Delivering Self-Service Customer Success with a Knowledge Base

By Natalie Macks

Customers have questions. You need answers. Preferably at your fingertips. A robust and easy-to-use knowledge base delivers customer success on demand. While a hands-on relationship with your key clients can help protect your revenue, a self-service option is right for customers of every size. Pulling together a knowledge base doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Here’s how to go about it.

Assemble Existing Content

Chances are good that you’ve already got some content. Your first task should be collecting FAQs from all departments that interact with customers. Support, customer success, and sales are the obvious candidates, but don’t forget that marketing interacts with folks at trade shows, the product team conducts valuable live user testing, the engineering group troubleshoots pesky bugs, and the finance group gets involved with tricky billing issues. They all can and should contribute to your knowledge base. Customer success is at the core of everyone’s job.

Establish Voice and Tone

Consider the impression that you’d like to make on your customer. Is it casual and quirky? Or polished and professional? Pull a few examples that you feel match your company’s overall vibe. Meet with someone from the marketing team to make sure that your vision aligns with theirs and get feedback on how and why these particular examples work to convey the intended impression. Establish some “say this”  and “not that” examples for all teams to use going forward.

Remember to be user-friendly. Any internal acronyms should be spelled out and you should avoid using terminology that your customer may not find familiar. Don't assume that the reader is a super-user, and don’t take anything for granted. A good test for clarity: Someone outside of the customer success team should be able to infer the initial question based on the article or response.

Ensure Consistency

Consistency is important, not only in the words you use, but also in the type size, font, and formatting. Create a style guide that covers how knowledge articles should look. Set limits for length - your users will thank you. Break longer articles into smaller steps or actions when appropriate to make the content easier to consume.

Establish image guidelines that set out when to use an image, how to crop, and what application to use to highlight image content (colors, arrow size, etc). Remember that any time there is a product update, someone may need to switch out images to reflect the changes. Having the minimum number of images in your knowledge base keeps this task from getting out of hand. 

Build a Home Base

A knowledge base may start out as a handful of pdf files that are internal resources. When you're ready to choose a tool to help you manage and publish your knowledge base, the goal should be to get information in front of customers, with a minimal amount of effort on your part. There are many tools for leveraging knowledge articles on your website. When making your choice, consider how frequently your content changes, any implications of publishing known issues or bugs, and how you’d like your customers to interact, if at all, with the articles. 

Organize and Recommend

Once you choose a tool and start to implement it, a logical layout with categories that identify key product areas or actions becomes a necessity. Organizing your content can also help identify any missing items and where you should focus your efforts to create new articles. Don’t rely solely on a search option to get content in front of your customer. Suggest articles that may be related to the article on view. Set up learning tracks (a curated collection of articles) for users based on their mastery level. 

Set Up an Approval Process

Ensure consistency and quality by setting up an approval process for new or updated content. You may want to give your marketing team final approval, or perhaps a set of managerial eyes is enough. Either way, avoid bottlenecks by identifying more than one approver at each level, and set in place procedures for publishing emergency content for critical issues. Give your front lines a way to flag content that may be out of date or need updating. This ensures that your knowledge base stays relevant and useful.

You are on your way! A knowledge base is a living resource and always a work in progress. Remember, the best customer success interaction is sometimes the one you don’t need to have. If any team member fields a question more than once, consider adding an article to cover the topic. Don’t make your customer pick up the phone, wait for an email response, or have a drawn out chat interaction unnecessarily. Guide them effortlessly with a well curated knowledge base, and watch them succeed on their own.

Need help choosing software and building your knowledge base?  The Success League is a consulting firm that works with executives who want to unlock the retention and revenue a top performing customer success team will bring to their business.

Natalie Macks - Natalie builds a culture of dedicated customer evangelists, as well as the systems and processes required for success.  Her award-winning leadership expertise coupled with integrity and passion produce increased customer retention and generate revenue.  With over 15 years in customer-facing roles, Natalie excels in bridging the gap between business technologies and the user experience.  She holds a BA in Zoology/Genetics from Michigan State University and resides in San Francisco, CA.