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Deliver Stellar Self-Service Experiences With External Knowledge Base

How To build an external knowledge base

Ever wondered what your customers really want?

You’re already offering them great products and services, but what is it that will make them stick to your brand for a long time? 

It’s the experiences you provide and how you make them feel about your brand. 

Maya Angelou rightly said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” 

This stands true even for businesses. Keep your customers waiting for a response for hours or weeks, and you leave them frustrated. Provide them with inaccurate information, and you make them disappointed. 

The result? Your hard-earned, loyal customers turn into serial-switchers in a blink.  

An external knowledge base can prevent this. It’s a cloud-based platform that customers can access whenever they need help. This means relieving your customers from time-consuming calls or emails. 

Dive into this blog to learn everything about an external knowledge base – what it is and how you can build one for your customers. 

What is External Knowledge Base

An external knowledge base is a self-help platform for public where customers can find all the information about your products or services and solve problems on their own. It’s like a self-service help center that empowers customers to address any challenges they face while using your products and services. 

An external knowledge base comprises information such as – 

  • Details about your offerings
  • Features and their functions
  • Steps to troubleshoot basic and advanced issues
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Ordering, billing, shipping details, and much more. 

Customers can refer to your knowledge platform to learn about your offerings, how to use them correctly, and overcome the challenges coming in the way. It reduces the need to take the longer routes of calls and emails, even for dealing with basic bottlenecks. 

Let’s now look at how you can create an exhaustive knowledge base for your customers. 

How to Build an External Knowledge Base? 

Here are 7 simple steps to build a comprehensive knowledge base. Let’s get started. 

1. Select a Powerful Tool

The right knowledge base software can make the entire process of creating a knowledge base hassle-free. 

With a slew of tools available online, picking one can be a challenge. But worry not. You have our back. When selecting a tool, be very clear regarding your requirements – the kind of capabilities you are looking for, the end result you want, the features that you cannot do without, and more. 

Once you know what you exactly want, zeroing in on the tool won’t take much time. Here are some of the ideal features that you should look out for during the process: 

  • Ready-made knowledge base templates
  • An online editor that makes writing and editing a breeze
  • Built-in reporting system to help you assess knowledge base performance
  • Customization options to give your knowledge base the desired look
  • A strong security system that allows you to display or hide specific parts of your knowledge base

Besides, the selected tool should be easy to use, mobile-friendly, and work well with third-party software such as Google Analytics, Google Translate, Zendesk, and more. Integrations enhance the capability of a tool, helping you do so much more. 

2. Choose a Template

Ready-made knowledge base templates are a great choice if you want to save yourself from doing everything from the ground up. 

They provide a basic framework with a pre-designed table of contents, headers, category options, and much more. You can keep what you like and change what you don’t. It’s as simple as that. 

Add your brand logo and give the knowledge base a suitable name such as Customer Help Center, Self-Service Help Site, or any other.

Add your brand logo

3. Start the Writing Process

Have a template ready? It’s time to fill it with meaningful content. Decide what your external knowledge base should cover and accordingly create the content. 

Ideally, it should explain your products and services, their use cases, potential problems, and how they can be fixed, and FAQs – essentially anything and everything your customers need to use your products smoothly. 

While writing and editing your knowledge base articles, here are a few things to keep in mind: 

  • Keep an instructional tone throughout your knowledge base
  • Write short headers and descriptive, fluff-free paragraphs
  • Make use of bullets. They work well to draw readers’ attention
  • Check your articles for grammatical errors
  • Highlight key phrases and sentences 
  • Use ‘We’ and ‘You’ to keep the content conversational 

Mimosa’s help center has a mix of some of these elements –

mimosa external knowledgebase example

While writing knowledge base articles, keep in mind one mantra – Quality matters the most. Ensure that you provide value and address customer pain points in every article. 

4. Focus on the Structure & Design

Besides being information-rich, your external knowledge base should score high on structure and design. These are essential elements that make your knowledge base appealing to customers. 
You can have a home page that gives a teaser of everything customers can expect from the knowledge base. HighQ has done an amazing job of creating a beautiful home page for its help center.

HighQ knowledge base

Create sections and subsections for each topic and interlink relevant articles to make navigation seamless for customers. 

Another approach can be to have a few important sections mentioned on the home page, such as top articles, advanced features, video tutorials, and contact support. Unleashed’s help center serves as a perfect example.

Unleashed Help Center

You can follow these simple hacks while structuring and designing your knowledge base – 

  • Use clear, easy-to-understand font styles
  • Select themes that align well with your brand
  • Start with a warm welcome message in the beginning and end the knowledge base with a Thank You note
  • Be consistent with your branding
  • Add images and videos in the knowledge base to demonstrate processes clearly

Your customers will not like to go through a dull and text-heavy document, no matter how helpful it is. Getting the structure and design right will evoke customers’ interest in using your knowledge base for problem-solving. 

5. Add Feedback Forms & Surveys to Your Knowledge Base

Collecting customer feedback is essential to understand whether your customers are delighted or disappointed with your offerings. 

You can capture customer feedback in two ways: 

  • Adding a general question at the end of every article, and
  • Embedding survey forms in your knowledge base

The question can be – “Was this information helpful?” with Yes/No as the options. When a customer clicks No, he or she will find suggestion options and a comment box to drop feedback. This feedback is then directly sent to your email address, and you can take it forward from there.

feedback system in knowledge base

You can even embed survey support forms anywhere in your knowledge base. In case customers aren’t able to find help in your external knowledge base, they can submit feedback with the help of survey forms. This feedback is converted into tickets, which are then resolved by your support team. 

Watch this video to learn more about how to add forms and surveys to your knowledge base.

6. Review & Publish 

You cannot afford to publish your external knowledge base without passing it through multiple review cycles. If customers spot errors in the content, the credibility of your knowledge base will be in question. Also, it will leave a negative impression of your brand. 

You don’t want that to happen, right? 

That’s why it’s important to have a transparent process where writers and editors can clearly define the status of articles. This will make it clear which articles are under review and which ones are ready to go live. They can even set custom status such as – “Can you look into the second section of this article and suggest changes?” and tag the email ID of the specific individual.

Set workflow in operations manual

It’s a great way to ensure that articles are reviewed carefully before getting published and customers get flawless content, which they can use without giving a second thought. 

7. Update & Improve Your Articles

Your knowledge base articles will lose relevance if they aren’t updated regularly. Providing customers with obsolete content is the last thing you would want. 

Customers have high hopes for your knowledge base. They are likely to visit your knowledge platform when they are already frustrated with the product or service-related issues. Stale or inaccurate content that fails to provide the right solutions, will crush their hopes, and they will eventually turn to email or call for support. 

Analyzing your articles and updating them from time to time can avert such situations. If you have a tool that offers a robust reporting system, evaluating articles will be a no-brainer. Reports provide a graphical or tabular representation of – 

  • The articles that are popular among customers
  • Keywords that fail to deliver authentic results
  • Total number of searches made by customers
  • Articles that received a poor rating, and much more. 

You can utilize this data to assess the quality of your existing articles, modify poorly-performing content pieces, and add new articles that are in high demand. Remember, this is not a one-time process. You need to be consistent at it to ensure that your knowledge base remains alive and kicking at all times. 

Here’s a short video that explains knowledge base reports in detail – 

That’s how you create a stunning external knowledge base. But is learning the basics of building a knowledge base enough? You might be thinking, “What should I write in the external knowledge base?” or “How do I cover everything customers want?” right? 

Let’s unravel the answer to these questions. 

To get the content right, you need to have a proper content plan that puts you in the right direction and helps you develop quality content for your customers. 

How to Develop a Knowledge Base Content Plan? 

Here are a few simple steps to create a powerful knowledge base content plan for your external knowledge base. Walk on this plan, and you will be able to develop amazing content that provides exact solutions to customers’ challenges.

Read More: 8 Knowledge Base Content Type for Your Business

☑️ Create Customer Personas 

Customer personas are semi-fictional representations of your customers. They help you step in your customers’ shoes and see the world through their eyes. 

To create personas, do some market research, go through survey results, and customer interviews. You can approach your sales and support teams to understand customer behavior. Use this data to identify patterns and accordingly create customer personas. 

When you know how customers perceive your brand, what are their specific interests, and what makes them tick, you are positioned better to meet their requirements.

☑️ Identify Their Pain Points

Think like your customer personas to understand the bottlenecks they encounter while using your products and services. Ask yourself questions such as – 

  • What are the issues you might face? 
  • What kind of information will you need in the knowledge base? 
  • Will you want high-level information or detailed articles covering all aspects of the products? 

You can even contact your support staff to find out the questions frequently asked by customers. Besides, you can go through the tickets recently raised by customers and extract previous live chat interactions. 

Use this information to create ideas for your knowledge base articles. Ensure that you prioritize questions that repeatedly occur over those that are just asked once or twice.

☑️ Prepare an outline for knowledge base content

Now that you have enough ideas for knowledge base articles, start organizing them in different sections. We understand that you will have the impulse to create various categories, but that will make sense to you, not to your customers. 

Customers want things to be simple, so, having a few broad categories and their sub-categories, is ideal. Bombarding customers with too much information is not a good idea. Provide them valuable content that they can understand easily.

☑️ Seek contribution from employees

Assign the role of a contributor to some of your key employees and subject matter experts who have the knowledge and experience of addressing customer issues. 

Give them ownership of various articles and keep a deadline for each task to avoid unnecessary delays. Appoint some of your senior-level employees as editors and ask them to check the content’s quality and accuracy. 

Writing great knowledge base content is a piece of cake once you have a proper plan in place. 

Ready to Build an External Knowledge Base? 

As you know by now, an external knowledge base is crucial to provide seamless self-service experiences to customers. 

Creating it is super simple. All you have to do is, get the right knowledge base software, pick a template of your choice, and start filling it with valuable content. Give it a beautiful structure. Remember that its structure and design are equally important as the content quality. 

Ensure that the articles are reviewed before going live, and they are updated and improved regularly. 

Create a stunning external knowledge base and keep your customers delighted with ProProfs Knowledge Base.

Frequently Asked Questions

1- What is an external knowledge base?

An external knowledge base is a customer-facing online platform that your customers can access to find helpful information about your products and services anytime, and from anywhere they are.

2- Internal vs. external knowledge base

An internal knowledge base is intended for your internal audience i.e., your employees. It comprises information on your company’s policies, work culture, and more. On the other hand, an external knowledge base is mainly created for your customers. It acts like a self-service platform where customers can find answers to all their questions in minutes.

3- External knowledge base content plan

This plan helps your employees create quality knowledge base content. They are able to understand your target audience, identify the major and frequent issues they face, and craft content that meets customer requirements.

4- Tips for building an external knowledge base

To build an external knowledge base, you first need to pick the right software. After that, choose a suitable template, customize it with your logo, brand name, and themes, and add relevant content to it. You can make use of images and videos to keep your knowledge base engaging.

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About the author

Brayn is a knowledge management expert. He has been published in CustomerThink, PointVisible and SocialPilot. As a customer support specialist at ProProfs, Brayn has been instrumental in building a robust knowledge base and documents that help support executives keep every customer delighted. You can catch up with Brayn on Twitter and LinkedIn.