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Reduce ticket volume with Hiver’s Knowledge Base.

What is a Knowledge Base?

Apr 05, 2024
    |    
15 min read
    |    
Hiver HQ
Shobhana

Table of contents

Ever found yourself lost in a sea of information, desperately searching for that one piece of data that can solve your problem? That’s where a “knowledge base” comes to your rescue—your personalized map in this complex labyrinth of information, guiding you straight to the insights you seek.  

It’s not just a collection of random facts and articles; it’s a meticulously organized, easily searchable hub that can answer your questions faster than you can say “Google it.”

A knowledge base streamlines internal workflows, reduces customer service bottlenecks, and even helps in decision-making. In short, if you’re not leveraging a knowledge base, you’re essentially flying blind in an information-rich world.

Table of Contents

What is a Knowledge Base?

At its core, a knowledge base is a centralized database where information is stored, organized, and managed. But don’t let the term “database” throw you off—this isn’t some dry, technical reservoir only accessible to IT wizards. A knowledge base is designed to be user-friendly, searchable, and interactive.

Think of it as your ultimate FAQ, but on a much grander scale. It’s where you’ll find articles, how-to guides, video tutorials, and even user-generated content, all aimed at answering your questions or solving your problems. Whether you’re an employee looking for company policies or a customer trying to figure out how to use a new product, the knowledge base is your first port of call for information.

Screengrab of Hiver's Knowledge Base UI
Hiver’s Knowledge Base

So, in a nutshell, a knowledge base is your quick-access guide to all the information you need, packaged in a way that’s easy to digest and even easier to find. It’s like having a 24/7 information concierge, always ready to assist.

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What are the types of knowledge bases?

It’s crucial to know that knowledge bases aren’t a monolithic entity. They are specifically tailored to serve different audiences and solve unique challenges. We’re talking about External and Internal knowledge bases, each with its own set of features, benefits, and best-use cases. 

Understanding the distinct advantages of each can not only help you make an informed decision but also unlock the full potential of what a knowledge base can do for you—be it streamlining internal operations or skyrocketing customer satisfaction.

FeatureInternal Knowledge BaseExternal Knowledge Base
AudienceEmployees, StaffCustomers, Public
PurposeInternal Training, Company Policies, Project GuidelinesCustomer Support, Product Information, FAQs
AccessibilityRestricted to organization membersGenerally public, sometimes behind a login for customers
Content TypeHR Policies, Internal Software Guides, Project DocumentsHow-to Articles, Video Tutorials, User Manuals
MaintenanceManaged by HR, Finance or IT TeamsManaged by Customer Support, Marketing, or Product Teams
User InteractionOften allows for employee contributions and feedbackUsually more static, but may include user reviews or comments
IntegrationIntegrated with internal tools like intranet or project management softwareIntegrated with external platforms like websites or customer portals
ImpactEnhances internal communication, streamlines workflowsImproves customer satisfaction, reduces volume of support tickets

How can a Knowledge Base Help Different Industries?

A knowledge base sounds great in theory, but how does it actually play out in different sectors? Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and explore some practical use cases across various industries.

Importance of a Knowledge Base in the Travel Sector

In the fast-paced world of travel, information is as valuable as a first-class ticket. Whether it’s flight schedules, hotel amenities, or local attractions, travelers and agents alike need quick access to a myriad of details. A knowledge base can serve as a centralized hub for all this data, making travel planning a breeze.

Imagine a travel agency using a knowledge base to store itineraries, visa guidelines, and travel advisories. Agents can quickly pull up relevant information for clients, and travelers can self-serve to find answers to common questions like baggage policies or currency exchange rates.

Importance of a Knowledge Base in the Logistics Industry

Logistics is all about efficiency and precision, and in this industry, time is literally money. A knowledge base can streamline the flow of information between suppliers, drivers, and warehouse staff, ensuring that everyone is on the same page.

A logistics company could use an internal knowledge base to house shipping schedules, route maps, and equipment manuals. This ensures that drivers can quickly find alternative routes in case of road closures, and warehouse staff can easily locate maintenance procedures for machinery.

Bergen Logistics resolves customer service requests 72% faster

Importance of a Knowledge Base in the Non-profit sector

In the non-profit sector, resources are often limited but the mission is big. A knowledge base can help organizations maximize their positive impact by centralizing fundraising strategies, volunteer guidelines, and project documentation.

A non-profit could use an external knowledge base to engage donors and volunteers. It could feature financial reports, donation queries, questions about volunteering, and upcoming events, allowing supporters to easily find out how they can contribute and what impact their contribution will make.

Importance of a Knowledge Base in the Real Estate Domain

The real estate market is complex and ever-changing. Agents, buyers, and sellers need up-to-date information on listings, regulations, and market trends. A knowledge base can serve as a dynamic repository of information that evolves with the market.

A real estate agency could use a knowledge base to store property listings complete with photos, neighborhood statistics, and zoning laws. This enables agents to provide clients with comprehensive information at the click of a button, speeding up the buying or selling process.

Importance of a Knowledge Base in the Education Sector

Education is not just about imparting knowledge; it’s about making that knowledge accessible and engaging. A knowledge base can be a powerful tool for educators and students alike, offering a centralized location for course materials, research papers, and administrative forms.

An educational institution could use an internal knowledge base for faculty to upload lesson plans, grading rubrics, and supplementary materials. Students can then access these resources to prepare for classes or projects, fostering a more interactive and efficient learning environment.

So, regardless of your industry, a knowledge base offers practical solutions that can revolutionize how you manage and disseminate information. 

Boise State University overcomes email management challenges with Hiver

How can a Knowledge Base Help Different Teams?

So, you’ve already caught wind of how a knowledge base can be a transformative force across a multitude of industries. But let’s get more granular—how can it serve as a catalyst for change within the specialized teams that make up the backbone of your organization? 

Whether you’re in Customer Support, HR, Finance, or ITSM, a knowledge base isn’t just a digital filing cabinet. It’s a dynamic tool that empowers your team to operate at peak efficiency, ensures that critical information is both accurate and accessible, and elevates your overall performance to new heights. 

Let’s unpack the practical applications where a knowledge base can make all the difference.

Importance of a Knowledge Base in Customer Support

In Customer Support, quick and accurate responses are the name of the game. A knowledge base can be the cornerstone of your support strategy, offering a single source of truth for agents and customers alike. It’s not just about solving problems; it’s about enhancing the customer experience.

Practical Use Case of Knowledge Base in Customer Support:

  • FAQs: Agents can quickly refer to a list of frequently asked questions to handle common queries.
  • Troubleshooting Guides: Step-by-step solutions for common issues can be easily accessed, speeding up overall resolution time.
  • Product Information: Detailed specs and usage guidelines can be pulled up on-demand, aiding in upsell or cross-sell opportunities.

How to create and categorize a knowledge base for customer support?

Here’s a knowledge base template tailored for a customer support teams:

Homepage

  • Welcome Message
  • Featured Articles
  • Search Bar
  • Contact Support Button


Section 1: Getting Started

  • Installation Guides
  • Account Creation
  • Basic Troubleshooting
  • First Steps After Signup


Section 2: How-To Guides

  • Using Basic Features
  • Advanced Features
  • Mobile App Usage
  • Web Platform Usage


Section 3: Account & Billing

  • How to Upgrade/Downgrade Account
  • Payment Methods
  • How to View Billing History
  • Refund Policy


Section 4: Troubleshooting

  • Common Technical Issues
  • Connectivity Problems
  • Error Messages
  • Software Conflicts


Section 5: Product Features

  • Feature Overviews
  • How to Use Specific Features
  • Tips and Tricks
  • FAQs for Each Feature


Section 6: Security & Privacy

  • How to Set Up Two-Factor Authentication
  • Data Protection Measures
  • Privacy Policy
  • Reporting Security Issues


Section 7: FAQs

  • General FAQs
  • Technical FAQs
  • Account FAQs
  • Billing FAQs


Section 8: Community Forum

  • User-Generated Tips and Tricks
  • Feature Requests
  • General Discussion
  • Support Team Announcements


Section 9: Contact Us

  • Support Email
  • Support Phone Number
  • Live Chat
  • Support Hours


Additional Features

  • Search Functionality with Filters
  • “Was this article helpful?” Feedback on Each Article
  • Related Articles at the End of Each Article
  • Downloadable Resources (PDFs, Videos)


Feel free to adapt this template to better suit the specific needs of your product or service. The aim is to create a knowledge base that’s both comprehensive and easy to navigate, so your customers can find the answers they need with minimal effort.

Recommended read: How to Create a Knowledge Base in 8 Easy Steps!

Importance of a Knowledge Base in HR

Human Resources is the backbone of any organization, dealing with everything from recruitment to employee wellness. A knowledge base can streamline these diverse responsibilities, making information easily accessible and reducing the administrative burden on HR professionals.

Practical Use Case of Knowledge Base in HR

  • Onboarding: New hires can find all necessary documents and guidelines in one place.
  • Policy Updates: Any changes to company policies can be updated in real-time, ensuring everyone stays informed.
  • Benefits Information: Employees can self-serve to find details about health plans, retirement options, and other benefits.

Drive efficiencies in People Operations

How to create and categorize an internal knowledge base?

Here’s a knowledge base template tailored for an internal team:

Homepage

  • Welcome Message
  • Quick Links to Important Sections
  • Search Bar

Section 1: Company Policies & Procedures

  • Code of Conduct
  • Employee Handbook
  • Health & Safety Guidelines
  • Leave Policies
  • Expense Reimbursement

Section 2: Onboarding & Training

  • New Employee Checklist
  • Training Modules
  • Mentorship Programs
  • Company Culture Overview

Section 3: HR & Benefits

  • Health and Wellness Benefits
  • Retirement Plans
  • Employee Assistance Programs
  • Contact Information for HR

Section 4: Tools & Software

  • List of Company-Approved Software
  • How-to Guides for Common Tools (e.g., Slack, Asana)
  • Troubleshooting Common Issues
  • Request Forms for Software Access

Section 5: Team & Department Guides

  • Sales Team Resources
  • Marketing Team Resources
  • Engineering Team Resources
  • Customer Support Resources

Section 6: Project Management

  • Project Lifecycle Overview
  • Templates (e.g., Project Plans, Reports)
  • Best Practices
  • Case Studies

Section 7: Communication

  • Company Directory
  • Meeting Room Booking System
  • Guidelines for Effective Communication
  • Email Etiquette

Section 8: Career Development

  • Performance Review Process
  • Learning & Development Opportunities
  • Career Pathing Information

Section 9: Emergency Procedures

  • Fire Safety
  • Medical Emergencies
  • IT Security Incidents

Section 10: FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions on Various Topics

Importance of a Knowledge Base in Finance

In Finance, accuracy is non-negotiable, and compliance is king. A knowledge base can serve as a secure, organized repository for critical financial documents, procedures, and guidelines, ensuring that the team can focus on strategic tasks rather than getting bogged down in information retrieval.

Streamline your finance operations on a Gmail-based multi-channel helpdesk

Practical Use Case of Knowledge Base in Finance

  • Budget Templates: Standardized templates for budgeting can be stored and easily accessed.
  • Compliance Guidelines: Up-to-date information on financial regulations and compliance can be centrally located.
  • Invoice Procedures: Step-by-step guides for invoicing clients or vendors can be accessed, which streamlines the accounts payable and receivable processes.

Importance of a Knowledge Base in ITSM (IT Service Management)

In IT Service Management, the stakes are high. System downtime and security breaches can have catastrophic consequences. A knowledge base can be a lifeline, offering quick access to troubleshooting guides, system updates, and best practices.

Practical Use Case of Knowledge Base in ITSM (IT Service Management)

  • Incident Management: Procedures for handling different types of incidents can be documented and easily accessed during crises.
  • Software Documentation: Details about software versions, updates, and patches can be centralized.
  • Security Protocols: Guidelines for maintaining system security can be made accessible for everyone, ensuring that best practices are consistently followed.

Instantly achieve ticket resolutions with Hiver

So, no matter what team you’re on, a well-structured knowledge base can be your ally in achieving operational excellence.

9 Key Features of What Makes a Good Knowledge Base

So, you’re sold on the idea of implementing a knowledge base, but what should you be looking for? Not all knowledge bases are created equal, and the features you need will depend on your specific requirements. 

However, there are some universal attributes that separate a good knowledge base from a great one. Let’s dive into a checklist of key features that can make your knowledge base not just a repository, but a powerhouse of information and utility.

Knowledge Base Feature 1: Search Functionality

A good search function is like a skilled librarian—it helps you find exactly what you’re looking for, quickly and efficiently. Here’s what the search functionality of a knowledge base should be capable of performing:

  • Autocomplete suggestions
  • Search filters (by category, date, etc.)
  • Relevance-based results

Knowledge Base Feature 2: User-Friendly Interface

An intuitive, easy-to-navigate interface ensures that users can quickly find information and not waste time figuring out where to look for what. The easier a knowledge base is to use, the more people will use it. This means the UI of your knowledge base should have:

  •  An Intuitive layout
  •  Easy navigation (breadcrumbs, menus)
  •  Quick load time

Knowledge Base Feature 3: Version Control

Every time a piece of information or set of instructions gets updated in the organization, your knowledge base should be able to keep up with it. Version control allows you to update content while keeping track of changes, ensuring accuracy and reliability. Ensure your knowledge base is able to: 

  •  Ability to roll back changes
  •  Offer change logs
  •  Is able to support multiple editors

Knowledge Base Feature 4: Accessibility across different UI

In today’s world, people access information from various devices. A good knowledge base should be accessible and functional across desktops, tablets, and smartphones.

  •  Mobile-responsive design
  •  Cross-browser compatibility
  •  Offline access

Knowledge Base Feature 5: Categorization and Tagging

Think of this as the Dewey Decimal System of your knowledge base. Proper categorization and tagging make it easier to find related articles and topics. Check if it allows:

  • Hierarchical categories
  • Multiple tags per article
  • Related articles feature

Knowledge Base Feature 6: Analytics and Reporting

You can’t improve what you can’t measure. Analytics help you understand how your knowledge base is being used, highlighting areas for improvement.

  • User activity tracking
  • Popular search terms
  • Time spent on articles

Knowledge Base Feature 7: Collaboration Features

A knowledge base isn’t a static entity; it’s a collaborative effort. Features like comment sections, editor suggestions, and user-generated content can make your knowledge base more dynamic and comprehensive.

  •  Comment sections for feedback
  •  User-generated content submission
  •  Editorial review process

Knowledge Base Feature 8: Security and Compliance

Especially for internal knowledge bases, security features like role-based access and compliance with data protection regulations are non-negotiable.

  •  Role-based access controls
  •  Data encryption
  •  Compliance with data protection laws (e.g., GDPR)

Knowledge Base Feature 9: Multimedia Support

Sometimes, a picture (or video) is worth a thousand words. Multimedia support allows for a richer, more engaging user experience.

  •  Image embedding
  •  Video support
  •  Downloadable files (PDFs, docs)

Knowledge Base Feature 10: Ability to Customize

GIF of Hiver's Knowledge Base ability to customize your branding

First things first, your knowledge base isn’t just a standalone entity; it’s an extension of your brand. Being able to customize the look and feel to align with your brand guidelines—colors, fonts, logos—creates a seamless experience for the user. It’s all about brand consistency.

  • Theme and Layout Customization
  • Feedback Mechanisms (Ability to add upvotes and downvotes for each article)
  • API Access

Must read: 7 Best Free Knowledge Base Software in 2024

11 Common Mistakes to Avoid in a Knowledge Base

Building a knowledge base is a smart move for any business looking to streamline operations and improve customer experience. But let’s be clear: creating a useful knowledge base isn’t as simple as it might seem. There are pitfalls, some obvious and some not so much, that can turn your well-intentioned resource into a confusing, outdated, or even counterproductive mess.

So let’s dive deep into the common mistakes that can undermine the effectiveness of your knowledge base.

1. Your Knowledge Base has Outdated Information

Why It’s a Problem: Outdated information can lead to a lot of issues. Firstly, it can mislead users, causing them to make errors that could have been avoided. Second, it erodes trust in your brand. If people can’t rely on your knowledge base to provide accurate, up-to-date information, they’ll start questioning the reliability of your product or service as well.

Example: Imagine a customer following a troubleshooting guide only to find out that the steps are for an older software version.

Solution: Regular audits and updates are a must.

2. Your Knowledge Base has a Poorly Organized Structure

Why It’s a Problem: A poorly organized knowledge base can be incredibly frustrating for users. They may have to sift through irrelevant articles or navigate confusing categories to find what they’re looking for. This wastes time and often leads to a poor user experience, which can result in lost customers or increased support tickets.

Example: Categories that are too broad or too narrow can make navigation a nightmare.

Solution: Use tags, categories, and a search function to make things easy to find.

3. Your Knowledge Base Lacks Search Functionality

Why It’s a Problem: In today’s fast-paced world, people want quick answers. The lack of search functionality means users have to manually go through your knowledge base, which is both time-consuming and frustrating. This can lead to a poor user experience and may discourage people from using the knowledge base altogether.

Example: A knowledge base without a search bar is like a library without an index.

Solution: Implement a robust search feature with autocomplete and filters.

4. Use of Over-Complicated Language in your Knowledge Base

Why It’s a Problem: Not everyone speaks “tech”. Using language that’s too technical or filled with jargon can alienate users who aren’t familiar with the terminology. This can make your knowledge base less accessible and inclusive, potentially turning away a significant portion of your audience.

Example: Using jargon like “SaaS,” “API,” or “scalability” without explanation.

Solution: Keep it simple and include a glossary if you must use technical terms.

5. Ignoring User Feedback on your Knowledge Base

Why It’s a Problem: Ignoring user feedback is like turning a blind eye to a treasure trove of information. Users are the ones interacting with your knowledge base, so they’re the best people to tell you what’s working and what’s not. Ignoring their feedback means missing out on valuable insights that could help you improve.

Example: If multiple users are asking the same questions, your knowledge base probably lacks clarity on that topic.

Solution: Add a feedback option and actually use the data to make improvements.

6. Your Knowledge Base is Inaccessible to Mobile Users

Why It’s a Problem: With the increasing use of smartphones, a significant number of users are likely to access your knowledge base on a mobile device. If your knowledge base isn’t mobile-friendly, you’re essentially shutting out a large portion of your potential audience, which can impact customer satisfaction and even sales.

Example: Text that’s too small to read on a mobile screen, or images that don’t scale.

Solution: Make sure that your knowledge base is responsive.

7. No Visual Aids in your Knowledge Base

Why It’s a Problem: Some people are visual learners, and even those who aren’t can benefit from visual aids when dealing with complex or detailed processes. Lack of visual aids can make your articles harder to understand, requiring users to spend more time and effort than necessary, which can lead to frustration.

Example: Explaining how to configure a setting without screenshots.

Solution: Use images, videos, and even GIFs to supplement text.

8. Failing to Monitor Analytics of your Knowledge Base

Why It’s a Problem: Analytics can provide a wealth of information about how people are using your knowledge base. Without this data, you won’t know which articles are most helpful, where users are dropping off, or what search terms they’re using. This makes it difficult to make informed decisions about how to improve your knowledge base.

Example: Not knowing which articles are most viewed or where users typically drop off.

Solution: Use analytics tools to track user behavior and adapt accordingly.

Why It’s a Problem: Internal links can help guide users to more information and can provide a more comprehensive understanding of a topic. Without them, users may miss out on valuable content, and you miss an opportunity to showcase the depth and breadth of your knowledge base.

Example: An article on “How to Set Up Your Account” that doesn’t link to an article on “Account Security Best Practices.”

Solution: Add relevant internal links to keep the user engaged and informed.

10. Not Testing your Knowledge Base Regularly

Why It’s a Problem: If you don’t test, how do you know it works? Regular testing ensures that all elements of your knowledge base—links, videos, forms—are working as they should. Failing to test can lead to broken elements, which not only frustrates users but also makes your company look unprofessional.

Example: Broken links, outdated videos, or forms that don’t submit.

Solution: Regularly test all elements of your knowledge base to ensure they function as intended.

11. Not Optimizing your Knowledge Base for SEO

Why It’s a Problem: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) isn’t just for your main website or blog; it’s equally important for your knowledge base. Without proper SEO, your valuable articles might not appear in search engine results when users are looking for solutions. This means you miss out on a huge opportunity to attract new users and reduce the workload on your customer support team. 

Poor SEO can also affect the user experience, as people might not find what they’re looking for even when using your internal search function.

Example: Let’s say you have an excellent article on “How to Troubleshoot Connection Issues in product X” but it’s not optimized for SEO. When a user types “troubleshoot connection issues” into Google, your article is nowhere to be found. Instead, they find a competitor’s article and may even switch to their service.

Solution: Use keyword research tools to identify what terms people are searching for and incorporate those into your article titles, headings, and content. Make sure to also use meta descriptions and alt text for images. Regularly monitor your analytics to see how your SEO efforts are performing and adjust as needed.

How to Categorize your Knowledge Base?

Categorizing a knowledge base is crucial for making it user-friendly and efficient. Let’s break down some common types of categories you might find in a knowledge base.

1. By Product Features

This category focuses on the different features your product or service offers. It’s where users can find detailed guides and how-tos related to each feature.

Example: If you’re a SaaS company offering a project management software, you might have articles like “

  • How to Create a New Project
  • How to Assign Tasks
  • Using the Calendar Feature

Recommended read: The 10 Best SaaS Knowledge Base Software in 2024

2. By Troubleshooting queries

This section is dedicated to solving common problems or issues that users may encounter. It often includes step-by-step solutions and workarounds.

Screengrab of categories display in Hiver's Knowledge Base

Example: For a video streaming service, articles might include

  • How to Fix Buffering Issues
  • What to Do If You Can’t Log In
  • Resolving Audio Sync Problems

3. FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

The FAQs category is where you answer questions that users commonly ask. These are usually shorter articles that provide quick, straightforward answers.

Example: An online retailer might have FAQs like

  • How Do I Track My Order?
  • What Is The Return Policy?

4. Getting Started

This category is aimed at newcomers (new users) and provides all the essential information needed to start using your product or service.

Example: For a mobile app, you might have articles like

  • How to Install the App
  • Creating Your First Profile
  • Basic App Navigation

5. Industry-Specific Guidance

Some knowledge bases include articles that are tailored to specific industries to help users understand how the product or service can meet their unique needs.

Example: A CRM software might have articles like

  • How to Use Our CRM for Healthcare
  • Optimizing Our CRM for E-commerce

6. Updates & What’s New

This category informs users about the latest updates, new features, and improvements.

Example: A gaming platform might post articles like

  • New Game Releases This Month
  • Latest Updates to Our User Interface

The Key to Creating A Successful Knowledge Base

We’ve explored

  • The types of knowledge bases
  • Examples of knowledge base structure
  • Common mistakes to avoid
  • Delved into why these mistakes are problematic and even discussed
  • How to categorize your knowledge base for maximum efficiency and user-friendliness

Remember, the key to a successful knowledge base is not just the quality of the information but also how easily that information can be accessed and understood.

So, whether you’re just starting out or looking to improve an existing knowledge base, keep these points in mind. Prioritize user experience, keep your information up-to-date, and never underestimate the power of good SEO. Your users—and your customer support team—will thank you.

Shobhana has been recognized as a 'Top Customer Support Voice' by LinkedIn. Her expertise lies in creating well-researched and actionable content for Customer Experience (CX) professionals. As an active member of popular CX communities such as CX Accelerator and Support Driven, she helps professionals evaluate tools for their support team and keeps a keen eye on emerging industry trends.

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