14 Ways: How Your Customer Support Benefits From a Knowledge Base

July 28, 2015 at customer support, technical communication

Recently, I was talking to Zendesk support team for my questions and the executive helped me with some directions. When I asked for how exactly I can setup SSL for my custom domain, he quickly pasted a URL from their knowledge base for my reference. The article really helped me because it had the context to help me understand the instructions, and I could use it at my own pace to follow the steps, rather than following instructions in an online conversation.

I quickly realized how the support teams also use the knowledge base, for sharing useful articles with their customers while providing support. This experience adds to the benefits of a product knowledge base–it is meant not only for product users (customers), but also for internal users including the support team.

14 Reasons: Customer Support Needs a Knowledge base

I thought of different scenarios of how a knowledge base can really benefit a customer support team, and here is the list of 14 such ways.

Consistency in Support

The support team has a common reference to see instructions that they can communicate to customers. When all the support executives are referring to the same content via a knowledge base, it ensures consistency in what all customers learn from the support team, and also when same customer learns from different support executives.

Authority and Trust

Take an example when I talk to my mobile service operator and ask them to stop a service. The executive Joe tells me that the service will stop within 8 hours and at most in 24 hours. When I call again to disconnect another (similar) service, the executive Maria tells me that it will be deactivated in 24 hours. When I shared the service deactivation time that Joe had communicated to me, Maria puts the call on hold to check with the team. I do not like when the support team ‘holds’ the call to verify some information. If there was a knowledge base in place, both Maria and Joe can refer to the same article or instructions and there were no communication gaps. A KB brings authority and trust between customers and the support team, which means greater trust between customers and the brand itself.

Saves Everybody’s Time

When the Zendesk executive shared the knowledge base article URL with me, I could see and understand the instructions clearly. It saved his time to explain all the steps. It saved my time also because I could follow the instructions at my pace, without an online conversation which would have taken more time.

Reduced Support Calls, Save Cost for Business

If I refer to a clear and accurate knowledge base article once, I am beginning to trust it more. Next time, I may refer to the KB first, and I may not call the support team. It means reduced calls at the support team, and hence cost saving for the business.

Being Prepared for Customer Pain Points

A knowledge base provides useful metrics that the product teams can use to gain valuable insights. For example, if the KB analytics show that a few specific topics are being referenced by many customers, the support team can make extra efforts to explain those to their customers, in a call.

Support teams are the agents to transform annoyance to happiness; metrics helps them prepare better.

Internal, Protected Content

Support team can manage a private content repository within the knowledge base, for their internal use. There are times when support executives need to refer to contextually related articles that are not meant for end users. This private repository is an easy reference when they answer customer concerns via phone or email.

User Generated Content, Metrics for Product Team

If the business goals approve user generated content in a knowledge base and if they execute it well, UG content opens massive opportunities for the customer support and product team.

For example, customers often post questions and answers, and share tips and knowledge among themselves. It means a self-service opportunity for them where support teams can track and monitor which topics are being discussed most and least in the community content. In support calls, the support team can refer to community content articles as an example of how the question has been answers by the users, who were in similar situation while using the product. Users often relate better to other users’ experience.

In addition, metrics on the most upvoted articles, most discussed, or top rated articles can help strategic decision making in the product team, whether identifying the need to optimize the UX, branding, or customer touch points.

User Generated Content, Touchpoints for Marketers

The community content is an excellent way to engage audience, to monitor how they respond to different touch points. Their experience of sharing product knowledge base sheds some light on how they are using your product, and how they are sharing their product knowledge in the community. This data serves as an excellent platform for content marketers to target audience for their choices and concerns, and plan their campaigns accordingly.

For example, if a particular set of paying customers are talking about ‘schedule a recurring event does not allow me to add a note for each instance of the event‘, the marketers can plan a webinar to explain why it has been planned that way.

Clarity in Technical Instructions

There are times when support teams need to communicate some technical details or instructions. A technical writer is best placed to write technical How To articles following best practices such as the conventional article structure for–concept, task, and reference. A knowledge base makes it easier for support team executives to explain such instructions in a clear structure that the customers can easily understand.

A well prepared How To article helps the executives to pace their call and take pause where required.

Findability, Service Level

For many products, there are times when the support teams need to find information that they can share with an online customer. This is the time when they put the call on hold, or ask customers to wait for xx minutes in an online conversation. In content community, we call it as the Findability issue. More hold time means more call time, and hence reduced service level for the helpdesk. A well-planned knowledge base where categories and articles are logically structured and tagged helps support teams to find the right information, quickly. It boosts the service level performance of the support team.

Integrated Content Loop

Consider a scenario that a customer calls Joe that the MailChimp integration instructions as mentioned in the product UI text are not helping him. Joe explains the correct instructions and then updates the knowledge base team to update the MailChimp integration support article, for correct reference to how the UI text explains it.

So there is a common content loop that keeps everyone on the same page for what the support team communicates, what the UI text means, and how the KB article explains it.

Customers’ Opportunity to Get Involved, Their Joy

Support teams often manage a ‘features request log’. When one of these requested features is live, smart legends in the knowledge base articles (*new) help customers know that the business really value their requests and feedback, by working on the requested features. Nothing serves a business better than an added ounce of happiness for its customers.

Accuracy and Timeliness in Agile and Lean

Agile and rapidly evolving product strategy means that the support teams need to stay updated on the latest updates and news, proactively and consistently. Since technical writers are skilled to manage the knowledge base for latest updates, it is again an easy source of reference for support teams to ensure that they are always communicating latest and accurate information to the customers.

Common Content Reference

Content is integral to all aspects of a business as I often say “Any product development starts with content and it ends with content.” A knowledge base development team (or an individual author who is responsible for the KB) often brings different teams together. Support team’s reference to this KB means that they are connected with the latest ‘content’ in the organization.

If you have any comments or feel ‘it can also be argued…’ for any of the above 14 reasons, add your comments and I will be more than happy to discuss it further.