Knowledge bases: how to build your own for customer service success

Discover how a powerful knowledge base can be your secret weapon for bettering customer service, agent satisfaction, and your business’ bottom line.

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Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

Knowledge is power, especially in customer service. When your clients can find answers to questions and troubleshoot steps quickly and easily, they can resolve issues on their own time – improving their experience as well as the efficiency of your support team.

This is why knowledge bases are crucial for companies. Acting as a single repository for information, they have replaced online forums, emails, and social media comments to provide a self-service checkout for customers seeking to understand your products or services.

In this article, we'll explain what a knowledge base is and what benefits they offer a small business. We’ll also offer a step-by-step guide to creating an effective knowledge base, so you can master the ropes yourself.

What is a knowledge base?

A knowledge base is a hub that gives people access to information about your business. Published online, it provides educational documents or instructive content for customers to easily access or download.

The type of data stored in a knowledge base depends on several factors including USP, industry, and product offering. For example, a tech startup might explain how to download a new software update, whereas a sustainable clothes shop might include details about how its stock has been ethically sourced.

Whatever shape your content takes, it shares the same purpose: to reduce the pressure on customer service agents. A knowledge base allows customers to find an immediate solution to their query.

8 types of knowledge bases to educate customers

8 types of Knowledge Base

1. Essential categories

What is it? General information such as contact details for different support channels, your company mission statement, or values
Best for: anyone! Every firm needs to offer these key materials to customers

2. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is it? List of questions commonly asked by the Voice of Customers (VoC) or users, along with answers
Best for: those with high volumes of related queries like contact centres or ecommerce firms

3. Introductory guides

What is it? An overview of a product, service, or concept, written for beginners
Best for: explaining complex offerings or technologies, such as software onboarding guides

4. Step-by-step instructions

What is it? Detailed instructions on how to complete specific tasks or use a product
Best for: businesses with technical processes like signing up to an online account

5. Video demonstrations

What is it? Visual walkthroughs of processes using screen recordings or animated tutorials
Best for: firms with visually-driven products or processes, such as fitness routines

6. Glossaries

What is it? List of specialist terms and definitions, relating to a particular field or industry
Best for: firms with highly technical jargon or niche terminology, like law firms

7. Blog posts

What is it? News, insights, and opinions that engage the audience with broader topics related to the brand or industry
Best for: firms offering complex services that want to demonstrate their technical expertise, such as healthcare providers

8. Explainer diagrams

What is it? Visual representations of how a product works or is assembled
Best for: technical products requiring assembly instructions, such as a furniture store

Why your business needs a knowledge base

Having a well-organised knowledge base brings the following benefits to your customers, service agents, and overall business performance:

  • Improved self-service: knowledge bases remove the strain on customer service channels, reducing wait times and increasing customer satisfaction 
  • Consistent information: every customer receives the same accurate and up-to-date information, eliminating confusion and inconsistencies
  • 24/7 access: customers are able to visit the knowledge base anytime and anywhere, regardless of your business hours or location
  • Reduced workload: setting a knowledge base as your first point of contact means support teams will get fewer repetitive questions and can focus on complex issues
  • Cost savings: lowered support costs, faster onboarding, and improved agent productivity all lead to significant cost savings
  • Competitive advantage: a well-maintained knowledge base differentiates your business by providing exceptional customer service
  • Boosted brand reputation:you’ll garner enhanced loyalty and reputation by providing easy access to accurate information, helpings you to build and manage your customer relationships

Creating your knowledge base: 5-step guide

Knowledge bases are not meant to rival the British Library. The most important feature of a knowledge base is to offer essential information only.

Sticking to the need-to-know information will keep your knowledge base focused and ensure your customers can quickly find the answers they need without wading through unnecessary fluff.

We’ve created a guide on how to design a knowledge base in five simple steps:

Step 1. Conduct customer research

Before you start producing content, think about who will be reading your knowledge base. Who is your target audience? What are their pain points? Research their customer needs. Why are they coming to you for guidance?

Conduct an online survey, 1:1 interviews, or invite a focus group to share feedback. Once you have gained clear insights into your customers’ needs, you can tailor your content accordingly.

Step 2. Choose your knowledge base type

As we’ve highlighted above, there are eight main types of knowledge base. Depending on your business aims, some will be more relevant than others. For example, a hair salon is less likely to share an on-site glossary when compared to a mortgage broker.

Step 3. Structure your content

Organise your content plan in a way that makes sense to users. Consider using categories, subcategories, tags, and keywords to make content easy to find. Use the data collected in step one to decide how the knowledge base type is best organised.

As an example, a personal trainer is publishing a range of instructional videos for their customers. They might choose to structure their content by difficulty, such as beginner and expert. Or they might organise it by activity, such as the areas of the body being worked on.

Step 4. Create and upload your resources

Now it’s time to make the content you will be hosting. Appoint a specialist project manager for this task to oversee creation, determine the primary messaging for each article, and review the finished products.

Take the time to research the best platform to host your knowledge base. Your website builder is an obvious choice, but there is also the option to go with a specialist knowledge base software provider, such as Zendesk.

Step 5. Promote your knowledge base

Once your knowledge base is up and running, promote it to your employees, customers, and partners. You can do this via email, social media, your website, and even in-person training.

Best practice tips for making a knowledge base (with examples)

We’ve explained how – and why – a knowledge base is vital for businesses to stand out from the competition. Here are some best practice tips to ensure your information is available and clearly visible to your audience:

1. Keep content fresh

Ensure that you regularly update your content and promote any new guides or resources. As your business develops, so will the number of questions your growing audience wants answered.

Case study: Microsoft Support has dedicated pages for sought-after updates like product releases and fixes. It even boasts an area of the website called ‘Trending Topics’, displaying its most viewed articles to send customers directly to their point of interest.

Source: Microsoft

2. Communicate with users

Customer feedback is an organic method to continuously improve your knowledge base. Ask service agents to regularly compile common questions and solutions from support channels.

Case study: HubSpot is a great example of a brand that actively engages with customers on its knowledge base. The CRM and marketing platform allows users to rate articles and provide feedback by asking ‘was this article helpful?’, which directly informs updates and content improvement.

Source: HubSpot

3. Produce a style guide

Any content published by your business should be consistent with your brand’s tone of voice, similar to marketing materials. Focus on clarity and conciseness, and avoid jargon and complex sentences.

Case study: Slack is the messaging platform that has turned business communication informal. Its knowledge base is similarly themed. Emoji-led bullet point sentences, combined with a playful tone, make learning about Slack's features engaging and memorable.

Source: Slack

4. Prioritise intuitive navigation and search

Knowledge bases should feature clear menus, engaging visuals, and a search bar to let users quickly find what they need. Having a logical content structure will also improve usability.

Case study: as you’d expect from the world’s number one search engine, Google's knowledge base leverages its renowned technology to help users find relevant information. As users type their query, Google’s search bar suggests relevant articles and topics for context-driven results.

Source: Google Workspace

5. Cross-reference with other channels

For customers to use your knowledge base, they first need to know about it. Ensure any content is linked to and referred by other customer support channels like FAQs, chatbots, and employee training materials.

Case study: Amazon has one of the best joined-up knowledge bases in the world. Users can access the knowledge base directly from customer support pages, product listings, and the Amazon app. Virtual assistant Alexa can even answer basic questions verbally using information from specific articles.

Voice controlled smart speaker. Little kid girl talking to talking to Amazon Alexa Echo Dot. Education programme for child. Boy talking to Alexa and give it orders and commands what to switch on

Customers can ask the Alexa Echo Dot a question

Conclusion

While consumer expectations are increasing and support channels diversify, the need to deliver fast, accurate, and consistent customer service is a crucial differentiator in today’s market.

This guide provides a practical roadmap for constructing a robust knowledge base. Through it, organisations can develop a valuable resource for their CRM database by dispensing answers to common queries before customers can even raise their hands.

Knowledge bases FAQs
  • What kind of content should I include in my knowledge base?
    The most successful knowledge bases are those that exhibit a range of informational content types such as troubleshooting guides, product manuals, video tutorials, and blog posts. Such variety is key to cater to different learning styles and preferences.
  • Can a knowledge base actually improve customer satisfaction?
    Yes. Customers hate inaccessible service desks. Empowering them with self-service knowledge bases reduces frustration, saves time, and boosts satisfaction.
  • How do I keep my knowledge base up-to-date and relevant?
    Regularly update your knowledge base to ensure the information given is accurate and up-to-date with industry/audience trends. Monitor support channels for recurrent queries and update articles with new features, procedures, or fixes. Consider assigning a project manager to oversee content production and maintenance.
Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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