There’s a secret sauce behind creating the perfect knowledge base content. It’s called research.
Knowing what you need to write about isn’t a simple walk in the park—it takes time to know what types of questions you need to tackle, and even more so, how to respond to them.
But before we dive in, I'd just like to note that this blog content comes from a chapter in our newest eBook, Knowledge Base 101. Be sure to download your free copy of this eBook to learn the ins-and-outs of knowledge base and how you can create the best help centre for your customers!
Now that that's out of the way, let's find out how to create impactful knowledge base content.
I’m sure at some point in your life, you’ve experienced speaking to multiple customer service reps within an organization and getting inconsistent responses. This is exactly what you want to avoid. The content that you write for your knowledge base acts as the official word of your organization and will serve as the correct response for both customers and your reps.
It’s important to get it right, so don’t just throw together some quick content without ensuring that the response you’re providing is correct. In fact, for some cases, answers may be ambiguous or differ throughout your organization, so interdepartmental collaboration may be necessary to narrow down on the correct answer.
The first step involved in creating content for your knowledge base is to determine which topics and questions you want to tackle first.
Identify Common Topics or Issues
The best place to start is to identify what the most common issues are, or what topics are discussed the most. There are two main approaches that you can take:
Speak directly with those working in your support and customer service department.
Review any existing customer inquiry data to identify trends.
I’d recommend doing both.
Speaking with your support and customer service department is always the best place to start since these are the frontline employees who deal directly with inquiries. A good strategy is to hold a meeting with these departments, and as prep work for the meeting, ask them to list the most common questions they get. Then during the meeting, collectively review these questions and gather the correct responses. This is the best way to ensure that the answers you provide in your knowledge base are correct across the board.
Next, you’ll want to review any existing data regarding questions and customer inquiries. You might be able to find this data in your customer service logs, your CRM, or your community (if you have one already).
If you already have a community, that’s definitely a great place to start since you’ll be able to see the most common support questions.
Once you know what the issues are that you want to address in your knowledge base and the correct answers that you want to provide, you’re ready to actually write. There are a few general rules that you should follow when writing your content, though the most difficult part is over (which was knowing what issues to address and the correct responses!).
Here are a few things to keep in mind when writing your knowledge base content:
Keep titles short and to the point. It’s best to give titles that are short and quick to the point, such as: “how do I (insert question).” Try to use the words that your customers will actually be using when searching for answers.
Use bullet points. Using bullet points is very important because people usually won’t stick around for too long—they just want a quick and easy answer. Bullet points will help make your content look better, be easier to read, and will naturally guide the reader's eyes to the conclusion more quickly.
Don’t use more words than necessary. Building on the point above, make sure that your content isn’t overwhelming. Get straight to the point as quickly as you can.
Use bold to emphasize points. Unfortunately, most people will skim over your words and look directly for the immediate response. Use bolded words to emphasize the most important points so that anyone browsing quickly will get the gist of it.
Be simple. Don’t overcomplicate things and try to use words that your reader will understand. Using unnecessarily large words will turn people away, so avoid that if possible.
Use images whenever you can. You know what they say—a picture is worth a thousand words! You definitely want to use photos or screenshots since it will help readers get straight to the point more quickly. People are mostly visual creatures, so give them what they want!
Spell check. Okay this is a no brainer, but the consequences of not doing so are dire. You’ll lose all credibility if you have a grammatical or spelling mistake anywhere on your website, but in a help article? Say goodbye to your attempt at thought leadership!
After you’ve written your content, you’ll want to determine what function the content serves. If you recall from Chapter 2, we discussed some common components of a good knowledge base. Your task is to now determine where you content logically belongs. Here are some tips:
Manuals: Your content belongs in this section if it doesn’t directly troubleshoot issues but is more of a “how to get started” type guide. The content found in this section is more instructional in nature.
Help articles: Your content belongs in this section if the answers are complex or require multiple steps to solve.
This step mostly pertains to content that falls under the “help articles” function. Since help articles will make up for a majority of your content, it’s important that you categorize these by topic so that your customers can quickly find what they’re looking for.
After you’ve written your content, you should have a good idea of what category it
belongs in. Essentially, you need to identify the topic of your article and place it in your knowledge base under the correct category.
The content categories that you have will really depend on the purpose of your organization. Broadly speaking, however, generic content categories could include:
Product or service related
Complaint or inquiry related
This is truly one of the most important steps involved in creating impactful content. You can’t really know if your content has been successful if you don’t take a look back after a few months and collect performance data.
This is why your knowledge base needs to have a feedback function. A simple “Was This Article Helpful?” goes a long way.
If you’re finding that your articles aren’t helpful, you need to assess why they aren’t working. Is the solution incorrect? Is your article difficult to understand? The feedback function should provide you with some general pointers on what exactly is going wrong.
Review, revise and repeat. It’s that simple.