What is a Knowledge Base? +Types, Benefits, Tips

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knowledge-base-definition

Not having a centralized source of information for employees can be a productivity-killer and a major turnoff for customers. Employees spend up to 20% of their workweek looking for information, and even when they ask for help, they could spend up to 5.3 hours waiting on a response.

Companies experiencing such issues have found that knowledge bases assuage this unnecessary misuse of employee time. In fact, 95% of CEOs acknowledge knowledge management as an essential ingredient in company success.

Companies should invest time in learning how to create a knowledge base because centralizing information creates efficient teams and empowers customers with the knowledge they need to use your product/service.

What is a Knowledge Base?

A knowledge base serves as a tool for employees and users to find accurate information when they need it. It’s essentially a digital vault for your resources, including anything from onboarding materials to guided software tutorials. As a result, what may seem like a slight organizational shift has significant impacts on productivity, onboarding, and revenue. These knowledge portals and wikis are created using knowledge base software.

Types of Knowledge Bases

Knowledge bases are classified into internal and external categories, used in tandem or independently. Finding software that can target both users can help all aspects of your business, and help drive a culture of knowledge sharing.

1. Internal Knowledge Base for Employees

In an era of hiring surges, remote workers, and value shifts, it can be hard to train and keep team members informed adequately. Think of how much time is consumed getting new employees comfortable with your software applications, finding company policies and information, or teaching your coworkers an updated process.

Below you can see an example of an internal knowledge base built on Guru for a customer support team.

guru-knowledge-base

Internal knowledge bases (or internal wikis) store company processes and resources to mitigate this knowledge gap. Shield HealthCare, for example, used Whatfix employee onboarding software features to train new employees on a new in-house application. By using self-guided walkthroughs and customer support tools, employees were able to learn the software without ever having to leave it.

Information commonly stored in internal knowledge bases includes:

2. External Knowledge Base for Customer Support

An external knowledge base provides customers with immediate and effective information to help solve customer queries. These knowledge bases are customer self-serve portals, which means customers can search and find answers to their questions without reaching out to a company’s contact center, reducing support tickets.

Take Instagram Help Center, for example. With their simple and easy-to-navigate support page, users can immediately see what’s new and learn about everything from features to account management. These searchable knowledge portals are more in-depth versions of traditional FAQ pages.

Below you can see an example of a customer-facing knowledge base from Canva.

Canva-Knowledge-Base-Example

Information commonly stored in external knowledge bases includes:

  • Resources or widgets to troubleshoot user problems
  • Product walkthroughs and how-to guides
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Customer information such as ordering and billing
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Embed your knowledge base into your apps with Whatfix's in-app, on-demand support.

Benefits of Knowledge Bases

Knowledge bases have several benefits, all centered around helping employees, companies, and customers save time and effort.

1. Better Onboarding

We all know the importance of onboarding, both for ramping up new employees and getting customers acquainted with your product. So, it is no surprise the 2018 Kronos and Human Capital Institute study on the onboarding experience found that “longer onboarding programs are associated with stronger employee engagement, business reputation, quality hires, and the percentage of diverse hires.”

Most employers understand the value of education programs for new employees and customers but lack the time and resources to prepare them for success. For example, in the previously mentioned study of the 350 companies surveyed, 57% said their biggest onboarding challenge was lack of time, and 47% said there was a lack of consistent application across the company.

Therefore, a centralized, all-encompassing knowledge base can save training time and ensure a consistent employee onboarding and customer onboarding experience.

2. Improved Customer Service Experiences

In today’s digital world, where we expect information to be at our fingertips right when we need it, it is no longer enough to wait for someone to respond to an email or pick up the customer service line. Users refuse to slow down, and if they have to pause what they are doing, odds are they will lose interest.

A knowledge base does something humans can’t: be available 24/7, right when a user needs it, with self-service features. With the readily available information, user productivity increases, and companies save troubleshooting time. For example, ICICI bank used Whatfix’s knowledge management features to help with common activities and, “…queries about how to navigate the site were reduced by 50%.”

icici-bank-customer-knowledge-base

3. Reduced Support Tickets

With self-service features, knowledge bases take a huge burden off of customer support and IT teams. No longer do employees or customers need to send an email to submit a support ticket when there is an issue or they need help navigating through a new tool.

With knowledge bases, common inquiries are able to be resolved without the need for further support.

4. Increased Overall Productivity

While both preceding benefits contribute to increased output, there are many other ways knowledge bases can increase productivity.

In 2018, Nintex surveyed employees across industries and departments, ultimately creating the Definitive Guide to America’s Most Broken Processes. Of the 1,000 people surveyed, 39% identify broken document management/sales processes within their organization. Top-ranking processes include locating documents, document sharing, and document approval requests.

One must not understate the value of updated and defined processes to any company. Universal access to support, onboarding, and other process documentation are vital to an efficient organization.

Additionally, a sophisticated knowledge base will provide reporting on user behavior. These insights can be used to tailor content to specific users and help their productivity levels.

How to Create a Knowledge Base for Your Customers

While creating a knowledge base may seem like a daunting task, many companies already have most of the resources on hand.

Using knowledge base software will help you compile most of these already-existing resources into a knowledge management tool ready for your employees or customers to use.

1. Brainstorm FAQs and How-To Topics

Take the time to identify common challenges and knowledge gaps your users face. Have customers been missing out on a useful feature of your platform? Are employees constantly asking where to log their vacation days?

Make a note of these common queries and include these resources in your knowledge base. Then, to ensure a thorough knowledge base, survey both employees and customers to see what they would like to know.

2. Create, Collect, Curate, and Organize Your Content

Not only does this phase require finding updated resources, but it also means creating more based on your pain points. Think about your current content format and if changing it up may contribute to user success.

For example, if all processes and support information is in document form, consider repurposing text-based documents into how-to videos and webinars, as well as creating infographics and diagrams.

3. Leverage Knowledge Base Software

Now that you know the basics of how to create a knowledge base, it’s time to choose the right tool to get the job done. Upgrade your knowledge management by using a program designed specially to help your users learn more effectively.

The best knowledge base software will allow you to:

  • Create a searchable hub that contains your various company knowledge and policies
  • Connect with both internal and external users
  • Easily incorporate new changes and processes
  • Track user activity
  • Provide contextual and immediate support
  • Ask for feedback

4. Make Your Knowledge Base Content Easily Accessible

Once you have created your knowledge base, users must know exactly how and where to utilize it. Actively promote your content during onboarding, announcements, and marketing campaigns to ensure customers and/or employees know it’s available. 

When choosing software, ensure it integrates directly into your app or website for easy access and empowering your organization to create omnichannel customer experiences.

With Whatfix’s native knowledge base integrations, organizations can embed their knowledge directly into their digital apps for internal employees, as well as customers and end-users. This provides on-demand, self-help support in the moment of need for employees and customers.

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4 Tips for Building a Helpful Knowledge Base Strategy

Now that you know how to create a knowledge base, it’s crucial to understand how to make this resource as successful as possible for your company.

1. Keep Your Knowledge Base Well Maintained

Keeping your knowledge base up-to-date is crucial to its success. Users will utilize the resource as long as they can trust the information. How frequently depends on how often there are changes within your company. Make sure to refresh it as soon as you announce a new company update or process so users can reference the information without delay.

Finding an intuitive software that requires zero-coding experience and applies changes automatically to all formats will make it easy to maintain your knowledge base.

Below you can see an example of Cirrus HR Service Desk using Atlassian to easily manage and maintain its knowledge bases.

add-a-confluence-knowledge-base

2. Stay True to Your Brand

Keeping your brand consistent is especially important for an external knowledge base. Your knowledge base is an extension of your product and should represent it. Not only should it include your logo and brand colors, but the way you speak to users should also remain consistent. Users may get confused by discrepancies in things like messaging and aesthetics.

Below you can see a great example of how Airtable uses its branding throughout its knowledge base:

Airtable-Knowledge-Base-Example

3. Use Interactive Content Types

Because 90% of what humans process is visual, people will process your information better in interactive and graphic formats. Including video tutorials, webinars on the topic, infographics, or even screenshots will increase user interaction.

For example, Buffer uses video tutorials in its knowledge base to make its content more digestable.

buffer_using_video_in_knowledge_base

You can leverage different types of content creation software to create knowledge content in different interactive formats. A few of those include:

4. Track How Your Knowledge Base Is Being Used

By choosing a knowledge base software with analytics and feedback capabilities, you will understand how users engage with your product. Don’t forget to check these metrics and utilize surveys to see how users respond to certain aspects of your program and to continuously work on improving your company’s KM strategy. 

customer-analytics-document360-knowledge-base

Above you can see how organizations can track how their knowledge base is being used with back-end analytics and reporting tools with Document360’s knowledge base platform.

Launching Your Company's Knowledge Base

A knowledge base is any company’s secret weapon for keeping internal and external users engaged. So, it makes sense to employ knowledge base software. While possible, doing it yourself takes time and will not give you the software’s abilities and insights.

Learn how Whatfix can provide your organization with a self-service customer and employee knowledge base, built directly into your applications, by learning more about Whatfix today!

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