Insights

The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Knowledge Base in 2023

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Insights
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9 mins to read

You might think customers prefer talking to a support representative to resolve their queries, and you'd be right to some extent. But this isn't always the case. 

While it's true that some issues require human intervention, customers shouldn't have to call you for basic troubleshooting or questions. A knowledge base suffices most of the time. In fact, 51% of customers actually prefer a knowledge base for technical support. 

That means you need to create a comprehensive and helpful customer support knowledge base. Below, we take you through the process of creating knowledge base articles for your business. 

What Is a Knowledge Base?

There's no standard definition of a knowledge base, as it can take various forms. At its core, however, a knowledge base is a centralized repository for information storage. 

Think of it as a library where customers can find information about your product or service. Typically, knowledge bases are categorized into two types: 

  • Machine-Readable: These knowledge bases are interpreted by machines, such as chatbots or automated customer service systems. They are less time-consuming than their human-readable counterparts because the customers do not have to read through long articles. Instead, a chatbot finds and presents the most relevant information to resolve the customer's query.
  • Human-Readable: As the name suggests, these knowledge bases are meant for human reading. They comprise articles, FAQs, and detailed guides that customers can refer to when they need help. 

A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Knowledge Base

We'll preface our guide by clearing that there's no one-fits-all approach. However, you can use a standard framework to create a knowledge base that meets your customers' requirements.

Before You Begin

Before we get into Step 1, let's take a short pause. Use this time to determine what you'll include in the knowledge base. Typical data that goes into a knowledge base includes: 

  • Frequently asked questions 
  • How-to videos 
  • Company information 
  • Product or service descriptions 
  • Contact information 
  • Step-by-step guides on specific processes 
  • Troubleshooting tips 

It's up to you to decide which of these elements to include in your knowledge base. Now, we move on to the actual knowledge base building process. 

Step 1: Choose a Structure 

By "structure," we mean the way you organize information in your knowledge base. Your customers should be able to find the information they need without any hassle. Here are a few common knowledge base structures:

  • Categorization 
  • Alphabetical 
  • Chronological 
  • Hierarchical 

Let's take Zapier's knowledge base as an example. You can see that the company has used a categorical structure to organize its articles. Customers can decide whether to read articles about tables, interfaces, zaps, apps, canvas, etc. 

Another example is Dropbox. Their knowledge base is more extensive. First, it is divided into three sections: usage, account, and apps. Then, there are guides to use different Dropbox products like Passwords, Replay, Capture, and Transfer. At the bottom of the page, you see popular articles. Since these are popular queries, most customers find what they're looking for here.

Step 2: Create a Template 

Customers are becoming more and more self-reliant, with options like self-checkout and online shopping. A McKinsey survey found that 60% of customers prefer self-service. 

But here's the thing about self-service: it has to be efficient for your customers to embrace it. The same is true for your knowledge base, too. 

When writing content for your knowledge base, following a template is important. A template ensures consistency and makes information easily accessible to customers. For instance, your template could look something like this: 

  • A descriptive titled
  • Mention of the customers' pain point or problem
  • Clear and concise explanation of the solution 
  • Step-by-step instructions (with visuals if applicable)
  • Common troubleshooting tips (if applicable)  
  • Conclusion with a call-to-action for further assistance or related articles 

You can apply this template to any topic, whether it's about your product, service, or a general topic related to your industry. 

Step 3: Establish Writing Principles 

Set some writing principles for your customer support knowledge base. For example, if you're based in multiple countries, make sure you're using the English spellings that are most familiar to your customers. 

Some other principles could be: 

  • Avoiding typos
  • Making short paragraphs 
  • Using proper formatting (bullets, headings, bold/italics) 
  • Ensuring consistency in tone and voice throughout all articles
  • Implementing a review process for accuracy
  • Keeping the readability level at a 7th-8th grade level

Also, link to every resource you mention in the article. For example, if it's an article about setting up an account, provide a link to the account creation page. Don't make customers search for it on your website themselves. 

Step 4: Create Macros

A Macro is a prewritten message that can be inserted into customer replies. These are great for commonly asked questions or to provide a quick solution to a known issue. 

You can create macros for different types of inquiries, such as billing, technical support, product information, etc. Using macros saves a lot of time your customer support team would have to spend otherwise on repetitive tasks. 

Step 5: Set a Reference System

The reference system is for your support team to find the appropriate article quickly. It could be a simple numbering system or using categories and keywords. 

For example, all articles under the Payment and Billing section could be numbered like PB1, PB2, PB3, etc. Similarly, User Guide articles would be UG1, UG2, UG3, etc. 

Using keywords in the titles and content of articles can also make them easily searchable. 

Step 6: Learn From Your Customers

At the end of the day, it's them who will be using your knowledge base. So, it's essential to gather feedback from them to improve the quality of your articles. You can include a feedback form at the end of each article or send out surveys periodically to understand their preferences better. 

Listening to your customers' feedback can also help you identify areas where your knowledge base may be lacking. Maybe the customers feel adding more visuals could make it easier to understand or that some articles need to be more in-depth. 

Take their suggestions into consideration and keep refining your knowledge base. A quick way to do this is to have a thumbs up and thumbs down button at the end of each article. Customers can click on either based on how helpful they found the article.

Which Topics to Include In Your Knowledge Base

In most cases, you'd know what you add to your customer support knowledge base. Let's say you're a SaaS business, specifically a project management tool. 

Some of the topics you'd want to cover in your knowledge base are: 

  • Getting started
  • Getting familiar with features 
  • Troubleshooting common issues 
  • Billing & payments 
  • Frequently asked questions 
  • Account settings
  • Adding new team members
  • Integrating with other tools
  • Switching payment plans 

Apart from these topics, you can listen to your customers' feedback and add articles related to their needs. For example, if you keep getting questions about how to use a specific feature, make sure there's an article explaining it in detail. 

Google Analytics can be pretty helpful in this regard. In the "Site Search" section of your Analytics dashboard, you can find the terms your audience is searching for in the "Overview" tab. For instance, if the top search term is "Your tool's name + Slack integration," you should write a guide on how to integrate your tool with Slack.

Best Practices for Creating Knowledge Base Articles

Here are some tips to make your customer support knowledge base as helpful as possible. 

Keep It Simple

If customers could understand industrial jargon, they wouldn't need your knowledge base in the first place. Keep it as simple and concise as possible. Use bullet points, screenshots, visuals, and videos to make the content more understandable.

Avoid using technical terms or industry-specific language unless necessary. Even then, explain them. Otherwise, stick to plain, everyday language that any customer can understand.

Make It Searchable

Don't bury your articles deep inside categories. When customers are facing a problem, they want an answer fast. 

Design your knowledge base so customers can easily navigate and find relevant articles through a search bar or browsing related topics. Incorporate "fuzzy" search functionality so that even if customers misspell a word, they can still find what they need. 

Update Frequently 

You don't just build a knowledge base once and forget about it. Update your articles regularly to ensure that the information is up-to-date. If you change your products or services, update the articles, too. 

Facilitate Customer Support With a Comprehensive Solution 

A customer support knowledge base is merely a component of the bigger picture. Another part of this puzzle is having a customer support ticketing system that integrates with your knowledge base. 

JustReply steps up in this area, letting you view and resolve (or further assign) customer support tickets from your Slack workspace. You can choose from three beautiful help center templates to offer easily accessible articles to your customers. 

Get started to see how it works. 

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