As a company grows with new customers and staff, the more likely it is that people will need help somewhere along the way — whether that’s figuring out some functionality of your product or service, training new employees, or even educating existing employees on new products. 

The trouble you can run into with growth is that your customer support team and internal managers can quickly become inundated with common questions. One solution to this problem is to build a knowledge base.

What is a knowledge base?

An effective knowledge base is a self-service library of company and customer support documentation used to answer customer questions, provide tutorials, help with troubleshooting, and also typically for onboarding training.

To add further, knowledge base articles can consist of text, infographics, workflows, templates, video tutorials, meetings, screen recordings, and more. These articles (or documents) can also cover anything from how to report a health hazard, to specific I.T. processes, all the way to storing and displaying customer compliments!

What are the benefits and uses of a knowledge base?

Specific benefits and use cases of knowledge bases will depend on the type of business or industry you’re operating in, and we’ll look at some examples shortly. That being said, there are some overall points you can make no matter what sort of organization you’re managing.

Uses of a knowledge base

Primarily, a knowledge base will serve either of two core purposes:

  • Customer education. These days, when a customer has a question the first place they’ll look for an answer is on your website. A good knowledge base can be there for the 91% of customers who would prefer to self-service with one.
  • Staff education. Expanding teams anywhere in the business can be a daunting task for any HR and legal representatives. A knowledge base can store essential training information (for new and existing staff) so that all the basics are covered.

Benefits of a knowledge base

You’ll find several benefits on both sides of the business coin with building and maintaining an extensive knowledge base.

For customers:

  • Better customer experience. Have you ever thought your query was so simple to deal with, yet you spend so much time trying to sort it out over the phone or by email? When the customer can self-serve with a knowledge base, they get their queries answered immediately.
  • 24/7 customer service. Speaking of immediacy, another pain point customers often go through is not being able to contact customer services outside of office hours. A knowledge base solves that problem since it stays open 24/7 in real-time.

For managers:

  • Lower training cost. When you create a solid knowledge base that is regularly updated and maintained, you can count on it to answer questions from your new hires and provide their basic training. This can help you lower the time (therefore cost) of providing in-person training.

Higher resolution rates. Customers who get quick can increase your resolution rates considerably. Not to mention you’ll free up more support tickets for those whose questions are genuinely more complex.

Knowledge base examples

Both as an employee and a customer, I’ve come across some pretty solid knowledge bases in my time across various industries. While many of them differ in design, they all share some common traits: a search bar, organization by topic, and contact links in case you can’t find a solution in the base. Here are some great examples (with screenshots) of existing knowledge bases.

Toggl Track

If you’re into productivity tools, chances are you might have come across Toggl Plan, a time-tracking tool to help you figure out where your time really goes. Currently, their knowledge base is organized simply by topic, which then includes subtopics related to using their product. 

Interestingly, they have a different knowledge base for each of their products, which can be a pro or a con depending on your perspective.

ManyChat

If you’ve ever encountered a chatbot powered by Facebook Messenger or Instagram, there’s a strong chance that the website or social media page used ManyChat to build it. Building a chatbot can seem pretty daunting to some, ManyChat knows this and so they have a large knowledge base to help boost their user experience.

They cover topics from the basics of using their product to more advanced topics like using widgets, plugins, and API dev tools.

Vimeo

Of course, Vimeo also has some extensive knowledge base content where their customers can get information on just about everything Vimeo. You’ll find anything from learning how to live stream to different ways of watching videos on Vimeo. On the flip side, Vimeo also has a new feature specifically for storing video content: the Video Library

The Video Library is a place for your company videos to live with advanced search functions and information architecture.

How to create a knowledge base of your own

So now you know what a knowledge base is, why they’re so great, and have seen a few examples, do you feel inspired to build one? If so, stick around! 

Since knowledge bases can differ a little according to the needs of the business (and its customers), we’ll go over the main steps you’ll need to take when creating one for the first time.

  1. Make a tone of voice and formatting guide before starting.

    Customers will feel more confident in learning from a place that shows consistency in communication style. Your content should follow some general rules to achieve this consistency (such as not using industry jargon).

  2. Gather insights from your front-line teams.

    Try to find out from your customer-facing teams what questions they’re asked regularly to ensure you’re answering real pain points. It’s also worth diving into any customer satisfaction or retention surveys you might have given out for this information.

  3. Collate and adjust existing content.

    In the customer-facing context, you can look towards any blog posts you might have written, social media posts/replies, and product/service page copy. Internally, if you have expanding teams, chances are you already have some documentation in place. In this case, collect it all and update it with your tone of voice and formatting guide in mind.

  4. Seriously consider design and structure.

    Similar to building a tone of voice and formatting guide for individual pieces of content, you’ll also want to figure out the overall design and information architecture of your base before going ahead to build it. A familiar structure is to organize by topic and subtopic.

  5. Build or find a home for your knowledge base.

    If you have the means, once you’ve considered structuring it and how you want your base to look, you can have developers work on building it for you on your website. Alternatively, you can use a service such as Vimeo’s Video Library to host your content.

  6. Create new content.

    At this point, you’ll have everything you need to get started in creating new articles, videos, and other content types for your knowledge base. Remember to keep in mind your customer research, but it’s also worth checking the search engine results pages for content ideas too.

  7. Maintain and update content regularly.

    There’s not much worse for the customer experience than looking for help only to be met with outdated ‘solutions’. As you build on your knowledge base, remember to revisit the older articles or videos to check for inconsistencies.

How to integrate video into your knowledge base

Many people consider themselves visual learners and prefer to see exactly what you’re talking about rather than reading about it. It’s a good idea to incorporate video (and video transcriptions/captions for accessibility) into your knowledge base wherever possible.

You can turn existing content into videos and embed them on the same page (and host them in the Video Library) to help give customers a choice of how they want to learn.

In this case, it’s usually worth having a dedicated ‘knowledge management’ team or person who works to create and maintain these videos. 

Internal knowledge base vs external knowledge base

Speaking of visual learners, to demonstrate the differences between internal and external knowledge bases, we’ve created the infographic below to help you understand the main points.

Simple infographic with plain background reads:

Internal knowledge base

Exclusively used by employees or authorized persons

Contains confidential company documentation

Usually used for staff onboarding, training, and team collaboration

Great for improving staff autonomy, productivity, and efficiency 

External knowledge base:

Used by anyone including customers and employees 

Contains as much public knowledge as possible 

Is designed primarily to answer customer questions and troubleshoot issues

Great for improving customer retention and resolution rates

Use-cases for an internal knowledge base

I’ve mentioned points about internal knowledge base uses already, in that it’s a great solution for staff onboarding as well as training new and existing employees. However, it’s worth getting a little more specific here.

For staff onboarding:

  • An internal knowledge base is a great place to talk about employee benefits, products or services, and company guidelines.
  • An internal directory can let new employees feel more confident to ask the right people for help if the knowledge base doesn’t cover their questions.
  • The base can also store blank versions of legal and HR documentation for onboarding purposes and review, saving time on both sides.

For training staff:

  • Creating standardized workflows can help with initial staff training as well as a reference point when they forget the information (happens to us all).
  • Knowledge teams can create videos of how to properly use any of the company systems, as well as common troubleshooting issues.
  • When you release a new product, service, or feature, you can use the internal base to keep demonstrations and key bullet points to know.

What makes for the best knowledge base software?

The short answer is that it depends on the need, and different software options offer various features to serve those needs. In general, to find out the best fit for you ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How much does the software cost, and does it fit within our budget?
  2. Can it assign different levels of access for specific users?
  3. Is it easy to navigate?
  4. Does the software include any metrics or reporting features?
  5. Do we need to worry about integration?
  6. Do we need community forum functionality included?

Getting answers to these questions will help you narrow down the list of options.

Knowledge base FAQs

What does a knowledge base consist of?

Company documentation and customer support articles which can be text-based, infographics, workflow charts, videos, screenshots — basically any type of content.

What is a self-serve portal?

A self-serve portal is the homepage of your knowledge base, it’s where your customer base and staff can search for answers to their questions and explore. 

What is another word for a knowledge base?

Some other words for knowledge base include:

  • Help desk
  • Database
  • Wiki’s 
How do you manage a knowledge base?

Contributions to a knowledge base are usually set by a specific knowledge management team. However, you can also elect different team members to contribute to (and maintain) topics.

Build your knowledge base today

This guide has walked you through what a knowledge base is, the benefits of having them, some examples, as well as how to create one yourself. Hopefully, now you feel inspired to give the gift of knowledge autonomy to your staff and customers!

Remember you can build one for yourself with the help of a friendly developer, or you can use a beautiful ready-made solution such as Vimeo’s Video Library.

Tour Vimeo’s Video Library solution today