The phrase “knowledge is power” often conjures images of students hard at work or inquisitive minds exploring an old library. However, knowledge has an equally important role to play in business, from improving the customer experience to supporting employee efficiency.
The only problem is that businesses have vast amounts of knowledge, from customer service best practices and employee handbooks to product manuals and how-to guides. Organizing all this material without a solid strategy is next to impossible. To further complicate matters, content is often created in a variety of formats and trapped in one of several incompatible systems, creating data silos that act as a barrier to learning.
In short, companies need a solution like knowledge management or knowledge base management to help overcome challenges and distribute key information to both internal and external users.
Here’s what to know about knowledge management: what it is, why it matters, and how it can help you effectively leverage the large amount of information your company has created over the years.
What is Knowledge Base Management?
To appreciate the logic behind effective knowledge management, it’s important to understand exactly what is being managed: a knowledge base.
A knowledge base is the culmination of all the information you’ve created or gathered over the lifetime of your enterprise. It often includes collateral like step-by-step guides, tutorial videos, product manuals, and even dictionary-like glossaries. Some of this content shifts depending on whether you’re creating an internal or external knowledge base, as in these examples:
Internal Knowledge Base
An internal knowledge base usually consists of any content that might be useful to an employee; it’s sometimes built into a company’s employee portal. Information generally includes:
In addition to general company knowledge, an internal knowledge base often includes customer-facing content. This is because employees should know how their company’s product or service is marketed, positioned, and provided to customers so they can talk knowledgeably about the company. For example, the customer support team should have access to user manuals provided upon product purchase; that way, they can guide a customer through troubleshooting tasks by recommending specific pages or working through manual content side-by-side with the user.
External Knowledge Base
An external knowledge base — sometimes part of a customer portal, partner portal, or supplier portal depending on your target audience — is created for the benefit of the end-user. This content is professionally designed and reflective of company guidelines, creating a consistent, branded experience at any stage of the customer journey. Information in an external knowledge base often resembles a help center and can include:
Shipping costs and times.
Product demonstration videos.
External knowledge bases may also include “cleaned up” versions of internal content. For example, customers and employees both need access to product manuals, but the customer copy should be completely professional while the employee copy might include notes, links to related sales collateral, and more.
Knowledge Base Management
Regardless of the target audience, the fundamental goal of any knowledge base remains the same: make key information accessible and valuable to users. If customers and employees can’t find what they need in vast, disorganized content hoards, they won’t spend hours searching for it; as a result, everything from customer satisfaction to brand reputation can be diminished.
To avoid this, companies need solutions to help organize, structure, and improve upon their knowledge base. The process is called knowledge management or knowledge base management, and it’s sure to be appreciated by every customer or employee who accesses your content.
Knowledge management helps you make the most of your knowledge base content. It’s often made possible via knowledge base software, which digitizes and streamlines the process from beginning to end. The result is a dynamic library that delights, inspires, and perhaps most importantly, informs users of all levels.
The Importance of Leveraging Wisdom with Knowledge Base Management
Why invest in knowledge management in the first place? Let’s take a look at how both internal and external knowledge bases support your business and why it’s important to have a knowledge management system in place to organize this content.
Spend Less Time on Customer Support
Customer service is a key element of any solid brand. However, when managed poorly, customer support can quickly eat into employee time, increase cost-to-serve, and reduce return on investment (ROI).
Accessible, user-friendly knowledge bases can solve this problem. By offering a self-service solution to frequently asked questions, you save time for employees at your help center or IT desk; meanwhile, customers complete tasks at their leisure and don’t have to wait for help. This is an important option, as Statista reports 88% of survey respondents worldwide expected brands to have online self-service portals.
Take, for example, the University of East Anglia — a Liferay client that simplified content accessibility, improved usability, and improved platform navigation. It was all thanks to an upgraded self-service portal that allowed users to personalize experiences in ways that suited their needs.
Increase Customer Satisfaction
Many elements are involved in overall customer satisfaction — but when a user can’t find the content or answer they’re looking for because they have to wade through so much unrelated information, that satisfaction takes a significant hit.
Both external and internal knowledge bases can help solve this problem:
An external knowledge base improves the customer experience with digital self-service options, giving users the ability to find reliable information at the tap of a screen or click of a mouse. When a customer always knows right where to find necessary content, satisfaction doesn’t have to suffer.
An internal knowledge base gives customer service agents the support they need to answer questions that go beyond the scope of the external knowledge base. This minimizes the need to wait for responses from management and other teams, streamlining the customer support process.
Before employees can begin improving the customer experience with stellar service and helpful information, they need a little support of their own. The onboarding process is a “make or break” moment for many new hires — and if they don’t receive the training they need, they may either quit or provide unintentionally subpar service to customers.
To avoid this, knowledge bases can help organize and simplify the onboarding process. By putting key training materials, handbooks, policy guides, and other content in a single, unified database, you give employees the freedom to review information as necessary and guide their learning journey.
Improve Employee Engagement
If there’s a significant disconnect between customer and employee knowledge, your customer support team may feel frustrated at their inability to provide top-notch service. Robust knowledge bases address this issue by providing key content to both internal and external stakeholders, allowing customers to come to the table feeling informed and confident while employees know exactly what end-users have access to. This, in turn, improves employee engagement — both with their position and with clients.
Knowledge Base Management Best Practices
Managing all the content your company needs can quickly become overwhelming. As such, it’s often helpful to have best practices to guide your approach.
Here are a few ways to build a knowledge management system that aligns with your business objectives and serves customer and employee needs:
Use Knowledge Base Technology
Knowledge base software gives you the foundation you need to design, structure, organize, and manage content both internally and externally. When it’s built into a customer or employee portal, it also allows you to integrate other parts of your end-user’s journey, helping make every interaction as consistent and stress-free as possible. This helps you leverage your vast amounts of knowledge in ways that actually benefit users rather than letting questions go unanswered due to poor organization or navigation.
The best knowledge base software will enable key features, including:
Workflow enablement, which puts the appropriate review processes in place so all content can be fact- and quality-checked before landing in the knowledge base.
User feedback utilization, including a way to track article ratings and comments so knowledge base content can be improved over time.
Editing features, allowing creators to share feedback, accept or reject edits, and collaborate in real time.
Category organization, giving users the ability to subscribe to certain categories and receive updates when information is added or updated.
Create Valuable Content
Don’t fill your knowledge base with what the creative writing world refers to as “fluff.” Instead, make sure every piece of content is relevant and valuable to your users. This will eliminate the need for outside research, which may lead customers to a competitor’s site, and create a reputation of reliability and even thought leadership for your brand.
Write Descriptive Titles
Even the most relevant content in the world could be overlooked if not titled appropriately. As such, it’s important to name your articles, guides, and other knowledge base content in ways that make the subject matter clear to users.
Keep Accessibility in Mind
Don’t assume anything about your end-user. Instead, provide as many options as possible to access, view, or engage with your knowledge base. This can include captions on videos, clean design for infographics, simple fonts for written content, and more.
Update Your Knowledge Base Regularly
Outdated information can frustrate employees and make customers view your company as less trustworthy or detail-oriented. Perhaps more significantly, it can lead to inaccuracy and inefficiency that ultimately impacts ROI. To avoid these problems, make sure to keep your knowledge base updated with all the most recent information. For example, if you write a new product guide, be sure to include it right away; to improve clarity, rename the old version to indicate its outdated status but don’t remove it immediately.
Although knowledge base software should make it easy to distinguish between internal and external knowledge base content, it’s still important to double-check that you haven’t included employee information in a customer-facing database. This is especially true if you have multiple versions of the same document or asset.
Another way to maximize the efficiency and security of your internal knowledge base is to manage permissions. You can store all company data in a single knowledge base, but only certain employees should have access to the most sensitive information; restricting access for other workers simplifies the user experience and makes it easier to find relevant content.
Direct Users to Your Knowledge Base
If users don’t know your knowledge base exists, they’ll default to outdated methods of gathering information or answering questions. To save them the trouble (and make sure your investment pays off), remember to use your various communication channels to spread the word about your new knowledge base. This can include posts on social media, call-to-action links on your website, messages sent via internal chats, and more.
Let Users Guide the Way
Once you’ve created a framework for your knowledge base, uploaded relevant content, and publicized your new asset, you should gather feedback about the user experience. Are customers finding answers to their questions? Do employees feel the internal knowledge base is robust, comprehensive, and easy to navigate, even in the middle of a fast-paced customer service call?
With this feedback in hand, you can further optimize your knowledge base for your target audience. That way, you improve ROI while emphasizing your company’s dedication to constant evolution and improvement.
Take Control of Your Knowledge Base
Your company is a wealth of knowledge — but if that knowledge is trapped in incompatible formats across various systems, it’s virtually useless. Luckily, with solutions like knowledge base management and knowledge base software, you can take control of that data and turn it into a library of rich, expansive information. These knowledge bases can be either internal or external and, while they often share content, they remain focused on meeting the needs of their target audience. With a well-designed digital help center at your disposal, you can create all kinds of benefits, from simplified onboarding to improved customer satisfaction.
Are you ready to take control of your company’s knowledge base? Explore Liferay’s Digital Experience Platform to take the first step.