What is a Knowledge Base Article?

A knowledge base is a tool that businesses can use to help their customers immediately solve their own issues and answer their own questions, rather than wait for a response from a customer service representative. In recent years, knowledge bases have become increasingly popular as customers’ expectation for quick service has grown. 

A business can store scores of information about their product and its use, as well as the solutions to common issues, within their knowledge base, allowing customers to have a “self-service” approach to receiving support. The types of information that a knowledge base might contain include:

  • Explanations of how to use a feature or product
  • Answers to customer questions
  • Clarification of how to utilize advanced features
  • Guide to the business’ services
  • Information about the company

Additionally, businesses sometimes make use of internal knowledge bases, which serve as an information repository for employees and stakeholders.

What Are The Benefits of Using a Knowledge Base?

By building out a comprehensive knowledge base, a company can significantly decrease the demand for live customer support, saving both money and time. Customers can search for answers to their own questions, and customer service agents can point customers to knowledge base articles rather than spending their time explaining the issue repeatedly. 

This is useful to companies of all sizes. If you have customers, you can expect that your customers will have questions. Using a knowledge base will significantly help your company cope with these questions. After all, knowledge bases take advantage of the modern customers’ existing competency with searching the internet for the information they desire while serving their need to receive fast answers.

What Makes for a Good Knowledge Base?

A knowledge base is nothing without the major component it comprises: the knowledge base article. This is the single unit of information that does the heavy lifting of teaching a customer how to use a product, answering a customer’s question, or troubleshooting a customer’s problem. Knowledge bases should anticipate as many possible customer inquiries as possible so that an article is available for each. Frequent updates are expected to keep up with new use cases as they arise and keep existing content relevant.

What Makes For a Good Knowledge Base Article?

While other types of written content on the internet might strive to entertain or amuse, knowledge base articles’ only goal is to answer the customer’s question. Being that customers are visiting your knowledge base specifically to save them time, a knowledge base article must strike the ideal balance between being succinct and sufficiently explaining the issue at hand so that it might be understood by customers with varying levels of proficiency and familiarity with your product.

Preparing to Write a Knowledge Base Article

Like with most types of writing, you should know what you want to say in your knowledge base article before you begin typing. First, you should have a complete understanding of the exact question you are answering and its context. This means that you know which problem your knowledge base article is solving, as well as which problems it isn’t. This requires familiarity with what other articles exist in the knowledge base.

Then, you’ll need to have a complete understanding of exactly what is required to solve the problem you are writing about, not just on your own computer system, but on other browsers, operating systems, and mobile devices. You should anticipate possible points of complexity or confusion. As such, you’ll want to make sure you have gone through the solution yourself at least once to be sure that it is effective, taking notes of any parts of the process that are tricky or require extra time or effort.

Recall that not all customers learn the same way. To that end, it is important to include images, screenshots, videos, and links whenever possible in order to serve visual learners as much as those who can understand how to solve their problem exclusively by reading about it. 

Knowledge Base Article Components

As mentioned previously, knowledge base articles must be succinct, but they also need to be sufficient to answer the question for a less-advanced user. However, if you find that somebody new to your company, product, or industry will need significantly more assistance with the problem than an average user, you’d be well-served to create a knowledge base article specifically for them, so as to not overload your average customer with excess information they already know.

You’ll want to write straightforwardly, without idioms or technical jargon. Use customer-facing terms rather than any specific internal terminology you use at your company that a customer might not be familiar with. Make use of headings, subheadings, typographical emphasis (bold, underline, and italic) lists, tables, and color-coding to help organize your article and make it clearer. These elements should serve only to enhance clarity, not as facets of design.

Don’t talk down to your customer, try to sell to them, or convince them that their problem is insignificant. Don’t push other products or conceal important information, like that a feature is buggy or doesn’t work on a particular platform. 

Be sure to provide relevant context about the problem at the beginning of the article. If you are teaching your users how to use a specific feature, show them what they will be able to achieve if they successfully master the feature. If you are explaining how to problem-solve a common tech issue, give examples of how that issue might manifest for your users, as well as how they will know once it has been solved. 

Improving Knowledge Base Articles

It’s important that your knowledge base articles don’t just exist, but that they are actively contributing to helping your customers and customer service agents. Before you publish your article, consider asking a co-worker who isn’t familiar with the subject at hand to read through your article and see if they find it helpful and understandable. If they are confused at any point, you’ll know to revise accordingly. 

You also might choose to speak with your company’s customer service agents, who are more familiar with solving customers’ problems than anybody else in the organization, to get their opinion on whether or not your article will be helpful to customers as written. Further, you can track the effectiveness of your article after its publication by speaking to customer service and determining if the number of questions about the topic at hand were decreased, or even increased, and making appropriate adjustments. 

Making Writing Knowledge Base Articles Easier

There are several platforms that exist to help you organize your knowledge base. With elev.io, you can easily import existing knowledge base content, simplifying your transition into using a knowledge base. You’ll also be able to collaborate with others on creating knowledge base articles, working your way through several drafts until you arrive at a final, approved version. This allows you to publish with the confidence that your new article will be as useful as possible.

Elev.io’s machine learning platform helps you by suggesting keywords for each article, saving you time and helping to make knowledge base article writing easier. It can translate your articles into over twenty languages, allowing you to serve an international user base. And it’ll notify you when your articles are getting older so that you can keep your knowledge base up-to-date.

Click here to start a 14-day free trial of elev.io today. 

By Gary Tuohy

I am who I'm meant to be, this is me.

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