How investing in a knowledge base empowers customers (and makes your company more efficient)

How do you define outstanding customer support? Ask someone who works in customer service and they’re likely to say, “The best support is the help that you don’t need to ask for.” Customers want products that work. That being said, customer support will always be needed. So, what makes a great support experience? As the senior director of customer support at Contentful, I’ve given this a lot of thought.

One crucial ingredient is knowledge management.

A well-managed knowledge base leads to happier customers and strong, efficient customer support teams

Your support team is as strong as your product, as efficient as the workflows, tools and processes that support them and as happy as their job is fulfilling. 

So how can customer support help build a stronger product? What tools and processes enable a support team to be there when your customers need them in a digital world that’s always “on?” And how do we ensure that customer service representatives feel valued and supported?

Knowledge management is the key to building strong, efficient, happy customer support teams. With a strong knowledge base you can:

  • Empower customers with self-service support portals and in-product support. 

  • Support internal teams with consistent processes and access to the information they need to solve complex problems.

  • Involve your support team in actively improving the customer experience.

Illustration of a library of books

Put your knowledge base at the center of customer support

Knowledge-Centered Service (previously known as Knowledge-Centered Support) is a method that puts knowledge at the center. Organizational knowledge becomes a living thing that evolves as people use, update and improve the knowledge base. KCS helps companies make their internal knowledge more accessible and keep it up to date. 

"While KCS is enabled by technology, KCS is primarily about people. People are the source of knowledge. KCS has proven that the best people to capture and maintain support knowledge are the people who create and use it every day." — KCS Academy

KCS makes your knowledge base a part of day-to-day operations. Support teams access the knowledge base to find information and to add information as they solve new problems. In this way the knowledge base captures the knowledge within teams and makes it accessible and reusable across the company.

Use your knowledge base to unify silos and turn organizational knowledge into a valuable asset

Using a method like KCS, organizations can build powerful knowledge bases that reduce costs through self-service options, more efficient support processes (including onboarding) and greater consistency (which leads to less customer frustration).  What’s more, by analyzing knowledge base use — such as page views on a self-service portal — companies can identify common problems. This enables them to address the root cause with product improvements or additional services that open up new revenue streams. 

To get this kind of value out of your knowledge base, you need to think about unifying silos of knowledge and integrating your knowledge base with other business systems. This is easier said than done for companies that rely on a mix of legacy systems for content management.  

When Telus, Canada’s fastest-growing national telecommunications company, set out to redefine its customer care experience, they knew migrating content from their proprietary legacy CMS would be a challenge. Fortunately, Contentful had their back.

Using our Content Management API, Telus was able to programmatically upload content into the new repository — no painful copying and pasting required. Using their new knowledge base, Telus prioritized self-service content and built feedback loops to improve content based on customer feedback. Customers are automatically transferred to an agent if they provide negative feedback on a dialogue step, creating a seamless combination of self-service and live support.

Using a centralized knowledge base to power their support portal delivered big results for Telus:

  •  9.2% decrease in visitors entering the website at the Contact Us page 

  • 10% increase in article traffic from within the website 

  • 10.2% decrease in support visitors going to the Contact Us page 

  • 17.5% increase in article traffic from organic search 

  • 100% increase in visits from the Contact Us page to the Telus support experience 

  • 9% reduction in overall support costs

Other customers are doing some really cool things to extend the value of their knowledge base and empower customers. One large customer is using their knowledge base to pull content from product documents for use as in-product support. Another is looking at ways to use customer behavior to trigger tips pulled from their knowledge base — getting them one step closer to providing support before the customer knows they need it. 

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Use larger outcomes, not metrics, to measure the effectiveness of investing in customer support

Companies invest substantial amounts of money in building knowledge bases and improving customer support. This focus on customer service makes sense. Customers have high expectations for customer service and meeting these expectations pays off according to numerous reports. An analysis by Bain & Company found that companies that excel at customer experience grow revenues 4-8% above their market.

Customer support managers track KPIs like Customer Satisfaction Scores, ticket response times and resolution times. They coach support reps to smile on the phone and monitor the tone and length of conversations. Then they crunch these numbers into monthly reports to show how efficient their support team is. But are we measuring the correct numbers? 

Can an efficient support team compensate for problems with a product that go unfixed? Can you expect representatives to sound happy when they’re fielding the same call over and over or wading through reams of product information? Do short call times equate to happy customers or are they an indicator of missed opportunities to empower customers with self-service options?

To measure the effectiveness of customer support we need to look at outcomes that tie to product strength, efficient processes and job fulfillment:

  • How quickly do you identify and solve the root causes behind recurring customer complaints?

  • What type of calls are you getting? Are you empowering customers to solve simple problems through self-service options?

  • Instead of telling reps to smile, look at your attrition rate to see if they’re happy.  A happy employee can always be felt by the customer even if they are on the phone. 

When we shift our focus to these larger outcomes, we can see how managing and sharing organizational knowledge improves the customer experience. Giving support teams easy access to up-to-date product information can expedite calls and reduce the frustration of trying to find information in a sprawl of content. Building a connection between customer support and product teams can better align product improvements and new product development with customer needs.

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How we use our knowledge base to strengthen our product, improve processes and make customer support more fulfilling 

At Contentful we love empowering our customers. To that end, we used the Contentful platform to build a knowledge base that pushes our support team into the future. And we are taking our customers with us too!

Our goal is to minimize our customer’s need for support by listening to your feedback and making sure our product just works the way you need it to. That being said, our support teams will always be needed and our role is to help them work smarter, solve more complex and interesting situations and work with the customer to find the solution that’s the best fit for them. 

When support is needed we are “all in” behind our customers — the whole company, not only our customer support reps. Engineering and product teams take customer feedback and include it in plans to improve our product. Our learning center, developer documentation and help center for authors provide self-service resources, while our technology and solution partners and expanded professional services offerings are available to help customers with larger projects.

It’s our responsibility to empower our customers and the teams that support them with the best tools and methodologies because the best support is the help that you don’t need to ask for.

See how Contentful can help you unify organizational knowledge into a valuable asset that empowers customers and makes customer support more efficient and consistent across channels. Download our white paper on how to win the customer experience battle with knowledge base content

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