How to Create a Self-Service Knowledge Base for Customers

by | Knowledge Management

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Need a way to empower your customers and reduce support costs? A basic self service knowledge base is a good place to start. You can find many vendors that offer customer-facing knowledge bases—this is a category of standalone knowledge bases we refer to as ‘external-facing’

What to know before you create a self-service knowledge base

Before we dive into how to create an external KB, understand that enterprises can surface knowledge both internally and externally using a knowledge management platform—a step above a knowledge base. Both knowledge bases and platforms are types of knowledge management tools, both ideal for different companies and different stages of growth.

To learn more about knowledge bases in general (and all the categories out there), check our post, A Simple Guide to Knowledge Base Software. Here we cover all the main categories of knowledge bases you should know about for your next initiative.

Why create a self-service knowledge base?

Your company may choose to create an external-facing knowledge base because it provides a place for customers to find answers to questions—reducing support requests.

Furthermore, customers are more likely to use your products if they can easily find answers to their questions.

You might need a self-service portal on your website to deflect certain types of calls to your contact center (for example). If your customers can self-serve, your support team can put more time and attention to higher-priority requests.

No matter the solution you choose, you should be able to provide the right answer, at the right place, at the right time. Simple knowledge bases often are designed to serve answers to customers on a website portal. Enterprise platforms, on the other hand, can integrate and surface answers in any self-service channel—like chat bots or IVR phone systems.

How to create a self-service knowledge base

Once you’re ready to build out your knowledge base to begin helping customers, follow these tips before you create knowledge base articles or other content.

Step 1

Determine the format and location of self service knowledge

To get started, think about the types of questions your customers ask and the channels they use to reach out to you. Do they email you frequently with the same questions? Do they post in your customer forums asking for help? Do they have trouble finding the answers they’re looking for on your website?

This information can inform what exactly you need to produce if starting from scratch.
In addition, any common questions you receive can help you decide which information needs to be more accessible.

The AI Survival Guide for Knowledge Managers Read this guide to future-proof knowledge management in the age of AI.

Begin to think about all the types of content you need, like:

  • Frequently asked questions: FAQs are a great way to provide answers to common questions in a concise and easy-to-understand format.
  • Product documentation: Product documentation is a must-have for any company that sells products. This type of content includes user manuals, how-to guides, and other technical information.Tutorials.
  • Tutorials Tutorials are often long-form step-by-step guides to show customers how to use a product or service. They can be in the form of articles, videos, or even podcasts.
  • How-to guides. How-to guides are similar to tutorials, but they are usually shorter and more specific. They are typically used to answer common questions about how to use a product or service.

Step 2

Review your organization’s knowledge management system

Now that you know where you need customer-facing knowledge, it’s time to take stock of your company’s knowledge management system—the people, the processes, the technology involved in your overall KM framework.

Start by assessing all the knowledge repositories. If you have a shared Google Drive, you might find user manuals, product guides, and marketing collateral. If you have a customer forum, you might find helpful threads and posts you can use to prioritize content gaps.

A simple knowledge audit will give you a better idea of where your company’s knowledge is located and how it can be categorized.
As a best practice, house all ‘customer self-service’ knowledge in one location and integrate knowledge to self-service channels—instead of purchasing a separate knowledge base or adding content from one KB to a separate knowledge repository.

Step 3

Select a source of truth for all self-service knowledge

As a KM best practice, you should house all ‘customer self-service’ knowledge in one location and integrate this knowledge to self-service channels—instead of copying knowledge to another customer-facing knowledge tool or repository.

A “source of truth” is a single place where your customer-facing knowledge will be maintained. The idea is to avoid multiple knowledge silos so you can be confident your customers always have the best answers possible.

Once you’ve selected a source of truth, you may be able to migrate content you need, and sunset older knowledge products.

If you need to migrate content, take the opportunity to asses its quality. This will ensure your knowledge base is accurate from the start. Taking time to audit what’s in your knowledge solution will make it easier for both customers (and especially front-line support agents) to find the right answers they need, when they need it.

Step 4

Create a knowledge management team

If you have a knowledge solution that will work, ensure you have a basic knowledge management team in place. You should determine who will serve as the knowledge manager, who will serve as a contributor, and any operations or IT help you will need for implementation.

Establish roles and responsibilities

You should also define clear roles and responsibilities for your knowledge management (KM) team once you establish a source of truth for your self-service knowledge initiative.

For example:

  • Content creators write and curate content for the knowledge base.
  • Content reviewers ensure that content is accurate and up to date.
  • Content approvers give final approval for content to be published.
  • Content editors manage the knowledge base and make changes as needed.

Filling these roles will depend on the size of your organization and the intended size of your knowledge base. There may be one person who wears all of these hats, or you may be able to build a team with multiple people in each role. Just make sure there’s a clear process for creating, reviewing, and approving content that’s followed by everyone involved.

If you need to migrate to a new solution later on, having a simple team structure in place will help.

Step 5

Don’t have a great knowledge solution? Explore your options

Now that you have an understanding of what a self-service knowledge base is and how to get started with building one, explore different knowledge base options if this is the best route.

Many companies start with knowledge base software, and eventually graduate to a KM platform they can’t outgrow.

The best self-service knowledge solution for you should depend on your current business —do you support thousands of customers? Do you need knowledge in other customer support environments like a contact center platform or CRM (where agents/employees spend time)?

Follow knowledge management best practices

As you evaluate platforms, knowledge bases, and build out customer-facing content, always follow KM best practices.
Here are a couple of factors to consider as you roll out a solution.

  • Ease of use. The solution should be easy to use for both customers and employees. It should be intuitive and easy to navigate.
  • Flexibility. Whatever you choose should be flexible enough to meet the changing needs of your business. It should be easy to add, delete, and update content.
  • Scalability. The solution should be able to scale as your company grows. It should be able to handle an increasing amount of content and users.
  • Security. The system should be secure to protect sensitive company and customer information. It should have robust security features, such as user authentication and data encryption.
  • Integrations. The solution should easily integrate with other business systems, such as your CRM or help desk software. This will make it easier to manage and update your knowledge base.

There are many KM solutions out there, but not all of them are created equal. By staying informed, you’ll be able to make the best decision for your business.

Read this Next

A Buyer’s Guide for Smarter Knowledge Management

Ready to explore your options to store customer-facing knowledge? Get our KM buyer’s guide and learn what to look for in a modern KM solution.

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