Online knowledge bases are becoming more and more of a ‘hygiene factor’ for consumer tech brands. It’s almost unheard of to encounter a consumer tech brand in 2018 that doesn’t offer a comprehensive online knowledge base where customers can check out the best ways to use their gadgets and go for troubleshooting help.
Why? Because customers today expect an easily accessible and fully appointed online location where they can quickly find the answers to their burning questions: In the world of consumer tech, we want fast answers and easy support - and we want it now!
Consider the sheer volume of queries, questions and issues that bring users knocking on the door to your knowledge base. How do you create the content you need to keep them satisfied?!
You can build your online knowledge base in one of two ways: by using a more traditional ‘inside-out’ approach or, conversely, by taking an ‘outside-in’ approach. There is a fundamental difference between building knowledge and creating content using a traditional inside-out approach versus adopting a modern outside-in approach.
Confused? Don’t worry, we’re here to explain.
Traditional inside-out knowledge bases
Traditionally, companies have taken an inside-out approach because they believe that using the internal strengths and capabilities of the organization (especially the product teams, who know the technology like the back of their hand) will allow them to create the strongest knowledge base content.
However, one thing consumer tech companies often fail to take into consideration is that when you take an inside-out approach, you’re not actually utilizing your biggest, hidden workforce: your own user base! At the end of the day, your customers are the people using your products day in, day out - they encounter the real-life issues and challenges with your products and services that simply can’t be tested internally. You should build your knowledge base around their needs and questions, not based on your own internal perceptions.
So how can an outside-in approach benefit your knowledge base?
There are three key ways your users can help you create the best knowledge base: they ask questions, they answer questions, and they provide feedback. Let’s take a look:
Users ask questions
Allowing users to ask questions gives you unbeatable insights into what their needs really are! Sure, you can (and should) start out with a baseline or ‘skeleton’ set of company-created knowledge pieces - basic FAQs, how to guides and tutorials, for example. When users search the knowledge base but can’t find the information they’re looking for, they’ll add to your knowledge base by posting their own, new question. Because this content is actually being driven by the questions your real users are asking (and not the questions you as a company predict they may have), you can be sure that the content is highly relevant to your users’ needs and satisfying real demand.
Users answer questions
It’s unlikely that the challenges or questions your customers have are completely unique. It’s highly feasible that what one person is having trouble with today is the same issue somebody else successfully solved just a week ago. This is where the real strength of communities lies. Those questions we mentioned, that users ask? Other customer community members will be only too happy to provide their peers with answers and guidance - we are psychologically driven to help others. This naturally results in a wealth of relevant content within your knowledge base environment. So sit back, relax and let your loyal customers and raving fans answer questions (and provide a whole heap of added value that your product team could never achieve). Knowledge base content creation: check!
Users provide feedback
It can be difficult to sift through the seemingly-endless amounts of content contained in larger communities and get any real indication of how useful a particular piece has been and will be in the future. Let your users grade your content for you. By offering them interactive tools such as ‘thumbs up / thumbs down’ or simple buttons to indicate if they found a piece of content useful, your users will let you know what is helping and what’s not. Use this invaluable feedback to help you determine what types and topics of content your knowledge base needs more of and where you’re already set.
A knowledge base with exponential growth
With an outside-in approach, a significant portion of the answers and therefore the content produced is created in a much more human and authentic way. Not only does this build more trust with your user base, but it benefits your search engine optimization ranking because the algorithms reward real content. The beneficial effect of this is a cumulative increase in search engine ranking as your knowledge base users churn out more and more in-demand content.
This is not to say that we suggest doing away with company-created content such as FAQs or user guides entirely - but to combine these useful, static content pieces with the dynamic questions, problems and solutions your real users are having in real time with your real products.
When you combine company curated content with user-generated content like this you can cover the full spectrum of support questions and requests with minimal customer support resource needed. Sounds like a win-win to us!
If you’re interested in learning more about the next-generation of online customer communities and how these can dramatically increase the impact of your current static knowledge base, we invite you to watch the replay of our Next-Gen Customer Communities webinar, which will encourage you to think differently about your knowledge base,and show you a way to provide quality self service for your customers, using the latest community technology.
By Danielle Juson
Customer success community expert and writer at inSided. Passionate about sharing the value and impact of community, and enabling companies to get it right. Connect on Linkedin