Service Desk Management: 4 must-know tips for creating an effective knowledge base

No company can survive in today’s competitive marketplace without providing customers first-class service and support. What’s more, customers have increasingly come to expect this support to be free and available 24/7. But most small to mid-sized companies simply cannot afford the expense of paying highly trained experts to staff a customer service phone line or to respond to email service and support queries around the clock.

An online knowledge base can be an excellent and cost effective service desk management tool. An effective knowledge base allows you to provide your customers what they want most from customer service–solutions to their problems whenever they might arise–and it frees you from the burdensome costs of staffing a help desk 24/7. However, in order for this expedient to satisfy customers, they must find the knowledge base genuinely helpful and easy to use.

Here are 4 tips that will help you create an effective knowledge base that will serve your customers well.

1. Not too big and not too small

One of the most important keys to creating a useful knowledge base lies in providing the right amount of information. If a knowledge base contains too much information, e.g. includes an entry for any problem that might ever arise, users are likely to be overwhelmed by the options and frustrated at having to fight their way through reams of information in order to find what they want. On the other hand, if a knowledge base contains too little information, e.g., only the five most frequently reported customer queries, many users will be frustrated at the fact that their issue is not addressed. A good rule of thumb is that your knowledge base should include entries for at least the top 20 customer problems and, in most cases, should not include more than 50 entries.

2. Make information easy to find

Even if your knowledge base has just the right amount of information to meet your customers’ needs, that information is useless to them unless they can find it. Making it easy for your customers to find information is, at bottom, about two things: arrangement and terminology.

Customers do not want to read through a long list of headings–most of which are irrelevant to them–in order to find the entry that they need. Reading a long list takes time they don’t want to spend, and they are also more likely to simply miss the heading they need. Ideally, articles or entries should be presented in a hierarchical arrangement of groups, moving from general classifications to increasingly specific entries. Hierarchical classification is especially important if you have a larger knowledge base.

3. Help must be helpful

There is little that is more frustrating to a customer than spending time locating an entry in a knowledge base, only to find that the information it contains is either too general or too specialized for them. Help tips and fixes included in a knowledge base should be highly explicit and written for non-specialists. They should not assume any special knowledge, and they should begin at the beginning and explicitly address each step in the process of resolving an issue. More advanced users will not object to the pedantry and beginners will be very grateful for the hand-holding.

Also, the fixes and solutions posted on a knowledge base should be tested and must actually work! Customers will not be happy if they’ve invested time in trying to solve a problem they’ve encountered with your product, and the fix you have given them doesn’t actually fix anything.

4. Options for second-level support

A good knowledge base should allow most customers to resolve most of the problems or issues they may encounter. However, even the best knowledge base can’t address every problem for every customer. It’s a good idea, then, to include links or phone numbers directing customers to second-level support (e.g., email queries, live-chat, or phone support) if they were not able to resolve an issue on their own.

You might also take advantage of the ideas of your customers by including a link allowing them to recommend or suggest new solutions to problems they have encountered.