Far too few organizations understand how much is riding on their knowledge base strategy. By some estimates, only 44% of companies consider improving the knowledge base a top priority. Alas, your customers and internal employees might beg to differ.
Why is a Streamlined Knowledge Base Important?
Both customer and employee are roles that all of us play at one point or another. As customers, what do most of us do when problems, questions, and curiosities arise? We ask Google, a search engine that now processes more than 40,000 search queries a second.
As employees, we search internal resources, employee self-service portals, and even communities. Maybe we tap the shoulder of a colleague, a dynamic that’s rapidly changing now that more than half of all knowledge workers will likely be working remotely.
Either way, we’re looking for expert, authoritative, and trustworthy answers. So, how to best serve E-A-T-worthy content to multiple audiences, across multiple channels, from a single knowledge base?
How to Create a “Knowledge When You Need It” Experience
Today’s workplace is digital, but not necessarily intelligent. In environments with nascent knowledge management strategies, or inadequate knowledge base solutions, you’ll likely find employees spending a little too much time searching, too little time knowing. The employee is shaped to fit the digital workplace, instead of the other way around.
Put external knowledge customers through too much searching and they’ll just bounce. The good news is that you can avoid this friction by making your existing systems smarter. You don’t need to overhaul your tech stack.
You just need to improve the quality and findability of your existing knowledge base content.
1. Insist on Publishing Quality Content
The quality of a knowledge base article is in the eye of the beholder. While there are guidelines for creating content, it comes down to knowing what your customers need. Take the launch of hypothetical “Software 2.0,” for example. If your goal is to drive installs and adoption among a non-technical customer base, a fifty-page PDF user guide won’t help them much. Instead:
- Anticipate people’s needs and map content to those needs
- Think about topics that will allow people to get more out of their workplace, product, or service
- Write concise, well-structured content
- Validate technical validity and relevance with subject matter experts
- Provide multiple ways for people to consume the same knowledge (text, graphic, video, etc.)
2. Incorporate More Video
People watch a billion hours of YouTube content every day. It’s where people go when they want to consume information. Why? Because it’s so much easier to watch a video when it’s time to fix, reset, learn, or get more out of something. Few people—especially younger demographics—prefer to read long-form articles.
It’s an easy fix, though: turn those knowledge base articles into corresponding videos that can be found by internet search, or embedded in various website experiences. These can be quick and to the point, as long as they give people the answers they’re looking for.
Here’s the approach I personally used while working as a technical writer at a previous employer:
Take the top 10 to 20 most-consulted articles by customers and employees and turn them into short videos. Embed them in articles and link the YouTube descriptions to the knowledge base homepage.
You might need to collaborate with education services to satisfy any corporate branding requirements. But even quick and dirty YouTube videos are better than your customers getting answers from some kid in his garage. Be the official company word on a particular topic, while tapping into one of the world’s largest search engines to make that content available to a broader audience.
3. Optimize for Mobile
There’s a good reason that Google only indexes mobile content now: almost everyone has a smartphone. In the United States alone, 85% of people have a smartphone:
With this much smartphone adoption, it’s no surprise that most people use mobile phones to contact support, self-serve, etc. Unfortunately, many customer and employee self-service audits reveal at least some functionality that doesn’t work on tablets or smartphones.
Put simply, failing to optimize your entire knowledge base experience for mobile is a critical mistake.
4. Organize KB Content With Tags
Good content tagging helps both people and machines find what they need. With regard to the former, properly tagged content lends to a better experience when people decide to narrow search results using facets (filter by year, product type, price, size, and so on).
It helps machine learning models, too. When a sound tagging strategy is applied to a body of content, ML has more data to work with when connecting searchers with what they’re looking for. As a result, search results, suggested content, and related articles tend to be far more accurate.
5. Implement a Unified Index
The idea is to create one search and knowledge experience across company sites and applications. Unfortunately, many enterprises have lots of knowledge already—articles, solved cases, product manuals, documentation, release notes, videos, community posts—but it all lives in separate and disconnected siloes.
Unified index technology securely connects all of the systems and sources into a single experience for your agents and customers. Imagine an experience where recommendations adapt as people search, click, and otherwise interact. This might be on the public support site, in product, or just before creating a case on your community site.
That kind of predictive and personalized experience is possible with a unified index underlying it.
6. Update Content Based On What the (Intelligent) Analytics Are Telling You
According to our Relevance Report 2021, 85% of employees are not completely confident in the information that they share externally. Sometimes content is out of date, inaccurate, or incomplete. Sometimes the content is missing entirely.
Content analytics can help you monitor and optimize KB content on an ongoing basis—all based on hard data. This might include:
- Content gaps, such as high-volume search terms that your customers use, but you don’t have content for
- Knowledge base usage that shows how customers and agents search, navigate, and use the knowledge system
- Relevance tuning to uncover high-value content, journey optimizations, and better recommendations
At the very least, keep tabs on the top 10, 20, or 30 knowledge base articles and update them regularly.
It’s About More Than “Improving the Experience”
The conversation around improving your knowledge base can feel very much pie-in-the-sky. Stakeholders want to “improve the experience across digital channels,” or “boost employee self-service efficiency.”
Noble causes, to be sure. However, the real challenge is finding the underlying—and unifying—platform that supports all of these initiatives at once. One that unifies content from disparate sources and extends it to various internal and external channels all at once—and with the utmost relevance possible.
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