from scratch — with font, icons, workflows, and plugins available to suit your preferences. With the website builder, you can take full advantage of design templates to quickly bring your brand website to life. Portal also handles help desk creation.

The knowledge base module that Portal offers allows you to create content with role-based access permissions, so you have control over who can access the knowledge base. Additionally, it gives clients an opportunity to upvote or downvote your content to obtain feedback about its usefulness. Internal users can see all the knowledge base articles, sharing links, and the client upvote scores for each article. Internal users can also edit the content and use tags to organize the content into categories for easy access.

Up-Level Your Knowledge Base

Knowledge bases have redefined customer support and are a vital resource for keeping your customers satisfied and your customer support team running efficiently. Now that you've got a good idea about where to start go ahead and create your own knowledge base. If you want to create an effective knowledge base with minimal hassle, try Portal today.