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IT Services: 10 Tips for Creating an Effective Knowledge Base

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Picture this. It’s late at night and you’re halfway through your helpdesk shift. You click on the next ticket in the queue. Great. It’s your sixth ticket for the night asking a simple question about the software. Now you’ve got to type out a response. You get that done quick and click on the next ticket. Here we go again ...

If only you had a knowledge base where these users could find their own answers, your support queue would be clear of simple issues, and you could dedicate what little time you have available to sorting out the really thorny issues, like the user whose entire history mysteriously disappeared or the customer whose computer appears to be haunted by the ghosts of software past ...

Creating a knowledge base is a simple process, if you approach it in a strategic way. Here are our <> simple tips for creating a knowledge base:

1. Use wording from your tickets

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to writing the content for your knowledge base. Simply copy/paste some of the text from your recent tickets, and expand on this as required to fill in the gaps. Text from more than one ticket can be combined to cover different issues in the same knowledge base article.

2. Tackle the most-asked questions first

The huge advantage of an online knowledge base is the fact that it cuts down on support queries and the time answering them. Customers look in the knowledge base to see if their question has been answered before sending a query. Shifting basic support queries over to the knowledge base frees up your support staff for the trickier queries.

So get together with your support team and formulate a plan for attacking the knowledge base. Create a master list of the most common support queries, and write the tutorials from the top of the list to the bottom, divvying up the work evenly between you all and creating a schedule for updates. With everyone working together, you'll have a functioning knowledge base in no time.

3. Use a formula for creating pages

If you’re not naturally a writer, it can be difficult to think of what to write on each page. It helps to speed up the process to have a simple formula to follow on each page. This also helps ensure that pages written by different people are all uniform in style.

Use this simple method:

  • Step 1: Problem. Describe the issue the customer is having. If possible, link to other relatied issue so the customer can quickly navigate to the correct page.
  • Step 2: Steps to Take: Describe a Step-by-Step process for assessing and fixing the issue.
  • Step 3: Result: What does the solved issue actually look like? Describe the resolution and how the user knows it is a true fix and not just a coincidence.

You can add to each step with additional resources such as video tutorials.

4. Link articles to forum and helpdesk

So your customer has found an article in your knowledge base pertaining to their issue, read through it, and tried to do what it suggested. Now, his computer is beeping angrily and smoke is coming out the back.

Not really, but because technology can be very temperamental, even the simplest of tutorials in your knowledge base won’t work for everyone. So make it really easy for someone trying to follow the instructions to get additional help by submitting a ticket or creating a new query in your online discussion forum. Add links at the bottom of articles and huge buttons in the sidebar.

5. Get analytical with your knowledge base pages

How do the different pages of your knowledge base perform in organic search? How many hits do they get, and how long do people stay on the page?

A knowledge base can also be a great place to add some additional calls-to-action, attracting anyone coming from organic search to sign up for your product or contact your company.

6. Improve the search function for an easy win

Testing and improving the search functions of your knowledge base is one of the best ways you can ensure it remains in constant use. If a user can’t find the article they need, they are going to submit a ticket - so you need to make it easy for them to find the right info.

With your colleagues, draw up a “tag map” of the different tags and categories in your search. Figure out the best way to organise the information before you begin tagging articles.

You need to think about how customers describe their issues. You may call something by its technical name, but will a customer? Ensure the title of each page contains specific details and keywords that could be understood by both technical and more tech-phobic customers.

Also, check that your search functions are working the way you think. Sometimes a search application will return erroneous results - yours needs to be working perfectly.

7. Conduct a regular content audit

At least once a year, your support team should be conducting a content audit of your knowledge base, going through each article and updating it to match the latest version of your software.This will also catch any typos that slipped through, and will help your team identify any gaps in the content.

8. Supply additional resources

Some people aren’t readers, and the idea of trawling through your knowledge base fills them with dread. However, they might respond well to help videos or screenshots of common fixes.

Supplying additional resources in other formats can help expand your knowledge base for those people who aren’t able to understand the written instructions. If you put video tutorials on sites like YouTube and link them back to your knowledge base, this can also serve as online marketing for your company.

9. Proof each other’s articles

When you’ve finished created a knowledge base article, pass it on to someone else in the support team to proofread. They will be able to check it for spelling and grammar mistakes, as well as improve or change descriptions when needed to make instructions clearer. Having this second check in place will help prevent incorrect information being published, and will also help the Knowledge base to retain a distinctive “voice”.

There will be some fixes that will be tricky to convey in a written form. At a team meeting, brainstorm together the best way to tackle these topics.

10. Flag new tickets that could be potential articles

If a customer reports an issue and it seems like something that might come up again in the future, flag the ticket so you can return to it later when you’re writing more knowledge base articles. Add the subject of the ticket to the list of article topics you created, so that you can write it when the time comes.

Keeping a running account of potential knowledge base articles ensures new material is constantly being added.

A knowledge base is a vital asset for any IT company, as it provides a first point of call for customers having minor problems. Enabling customers to fix small issues on their own empowers them to learn more about the software, and also frees up your support staff resources for bigger issues. With your whole support team collaborating together on producing content, a knowledge base is well within your reach.

Inage courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Have you created a knowledge base for your IT products? Share your tips in the comments!