26 Best Practices for a Customer Service Knowledge Base

Person watering brain tree

In this article our panel of experts outline their best practices for customer service knowledge bases.

1. Consider Two Main Things

With a knowledge base, there are two main things you need to consider.

The first is how the customer wants to consume and receive knowledge, not simply assuming they will understand or be able to access certain platforms. Technology is a great enabler, but if it’s not geared towards the customer, the actual content won’t deliver as well as anticipated.

David Rowlands at 8x8
David Rowlands

Second, the actual content requires multiple disciplines involved –such as Support, Product, and Sales – to ensure it’s realizing its potential and better understand how issues are happening as well as what people are looking for.

Having multiple teams involved also ensures the data is being cross-checked and critiqued to ensure it’s keeping the end-user in mind as well as for relevance and accuracy.

Contributed by: David Rowlands at 8×8

2. Build It With CX in Mind

Customer service knowledge bases are a relatively new concept stemming from a desire by customers for 24/7 self-help resources.

They can be a powerful tool providing a range of content from in-depth FAQ pages, ‘how-to’ videos, articles, white papers, dictionaries and even glossaries.

When developing such a knowledge base, it’s imperative that customer-centricity remains at the heart of the plan.

As trivial as that sounds, proceeding with business goals in mind is less likely to achieve an appealing customer resource.

The design needs to be logical and intuitive in order for the customer experience to be fluid and painless.

The design needs to be logical and intuitive in order for the customer experience to be fluid and painless.

When a customer chooses to interact with or use a knowledge base, it’s a proactive decision, they have a goal or task to accomplish. Success encourages faith in the service, whereas poor design can leave customers with more questions than answers.

3. Logical by Design, Logical in Practice

When starting to build a customer service knowledge base, it’s important not to make assumptions about the user’s knowledge.

Content needs to be universal, clear and concise, a one-stop-shop for all things related to your business, product or service. With this in mind, it is wise to create content that makes the most of insights from each of your different teams, be it technical, customer service-related, or product specific.

While doing this it’s also important to consider organization and graphical layout so customers can actually find what they need.

Minimalistic structure makes navigating through topics, sections and pages easy. If customers can’t find what they need and call the contact centre out of frustration, the knowledge base functionality could be considered worse than useless!

4. Advertise, Advocate, Advance!

Jake Gardiner at Odigo
Jake Gardiner

As with any release of a new product, service, customer channel, or customer-facing solution, a successful marketing campaign underpins customer adoption and repeated use.

If care is taken to launch with the right knowledge articles featured in prominent places, not just in the knowledge base itself, this is an opportunity to advocate the advantages of such self-help over more traditional media such as voice and email. Customers are open to trialling new tools but long-term adoption relies on ease of use and accuracy.

Knowledge bases can be augmented by creating or merging moderated community forums. Here customers and brand advocates can take an active role helping with typical customer enquiries and problems, even referring to specific knowledge base articles within responses and threads.

This is one of the most powerful forms of advertisement available, enabling you to truly advance and ‘level-up’ the customer experience you offer.

Contributed by: Jake Gardiner at Odigo

5. Make It Snappy

Wiki means quick and if you’re going to start somewhere with a knowledge base, start with speed. A knowledge base, whether used by your staff or your customer, must provide information quickly. Most knowledge bases are born out of FAQs.

Identify the most asked questions or causes of confusion to provide immediate and quick value to your user.

It’s ok to start small; most knowledge bases are a constant work in progress. Utilize the ability and collective intelligence of the group to add to the knowledge base by providing options for commentary or editing from qualified users.

6. Know Your Audience

Jennifer Hughes
Jennifer Hughes

While traditionally customer-facing, your knowledge base should begin by putting yourself in the user’s shoes.

By replicating the needs of the user rather than starting from business need, you can focus on the real purpose of a knowledge base: identification and correction of failure points.

7. Show, Don’t Tell

Most users would rather watch a video than have to decipher the nuance in written text and instructions.

Knowledge bases that provide video options are decisively more useful, are ADA compliant and can be shared across teams easily. Links to supplemental information and integrated platforms are an easy way to lead your user down the happy path without having to explain too much.

8. Connect Knowledge to Tech

Just as we mine CX data to improve efficiency and experience, by mining our knowledge base for information and data points we can begin to leverage AI for an improved integration.

Options such as predictive text can learn to recognize interactions and keywords that will lead to faster outcomes or identify trends in real time. Imagine a customer service knowledge base that can use keywords to initiate immediate action, preventing escalation in real time.

Use AI internally in order to examine keywords and trouble spots, so you can customize your training.

Contributed by: Jen Hughes at Alvaria

9. Keep Your Knowledge Base Content Jargon-Free

Aurelie Daniel at RingCentral
Aurelie Daniel

A rule of thumb when creating self-help resources: use simple language and steer clear of jargon.

You know your business well, and so does your team of qualified agents, so it’s easy to fall into the trap of using acronyms and abbreviations. But this is one of the many pitfalls that can go wrong with a knowledge base.

A knowledge base needs to empower customers, not alienate them, so it’s crucial to write, edit and proof your knowledge base content to ensure it is concise, accessible and understandable to everyone. If in doubt, include a glossary and definitions.

10. Use Feedback to Fuel Your Knowledge Base

You’re not necessarily going to know the kind of information your customers want and need unless you ask them.

Putting processes in place so your customers and agents can openly give their thoughts on your knowledge base will help you identify and rectify any shortcomings.

You’ll need someone or a team to take accountability for developing your knowledge base because your customer queries will change as your products and services evolve.

It’s a good idea to question your customers regularly, perhaps in a survey, to establish whether the base can retain its relevance in an era of change.

Likewise, listen to those on the front line in terms of daily customer contact to see whether they feel the knowledge base is delivering the accuracy they need to serve customers.

Contributed by: Aurelie Daniel at RingCentral

11. Give Frontline Colleagues Ownership

Tracy Marks at Sensée
Tracy Marks

Setting up a knowledge base is one thing, ensuring it remains relevant is something else. To be successful, your knowledge base needs to be the place where frontline colleagues automatically think of going because they’re confident of finding answers.

And the best way to achieve that is to make it inclusive, i.e. easy to access and where content can be enhanced and ‘owned’ by customer-facing colleagues – not one that’s being imposed by management.

Team leaders and advisors should be able to add knowledge and best-practice advice instantly. Content should be segmented into areas that makes sense to advisors, and that are easily searchable.

And content should be relevant to everyone – web-based advisors as much as phone-based advisors, technical advisors as much as customer service advisors.

Search should also be intelligent, enabling colleagues to pose questions and be pointed in the right direction, rather than have to search from square one in the hope of coming across something useful.

Contributed by: Tracy Marks at Sensée

12. Recruit a Knowledge-Base Ambassador Within Each Department

Mo Hassan at Business Systems
Mo Hassan

A customer service knowledge base can be a great way to support customer enquiries. Having a reliable internal knowledge base team can help facilitate this.

Designed to promote a healthy workflow, the team can carry out bi-weekly, monthly, or even quarterly updates, helping ensure the customer knowledge base is continuously kept up to date.

Consider also appointing a knowledge base ambassador within each department to help facilitate the sharing of accurate and efficient communication across teams and departments.

A well-monitored and process-driven workflow ensures communication is shared and clear ownership is established for specific items and topics so there aren’t too many stakeholders and the workflows are kept efficient.

Tasked with verifying and updating information, knowledge base ambassadors will help build a reliable and invaluable repository for customers to use.

Contributed by: Mo Hassan at Business Systems

13. Monitor How the Knowledge Base Is Used

It is important to monitor activities to identify how the organization uses existing knowledge. This could be determining which articles in the knowledge base are used most or least, assessing article ranking and user feedback.

Armed with this information, you can identify gaps in the knowledge base to improve its contents and increase usage.

It is important to bring employees on board and create a culture in which everyone realizes knowledge will make their work easier and far more effective.

14. Learn From Customer Questions So Your Knowledge Base Evolves

Understanding changing customer requirements is central to success. Analysing which questions consumers are asking, and which information is most used in a knowledge base, is therefore essential.

To do this most effectively, and in a way that leads to service improvements requires the use of AI and text analytics.

Analysing which questions consumers are asking, and which information is most used in a knowledge base, is therefore essential.

This might, for instance, have revealed a large spike in routine calls around COVID, or in the case of airlines or travel agents, disrupted flights, thereby triggering the business to deflect these away from their call handlers and answer them instead through their online knowledge base.

Businesses should use this information to smooth out all the potential bumps in the customer journey.

A well-managed knowledge base will register when customers ask specific questions and embed the relevant content and knowledge into the journey at that point.

Ensuring answers to common consumer questions are embedded in the knowledge base helps reduce calls coming into the contact centre – improving the customer experience and alleviating the pressure on agents, enabling them to spend more time on complex or emotionally charged queries.

15. Make Knowledge Available in the Right Format at the Right Time

Gary Bennett
Gary Bennett

To be effective, knowledge must be available in the right format and channel at the right time. A customer visiting a company’s website and using self-service, for example, should have access to videos on common challenges, along with how-to guides, manuals and FAQs.

Complex problems may require a chatbot session to take more details and provide further support. If a phone query is then necessary, the agent should have access to information from the chatbot session to save time, along with the full history of transactions and knowledge supplied to-date.

A solution should then prompt the agent to ask specific questions which they use to retrieve specialized answers from the knowledge base so they can provide the right answers.

Using agent feedback and Voice of the Customer insights, the company can then assess the success of these interactions and improve processes, services, and even products.

Contributed by: Gary Bennett at Enghouse Interactive

16. Information Retrieval Should Operate and Feel Like an Internet Search

Carolina Lemos at Talkdesk
Carolina Lemos

A modern knowledge management system for contact centres should have intelligent automation features that will empower agents to resolve customer issues correctly and quickly.

In today’s customer service era, it’s not practical or cost-efficient to have a knowledge base that delivers lengthy articles that users need to read thoroughly to find answers.

Ensure you’re leveraging AI search techniques to create an answer retrieval system that makes better logical connections between customer questions and finds the best answers to resolve issues.

Faster information retrieval should operate and feel like an internet search experience, ensuring users get the information they need through a single search query.

Make sure you can incorporate the frontline experience and give customer service experts more authoring autonomy to create answers and reduce your dependency on outside help to maintain the knowledge base.

Contributed by: Carolina Lemos at Talkdesk

17. Deliver Real-Time Access for Agents

Frank Sherlock at CallMiner
Frank Sherlock

Arming call centre agents with a comprehensive, easily accessible knowledge base is essential. And while these knowledge bases are commonly used to improve onboarding and ongoing training before and after customer interactions, more organizations are recognizing the power of using knowledge bases to support agents in real time, while a customer interaction is still in progress.

Imagine a customer calls in to cancel a subscription and mentions a competitor in the process. With the right technology and systems, an integrated knowledge base could deliver that agent with the information they need in-the-moment to try to prevent churn.

That could include a competitive battle card to help the agent articulate what the customer will miss out on if they switch, or even the most recent marketing offers for the agent to use, if cost is part of the customer’s reason for leaving.

Knowledge bases are an important part of helping agents grow, learn and do better in their roles, and the most advanced organizations are ensuring that can happen before, after and during customer conversations.

Contributed by: Frank Sherlock at CallMiner

18. Serve Up Knowledge Proactively

Handling times and contact volumes are increasing. Recruitment is becoming more difficult. So what’s the consequence? Agent workloads rise, burnout sets in and attrition rates soar.

Such an unfortunate scenario is far too familiar for many contact centres. As such, helping agents access a knowledge base quickly has become as important as the data it contains.

Yet opening up the application, typing in a search and flicking through relevant articles takes time, extending call queues even further. Therefore, it is important to schedule time for agents to become familiar with where they can find data and how to apply the knowledge they obtain.

Modern agent-assist applications, which sit on the agent desktop, track conversations in real time and can help by spotlighting relevant knowledge. As can integrating the knowledge base with other corporate systems and providing dashboards using the relevant data to speed up use and relevance.

19. Generate Insight From Knowledge Base Data

Hussein Kamel at Calabrio
Hussein Kamel

A modern knowledge base produces great swathes of data that delve into its content’s popularity. Harnessing this, contact centres can get to grips with the knowledge agents look at, use in conversation and find most helpful.

On its own, this data supports knowledge management. Yet by combining it with disposition data, customer transcripts and online self-help data, contact centres can uncover what knowledge is truly effective and what misses the mark.

These insights enable operations leaders to understand the best approaches to handling various contacts, informing coaching, Quality Assurance (QA) and conversational design for chatbots.

Moreover, consider how useful they are to product teams, marketing and other departments. The contact centre can lead a progressive knowledge-sharing project that connects the enterprise.

However, such an initiative is not a one-off. Over time, business processes evolve and knowledge assets will devalue so require regular updates.

20. Build a Culture of Knowledge

As with any agent-focused initiative, the chances of delivering a helpful, well-utilized knowledge base hinges on achieving employee buy-in. Therefore, many operations set out a series of activities to earn this and develop a culture of knowledge.

For instance, some will appoint knowledge evangelists to help create and share content. Other ideas to develop a culture of knowledge include making contributions to the knowledge base a cornerstone employee KPI and celebrating milestones in its usage.

However, more fundamental is ensuring agents receive proper training on knowledge processes and the system. Scheduling time for training will ensure agents know how to best navigate the solution.

From there, contact centres can try out new ideas to gain additional value from the system, such as ensuring that all departments can harness the well-managed knowledge environment and enjoy its benefits.

Funnelling knowledge insights into a business intelligence solution will support corporate integration and cooperation.

Contributed by: Hussein Kamel at Calabrio

21. Work Smarter, Not Harder

Andy Traba at NICE
Andy Traba

The key to maximizing the power of a relevant and continuously updated knowledge base is ensuring that you have the right tools and automated processes in place.

Work smarter, not harder. When powered by AI, effective knowledge management delivers the right information at the right time to satisfy any need – whether for the customer or the agent.

Part of this is real-time knowledge accessibility – from search to website to chatbot. An AI-driven knowledge base can automatically meet customers at any point in their journeys and improve their self-service experiences, increasing customer satisfaction by facilitating immediate, on-demand resolutions wherever they are.

Similarly, AI and automation can empower agents to satisfy the most complex customer issues, with real-time interaction guidance, as appropriate.

Getting smarter with every interaction, the knowledge base helps equip agents with informative data from previous customer interactions to help them personalize responses as the organization also gets smarter with every conversation.

Contributed by: Andy Traba at NICE

22. Implement Content Guidelines

In addition to using experts on the knowledge base matters, it’s imperative to ensure you implement guidelines for writing and publishing valuable content.

While descriptive content can be helpful, it can make it confusing and discourage the reader from going any further.

The content created by your team members should be concise, straight to the point, and converted into a language all customers can understand.

Sticking to one concept at a time will prevent knowledge base articles from becoming overwhelming. Encourage your team to communicate in a variety of different ways. Using bullet points, videos, or screenshots can make complex topics easier to understand.

It should also follow standardized formatting guidelines to improve subjects’ readability and make it easier for users to find the insights they need.

Contributed by: Geomant

23. Have a Maintenance Process

Drew Naylor at MaxContact.
Drew Naylor

As soon as you think of creating a knowledge base, involve the people who will be using this as part of their role.

There are many options available, though the people who will end up using it on a day-to-day basis need to have the loudest voice when it comes to its creation. What is in there, how it’s maintained and how it’s laid out should all be driven with the end-users in mind.

Having a set process around how your knowledge base is maintained is key; product champions can help write informative and useful content, your compliance team can ensure this meets any legal obligations and other users can validate that the information added will be useful.

No matter what process or solution you use, just remember that your users need to be able to access the information quickly and read the information at speed – their experience is key.

Contributed by: Drew Naylor at MaxContact

24. Centralize and Connect Resources

Perry Gale at Cyara
Perry Gale

When customers interact with agents, these professionals are on the clock to rapidly troubleshoot issues, find answers, and close out sessions.

Yet organizational knowledge and customer insight is typically housed across applications, databases, and knowledge sources. So, the challenge is not to consolidate these resources but to connect them.

Customer service organizations can use advanced technology in fresh ways to drive rapidly to insight. For example, platforms that use natural language processing (NLP), artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning enable agents to speak or type queries.

Then, platforms instantly search across resources and provide highly accurate answers, with links that offer more context. Agents can share external resources and links with customers, guiding issue resolution.

Contributed by: Perry Gale at Cyara

25. Keep It Simple

John Antanaitis at Vonage
John Antanaitis

When it comes to sharing knowledge, some contact centres look to cover every possible scenario, which often results in including too much information in each knowledge article.

However, advisors don’t want to read through lots of information while on a call or handling a contact, as it’s time-consuming and can interfere with providing good service in real time.

With this in mind, it is better to just share the basic steps of performing the task, with links to deeper details, and advisors can then choose to look elsewhere if they need more information.

The effectiveness of how this content is being consumed can be assessed through metrics in the knowledge base or by using speech analytics to detect where it has been used.

With the latter, contact centre managers can track how easy it was for advisors to use the content and how well the information was received by the customer.

Contributed by: John Antanaitis at Vonage

26. It’s Only as Good as the Content In It

Thumbnail image of Caroline Leonard
Caroline Leonard

A knowledge base is a valuable resource and can help improve your customer service quality. But, as with any content-related resource, it is only as good as the content that is in it, and how effectively that content can be utilized by the intended audience.

Ensure your knowledge base is a powerful tool for both your agents and customers by following some best practices for a customer service knowledge base:

  1. All content should be clear and simple; this can be done by using headings, subheadings and bullet points.
  2. Ensure content is accurate and up-to-date by conducting regular reviews and enabling your customers and agents to flag content for review easily.
  3. Include search functionality and intuitive filters so your users can easily find what they are
    looking for.
  4. Use images, videos, and screenshots to help illustrate more complex points.
  5. Utilize customer feedback to improve and update your content.

Contributed by: Caroline Leonard at Spearline

For more great insights and advice from our panel of experts, read these articles next:

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