Knowledge Management Software

Why is Knowledge Base Critical for any SaaS business?

Why is Knowledge Base Critical for any SaaS business?

Knowledge bases seem to be the hot new thing online these days. Whenever a customer is looking to learn about a brand, its products, and services, he/she is directed to a super-cool self-service help center - an informative knowledge base. 

You may not realize that these are extremely simple to set up, and they have a whole host of unexpected benefits to your business. You could be taking advantage of a knowledge base today!

In this article, we’ll walk you through the definition of knowledge base, its purpose, and how it could make your business grow. The longer you put off exploring this option, the more you gamble with poor customer satisfaction in the long run.

The Big Idea to Retain Customers

A knowledge base is a central place for you to provide information to your users and your employers about how best to use your software. 

It’s kind of like a big FAQ or a company wiki, but one that’s infinitely expandable and has extra embedding features for photos, videos, and even attached files.

You’ve probably seen it before on sites from Microsoft’s help center to small startups – it’s the thing with the big search bar that helps you find articles by titles, text, and tags. Each of the articles tends to show when it was most recently updated.

In essence, the reason you want to have a knowledge base software is that people want to help themselves. By providing stellar support to your users in one centralized spot, you give them the chance to solve their own problems and have a great customer experience.

Knowledge Base is a Kind of Free Marketing

One of the reasons that knowledge bases are trending right now is that content is trending. In 2020, you want to have interesting content on your website, now more than ever.

This is because the more content that your users click on and engage with, the better it ends up affecting your search rankings.

Suppose you’re a company selling financial software for billing and subscription management. Naturally, you want to be ranked highly in Google results for “pricing management” or “invoicing automation. However, you can take that to the next level by showing your expertise.

People everywhere are also searching for terms like “password requirements saas” or “localize payment page.” There’s your in.

Your current customers are probably interested in doing these things - that’s why you have these articles up in the first place. Keeping them on your site for the answers builds your authority with your users, which we’ll get to more in a little bit.

But more importantly, by putting these articles on your website you’ll be picking up traffic from other financial software companies that haven’t invested the necessary time into building their own knowledge bases. Their users are going to have similar issues, and so the copy on your knowledge base both answers user questions and acts as an SEO booster.

Yes, you’ll be providing support to users of competing software, but you’ll end up gaining totally new customers through visitors who were brought in by your high-ranking, content-rich posts.

Knowledge Base Provides Value to your Customers

Remember that idea of authority we touched on a moment ago?

As the creator of your software, you naturally want to be seen as an authority on its use and its support. Maybe tools like programming languages can grow so widespread that other parties end up with more knowledge than the creators have, but it’s kind of a bad look if third-party forums or other websites are better resource hubs than your own website.

Let’s be clear, with enough interested and talented users, you’ll definitely learn a couple of tricks or shortcuts from them along the way.

But time and again, you want to be keeping that kind of online discussion on your own website.

With a knowledge base, this is extremely simple.

All you have to do is do some searches every so often for features of your product and issues customers might be having. Depending on what type of product you offer, you might find discussion on Reddit, Tom’s Hardware, Stack Overflow, Github, or other similar communities.

Then you write an article about that feature, making sure to include exactly the same kinds of tags and keywords that were in the post. After it’s up, you can reply to the message with the content of your post and include a link to the knowledge base to direct everyone back to your website.

By doing this, you appear to be fulfilling two enormously important roles in software product management.

First, you’ll be perceived as active and engaged with the users no matter what platform they’re on. The users will have a sense that your developers are really interested in what the community has to say, and that’s only a good thing.

Second, by adding an official comment to the mix, you’ll immediately be perceived as having the final word. After all, who’s going to say that the developers are wrong about their own product?

The only caveat here is to make absolutely certain that, you know, the developers aren’t wrong about their own product. If your content writer finds themselves over their head, perhaps shelve that one article for the time being until it can be clarified. After all, even answering ten percent of the questions that appear on random forums is way beyond what most companies do, and your users will definitely appreciate it all the same.

Cut Down on Support Costs

One of the most obvious uses of a knowledge base is to provide self-service customer support. A user enters their query in the big ol’ search bar, and the idea is that they can find the answers they need in a couple of seconds at most.

For a budget-minded person, that’s astonishing.

That’s because, to most people, having live tech support agents ends up costing a ton. Even if you outsource to a lower-cost firm based in the Philippines or India, you can still expect to pay thousands of dollars a month for a handful of phone or chat agents.

Furthermore, there’s definitely a negative stigma attached to companies that outsource support, especially if a language barrier gets in the way of customers resolving their issues.

In contrast, a knowledge base costs a fraction of what you would pay for even the lowest-budget phone support service.

Most firms spend less than four hundred dollars a month on the platform, which allows for wide flexibility in the amount of users you can have adding pages, and the pricing is totally transparent if you need to add features or upgrade.

And users prefer to do this! Think about it – if you run into a problem with your software, you don’t want to pick up the phone and call someone to guide you through fixing it every time. You’d rather figure out a way to handle it by yourself, and end up a more proficient user of the software afterward.

The easier you make it for a user to solve their own problems, the less the users notice the problems are even happening at all.

A User’s Journey on A Website With and Without a Knowledge Base

Let’s do a quick thought experiment to see what it’s like for a user with a support problem when they visit an old-fashioned website with no knowledge base, compared to yours after you’ve set your knowledge base up. We’ll call them Alice and Bob.

Alice is having trouble with her software, so she Googles the problem. The only things that come up are StackOverflow posts from 2015 and a Reddit post with three upvotes, none of which really fully apply to her situation. So she goes to the software vendor’s website to see if there’s a help number listed.

She’s out of the service hours for the help number because of her timezone, so first thing the next day she calls up the number - and gets stuck in a phone queue for a solid 45 minutes. The person she talks to doesn’t even have the right information at hand, so she’s promised an email solution “as soon as possible.” After a day with no email, she calls again and finds that her case number isn’t even in the system.

Desperate, she finds a help file buried inside the software itself, but alas, it’s actually a 200-page technical manual meant for an audience of engineers. Will Alice get her problem fixed before her Monday morning meeting?

Bob, on the other side of the world, has the same problem with a competitor’s software. He Googles the problem, and right there on the first page of results is a link to a relevant knowledge base article. Bob isn’t a technical guy, so he’s a little apprehensive about following a complex process.

However, the article is simple to understand. The support team actually has people running into this problem all the time, so they’ve recorded a short video showing what steps Bob needs to take to adjust the settings.

Bob likes this a lot, and he ends up clicking around and visiting more pages on the knowledge base as well. By typing basic terms into the search bar, he ends up finding out a couple of shortcuts he didn’t know existed for things he does every day. He drops the link into his company Slack channel and gets the coolest custom emojis in response.

Now, these two little stories were admittedly contrived in that they show everything going wrong for one user and everything going right for the other. But that’s the thing – each step of the process for each user is real, and companies do end up creating positive or negative customer experiences based only on how they manage support.

And of course, the COVID-19 crisis has led to a total upheaval in the world of customer support. Any time you call a support line now, you can expect dropped calls, distracting noises in the background, and probably longer waits due to reductions in staff. 

Making all of this self-service is a boon to users. From simple articles explaining where the “save” button is to new users, to in-depth videos explaining to new hires how best to go about backing up their data, there’s never been a better time to streamline your customer service experience.

The Process of Creating a Knowledge Base Page

At this point, you might be pretty convinced about the idea of integrating a knowledge base into your website, and perhaps you’re wondering what kind of work it really means for you.

The editor should be built on a what-you-see-is-what-you-get framework. You first create a new project (each tier of payment is allowed a certain number of simultaneous projects) and choose the colors and the logo you want the knowledge base to display to show your brand.

Then you can get started making your pages, which is as easy as using any blog editor or word processor out there. It fully supports images, videos, and even attachments, so you won’t need to worry about bandwidth costs from constantly serving the same tech support manuals to users for downloading.

And if you do have the technical design chops, you can get full Markdown customization too. 

Naturally, that belies the real challenge in making these articles: it’s probably going to require a number of revisions before it truly becomes as clear and concise as possible. Remember, although these articles can help you sell the product indirectly, the point is to help your readers find the answers to their questions in the shortest amount of time.

One of the best ways to make sure that happens is to solicit feedback from a range of people on your team. 

Make Your Articles Come From Everyone

You’ll definitely want a diverse range of voices represented in your knowledge base articles. It’s a rookie knowledge base management mistake to have one person and only one person designated as the “help writer.”

The reason is simple – one person is only going to have one perspective on what type of articles are necessary.

But the purpose of the knowledge base is to anticipate what your users might be looking for, and have that ready for them when they search. By definition, that more or less requires a team of people to try and do this anticipation for every type of user that might exist.

This isn’t an impossible task, though. Just ask people from all levels of your organization to contribute what they can!

For instance, your sales team is constantly fielding questions from their leads about product features. Are those questions answered in the knowledge base? If not, you’re missing out on advertising potential!

Your tech support team is an obvious choice as well. They should definitely be putting their most frequently asked questions on the knowledge base, and checking over what other people wrote for accuracy. They might think of this as a dangerous activity for their own jobs, but there are always going to be customers that strongly prefer even email support over finding things out for themselves.

Now, even though you don’t just want one person creating every article, it’s a good idea to have a style guide and have somebody in charge of making sure your articles are written in a consistent tone and voice.

Get a Variety of Metrics on the Back End

The right metrics are absolutely priceless when it comes to SaaS customer support.

When you fire up the Analytics page, you get to see information about who your users are and what they like. Specifically, you get a world map with a display showing which countries are connecting to your knowledge base, and in what numbers.

This is perfect for understanding more about your demographics. Your user metrics of your core product are one thing, but this chart is showing you the demographics of the people that are looking for help – plus who’s finding it.

Note as well that this contains information about the likes that each page gets. It’s a core feature of any knowledge base you see that there’s a little bar at the bottom to give a thumbs up or thumbs down to the page if it was helpful or not (sometimes they’re emojis instead).

Although not every user is going to give you that valuable direct feedback, it’s still something that you should be aware of as it reflects the people who are most opinionated. Anyone who had a bad experience is going to smash that dislike button, and so you should definitely pay attention to your dislikes as markers of articles you can overhaul.

And on the back end, there are additional metrics letting you know about the health of the articles and the team writing them. Which articles are most out of date? Which have been revised most often? Which people are contributing the most and the least.

All of these data points can provide you with directions to go when looking for things to improve on your product and your team.  Problem articles can be revised or even rolled back to earlier versions to start from scratch, and people making good contributions can be singled out for praise.

A Knowledge Base and SaaS – The Perfect Couple?

In part because of all these metrics, a knowledge base is perhaps particularly suited for SaaS companies.

SaaS is all about growth, and you need a customer support product that can grow with you and scale to handle new demands as they crop up.

Let’s imagine your company opens up a free tier of service, for instance, with the most expensive-to-run features cut out. Naturally, directing those users to a knowledge base that contains tons of info about features they can’t even use is going to seem a little bit weird.

With a SaaS Knowledge base, you can launch entirely separate knowledge base versions that all pull from the same article repository. Your free users can take advantage of the same writing team and best practices that are in place for the premium tier users, and that writing team won’t get annoyed at having to copy and paste the same content into different systems for different users.

If you’re running multiple knowledge bases from the same articles, that makes updating articles an absolute breeze as you iterate on the features of your software. Instead of having to worry if every version of the output is up to date, you just have to update one core article that gets pushed out to all the tiers.

Finally, a knowledge base can also face the inside.

Companies around the world are eschewing hefty company handbooks for robust and agile internal knowledge bases that function as guides for their ever-growing numbers of employees.

After all, people want to help themselves and learn at their own pace. Especially when so many businesses are taking advantage of remote workers, it’s a lot better to have one place to turn to for everything from company policy questions to simple things like “how should I send a file that’s too big for email?”

By using a knowledge base to answer that and the countless other questions that come with a new hire, you drastically cut the time it takes to make them an efficient part of your team.

Conclusion

With all of these advantages of a knowledge base laid out like this, the idea that one could be critical to your business probably isn’t sounding that farfetched.

If you’ve been paying for a knowledge base service up until this point and not been giving it a lot of attention, now is definitely the time to give it a once-over and see where you can improve. If you are looking to create a knowledge base, then the best way is to use the Knowledge management system. Some of the best Knowledge management software are designed to create a common and intuitive platform for your audience. 

In fact, there are several free and open source Knowledge management software that can help you build a customized knowledge base for your audience. 

And do not hesitate to check out information on Document360. As your company grows, so should your knowledge – so give it the care it deserves. 

Saravana Kumar
Saravana Kumar

Saravana Kumar is the Founder and CEO of Document360, a SaaS Knowledge base that scales with your product. He is an Entrepreneur, Investor, and Technical enthusiast. Also, he is passionate about bootstrap companies and intends to successfully run and scale a company in a profitable way with calculated risks.

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