For businesses that first got their start during the dawn of the digital age, there's no getting around the fact that the ways in which customer support is approached have changed dramatically. Today, customers most often want to utilize the Internet for all or most of their needs without having to make unnecessary, time-wasting phone calls.
This being said, it's never been so important in the past for businesses to create a compelling knowledge base for customers in need of support to sift through, but how do you go about doing so?
A knowledge base is essentially a group of informative articles culled together in a single location on the Internet that your customers can utilize in order to solve any issues they might be experiencing with your company's products or services. It takes the place, in many ways, of live customer support – that is, if it is well constructed.
The key to any decent knowledge base is having an arsenal of well-written, informative articles for your customers to peruse when they have a question. If the right information isn't there, the knowledge base is essentially useless.
Fortunately, writing an excellent knowledge base article is less complicated than many people realize, and requires little more than the right amount of time and effort. Here are a few tips to set you in the right direction, all of which can combine to help you create the best knowledge base article for your clients and customers.
There's nothing more essential when creating a knowledge base article than understanding the way your customers think. Demographic, user habits and everything in between can play into this, as the cornerstone of any well-constructed knowledge base article is having it be relative to your customers needs.
The good thing here, though, is that most business owners already have a good handle on who their audience is, especially if they've been in operation for years. Still, taking the time to reevaluate your audience and map out a few core ideas to stick to will only make your knowledge base articles that much better.
There's simply nothing worse on a customer or client's end than having to attempt to decipher a highly technical document. Unless you're truly trying to appeal to a crowd that eats schematics for breakfast, you'll generally do best by keeping things as general as possible while still relaying the necessary information.
This doesn't mean you have to dumb things down – think more along the lines of omitting things that might be considered superflous by the reader. If it's not absolutely necessary to know something in order to solve a problem, leave it out.
If a client or customer is looking to gain some information to get themselves out of a jam, they likely don't have the time to sift through mountains of information. Add to this the fact that the Internet has created an age of short attention spans, and it stands to reason why you would want to keep things to a bare minimum when putting together a knowledge base article.
Think of it this way – If an article is too long for you to read in one sitting without getting a headache or getting lost, you can go ahead and bet that the same can be said for your customers. Keeping things short and to the point is an essential aspect of writing a great knowledge base article, even if it can be difficult at times.
It's not uncommon to run into repeat questions and issues from your customers and clients, especially in the wake of releasing a new product or service. Instead of simply handling these on a case by case basis and moving on, you can use them to help flesh out your knowledge base.
Devoting an entire article to each issue that begins to pop up commonly may seem labor intensive, but it will help to better ensure that your customers don't run into the problem repeatedly any longer, and it will actually save you quite a bit of time in the long run.
Sometimes, knowledge base articles can be relatively information-heavy, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. If you don't take care in how you structure them, however, they could end up being exceptionally confusing to the reader.
Proper organization is, in many ways, just as important as the content inherent in the article. Try to structure things in a rational, linear manner whenever possible. The idea should be for the reader to learn everything necessary to solve an issue from point A to point B by the end of the article.
For many people, visual learning is more effective than anything else. If your knowledge base articles are too text-heavy, you may end up losing the attention of your clients and customers.
Creating infographics, screenshots, charts, graphs, tables, and using images is a great way to get the best of both worlds, as you can juxtapose them with text to make for a cohesive learning experience.
There are a great deal of templates available online (many of which are free) that can help you to create infographics quickly and easily, even if you aren't entirely familiar with them. Creating one infographic per article is a great way to tie up loose ends, and can increase the chances at the reader will come away with the solution they're seeking.
Putting together a proper knowledge base article is certainly a challenge at first, but once you get the hang of it, you can rest easy knowing that your customers have the information they need right at their fingertips. You may want to start small and create articles that address simple issues, as the more complicated a solution is, the more thorough the article will need to be. Take your time, and it will all fall into place.
Tim is president and co-founder of Axero Solutions, a leading intranet software vendor. He's also a bestselling author of Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Mastering Employee Engagement. Tim’s been featured in Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur, CNBC, Today, and other leading publications.
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