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Knowledge can be a valuable business asset, especially if organizations manage it carefully.
Organizations can improve productivity by using a knowledge base to make important information readily available to their customers and employees. A knowledge base that stores internal knowledge, such as employee best practices, can improve knowledge preservation, employee training, team consistency and remote work. An external knowledge base can boost customer satisfaction, lower hiring costs, enhance search engine optimization (SEO) efforts and offer customer analytics.
If organizations can handle the challenges of a knowledge base, which include assigning roles and updating information, they can benefit from the system.
What is a knowledge base?
A knowledge base is a centralized, online repository of information that people can use to find answers about a topic, company or product. Organizations typically offer their employees a private, internal knowledge base but may also provide their customers with a public, external knowledge base.
An internal knowledge base lets employees find the information they need to do their job correctly. This information may include company policies, onboarding material, ongoing training documents and tips for how to use company software.
An external knowledge base lets customers find answers to their questions about products and services. These customer-facing knowledge bases typically contain FAQ pages, product user guides, how-to videos and troubleshooting walkthroughs.
4 benefits of an internal knowledge base
Internal knowledge bases let employees quickly find the information they need to do their jobs. Benefits include knowledge preservation, employee training, team consistency and remote work.
1. Knowledge preservation
Employees that stay with an organization for many years acquire valuable knowledge that can benefit other workers. However, organizations can lose those insights as these employees retire or find new jobs. Instead organizations can create knowledge management strategies to capture important information from these experienced employees and store it in a knowledge base.
For example, as part of the offboarding process, an organization may ask senior employees to participate in recorded question-and-answer sessions about their experience and what they've learned. The organization could then upload these recordings, or transcripts of these recordings, to the knowledge base so other employees can learn from them on their own time.
2. Employee training
Organizations must extensively train new hires and should offer ongoing training for all other employees, which takes time and effort. A knowledge base, however, can improve training efficiency because it lets workers frequently revisit training materials.
In-person training sessions can offer a knowledge foundation for employees. However, workers may forget important details from these sessions. In addition to in-person training, organizations can create training documents, such as cheat sheets and step-by-step guides, and store them in a knowledge base. Employees can then refer to these training materials whenever they need them.
3. Consistency across teams
Large organizations have many departments, often with multiple teams within those departments. Over time, individual teams may forget, alter or abandon company protocols and best practices, which reduces consistency across the organization.
A lack of consistency among teams can damage CX and brand recognition. For example, if multiple customer service agents within an organization give different advice for the same problem, customers may become frustrated and confused. If different editorial teams at an online publication use their own formatting and style, the publication may struggle to build a recognizable brand.
To support consistency, organizations can use a knowledge base to store best practices, branding templates and style guides for their employees. Teams can refer to the knowledge base whenever they have questions about best practices, which can keep them on the same page.
4. Remote work
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizations to adopt social distancing protocols and embrace remote and hybrid workplaces. Although most governments no longer enforce these social distancing measures, many employees still prefer to work from home.
A flexible work environment can improve the employee experience, but remote workers cannot turn to their colleagues for help as easily as in-person workers. A knowledge base, however, lets these remote workers find answers to their questions independently.
Benefits of an external knowledge base
Unlike internal knowledge bases, which only employees can access, external knowledge bases offer access to anyone. Benefits of an external knowledge base include customer satisfaction, lower hiring costs, SEO and customer analytics.
1. Customer satisfaction
An external knowledge base can improve customer satisfaction by offering customers 24/7 support. For instance, if a banking customer wants to learn how to make a remote deposit at 7 p.m., they can search their bank's knowledge base for the answer and don't need to wait for business hours.
An external knowledge base can also reduce call hold time within contact centers. Customers can use the knowledge base to find answers to common questions, which makes contact center phone lines less busy. Shorter hold times can reduce frustration and boost customer satisfaction and retention.
2. Lower hiring costs
As a knowledge base helps customers find answers, it reduces the number of customer service agents an organization needs to hire.
Before contact centers offered knowledge bases and other self-service channels, live agents needed to answer frequently asked questions, such as questions about store hours and return policies. In modern contact centers, knowledge bases handle most of these common inquiries, which lets agents focus on more complex customer problems.
Search engines like Google and Bing use ranking systems to determine which search results should appear on the search engine results page (SERP) for a given keyword. A well-organized article structure and a strong SEO strategy can help articles rank higher on the SERP. Many knowledge base software tools offer premade article templates to help organizations create well-structured content for their knowledge bases, which can help their content appear in Google searches.
Organizations can also use their knowledge bases to write and publish informative articles on general industry topics. For instance, a CRM vendor might regularly publish articles about marketing, such as "The importance of marketing personalization" or "5 ways to use AI in marketing." These general articles can appear in search engines, bring new audiences to the organization's site and improve brand recognition.
4. Customer analytics
Many knowledge base software products offer customer analytics features so organizations can track which articles customers viewed the most or least. These tools can also track which keywords customers use in their searches.
Organizations can use this customer data to improve their future knowledge base content strategy. For example, if the analytics show that many customers have begun to search for a specific topic that the knowledge base doesn't cover, the content teams can proactively write articles on that content.
Challenges of a knowledge base
Internal and external knowledge bases offer many benefits. But organizations should understand the following challenges before they consider a system:
- Assigning roles. A knowledge base requires a content team to write and edit its articles and a clearly defined leader to manage these content teams, configure the system and analyze user data.
- Maintenance. Knowledge bases require ongoing maintenance and updates. As organizations make changes to their internal policies and product lines, content teams must update information in the knowledge base accordingly.
- Fostering a culture of knowledge sharing. A comprehensive knowledge base includes knowledge from various departments and employees within a company. Organizations should encourage employees to regularly share knowledge with their colleagues.
- Training. As with any new software tool, a knowledge base can have a learning curve. Organizations must offer training sessions to ensure employees correctly use the system.
Organizations that want to improve employee productivity and team cohesiveness may consider an internal knowledge base, while contact centers struggling to keep up with ticket volumes should consider an external option. In either case, advocates for the knowledge base may need to demonstrate the system's potential business benefits, such as ROI, before company executives support the tool.