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How to buy knowledge base software for customer service

Arjun Ruparelia
SaaS Writer and Content Marketer
Customer Experience | 13 min read

Think about the last time you needed help with a software solution. You probably tried looking for the company’s knowledge base or sought help via a chatbot on the company’s website. That’s what most customers do — 91% of customers said in a Freshworks survey that they’d use a self-service portal if it could quickly answer their questions. A knowledge base is vital, and it’s easy to create using knowledge base software.

A knowledge base is also a powerful customer service automation tool — and an AI-powered knowledge base is even better. Your AI agent can use the information in your knowledge base to answer customer queries, so they never have to manually sift through the knowledge base.

In this guide, we explain why a knowledge base, especially an AI knowledge base, is a valuable asset for your business and how to choose the right knowledge base software — let’s dive right in.

What is a customer service knowledge base?

A customer service knowledge base is a collection of resources — FAQs, tutorials, and videos — that enable customers to self-resolve inquiries. A knowledge base for customer service gives your customers a self-help option and reduces the traffic at your support desk.

You can even feed the information in your knowledge base to a conversational AI tool to train it. The chatbot or voice assistant can use this information to help support agents search for information in the knowledge base to help a customer. Similarly, an AI agent can use a knowledge base to resolve customer queries without ever speaking to an agent. As technology advances, conversational AI will be able to resolve the majority of the inquiries using resources like the company knowledge base.

What is knowledge base software?

Knowledge base software is a tool that makes creating, editing, and distributing content easier. It also makes navigation easier for customers so they can quickly find answers without seeking help from customer support.

The primary purpose of knowledge base software is to help you organize institutional knowledge in a searchable database. But you can improve the experience of using your knowledge base with advanced, AI-powered systems that use machine learning to automatically find relevant articles from the database when a customer asks a question.

However, customers will still need to select a relevant article and find the specific information themselves. Conversational AI solves that problem. An AI agent can directly respond to user queries with specific information so the user doesn’t have to read through the entire article.

Types of knowledge base software

Knowledge base software can either be on-premise or offered as a SaaS (software as a service):

  • On-premise: On-premise knowledge base software allows you to set up and host knowledge base data on your own server or in a private cloud-based environment. On-premise software offers greater control over data, but you’ll need to invest more in maintenance. You’ll need to pay a software license fee to use an on-premise knowledge base solution, or you can use open-source software.
  • SaaS: SaaS knowledge base software is accessible over the internet. You have less control over data when using SaaS but greater accessibility — you can access it from anywhere as long as you have an internet connection. SaaS solutions typically charge on a recurring basis, depending on your chosen subscription plan.

Key features to look for in knowledge base software for customer service

Give knowledge base software a quick search, and you’ll find an overwhelming number of tools show up. How do you pick one? We talk about things to consider in the next section, but looking at the feature set is a good starting point. Here are key features to look for:

Fast processing speed and effective search engine

Customers have a need for speed — 67% of customers say speed is as important as price. If your knowledge base software takes more than a few seconds to load information, they might request help from a support agent.

Speed also impacts productivity. 61% of people can’t find the information and answers needed to do their job effectively, which leads employees to spend the equivalent of one working month every year just searching for information. Of course, the quality of results is just as important as speed. The knowledge base must be able to deliver accurate results even when the customer misspells a word or uses inexact phrases.

User-friendly editor

The content editor should offer all formatting and editing features without making the interface overly complex. Top knowledge base software solutions offer a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) interface. Many also allow the use of markup and HTML.

Ready-to-use integrations

Integrations allow frictionless data exchange between two tools. Your customer service knowledge base can help improve the customer experience by integrating it with an AI agent . When a customer asks a question, the chatbot looks up the information in the knowledge base and generates a response.

That’s exactly what Shapermint did. Ada helped Shapermint resolve 75% of WISMO (where is my order) interactions via conversational AI. Rachel Mint (the AI agent) facilitated a warm handoff to the relevant support team member, including the chat transcript and customer details. This helped Shapermint reduce wait times to under 30 seconds and increase the share of sales generated by 50% year-over-year.

Collaboration and versioning

Knowledge base software with collaborative features allows team members to contribute information to the knowledge base. So when a new feature rolls out, the product team can create a guide explaining how to use the feature themselves.

Versioning helps restore previous drafts, and it also lets you see recent changes and who made them. Suppose you asked someone to update a few FAQs after a recent update, and they made a few errors. Versioning will help you identify those errors faster.

User analytics and reporting

User analytics provide insights into how your customers use your product. Many knowledge base solutions allow for collecting feedback. They generate reports based on feedback and data collected from user queries, and these reports help identify room for improvement. If your knowledge base software doesn’t offer built-in analytics, integrate it with another tool (such as an AI-powered chatbot) that does.

Customizable UI

Look for knowledge base software that lets you customize the UI by changing the font and color. Many solutions allow editing CSS and HTML so you can get creative with the design and UX of your knowledge base pages.

Things to consider when buying knowledge base software for customer service

An extensive feature set is a great asset, but there’s more to consider before investing in a knowledge base software solution. For example, a solution that offers a ton of features but is overly complex to use probably isn’t a good idea. Here’s a quick overview of things to consider.

How user-friendly is the software?

A tool that’s difficult to use is worse than no tool at all — your team won’t use it but you’ll still have to pay for it. Look for an easy-to-use knowledge base solution that makes creating and editing content a breeze for your team. With knowledge base software for customer service, you should also look at how easy or difficult it is to use for your customers.

The best way to see if a tool is easy to use is to use it yourself. Try out the solutions you’ve shortlisted for a first-hand experience and make notes about what you like and don’t like. Ask the sales team for examples of knowledge bases their existing customers have created to better understand the product.

Does it offer value for money?

Compare tools based on value and not cost. Suppose a knowledge base solution that costs $1,000 a year offers built-in AI capabilities. A company that understands AI’s potential might feel this is a bargain or fair price, while a traditional company might want to consider other low-cost options.

How flexible is the software?

Your business has unique needs that will change over time. Suppose your tech stack includes a CRM system, Slack, and a project manager. You’ve found a knowledge base tool that integrates with other business apps you use. For example, Contentful offers an extensible tech stack, with pre-built apps and flexible AI solutions. Five years from now, you might have more tools in your tech stack, so you need to make sure the software can integrate with them.

One way a knowledge base tool can offer this is through APIs to add flexibility. When you switch from Slack to another, less popular collaboration tool, you’ll need the flexibility to integrate it with your knowledge base — and that’s where APIs come in.

What’s their support like?

99% of consumers report that customer service quality influences their overall impression of that organization to some extent.

How fast does support come when you need it? Is there a forum or community you can reach out to when you help? Suppose you want to update one of your articles ahead of a new feature launch. For some reason, the software won’t publish the update. You try to contact support but it’s only available via email and the acknowledgment email says you’ll hear back in 48 hours.

Save yourself the trouble and frustration by verifying that the company has a strong support team. Websites like Capterra and G2 typically have many user reviews — it might be worth reading those to see what other users think about a company’s customer service.

"99% of consumers report that customer service quality influences their overall impression of the organization."

- Oracle

How to build a customer service knowledge base using software

Buying software is just one of the various steps in the process of creating your knowledge base. Building a knowledge base requires input from multiple departments. For example, you need the support team to create a tutorial on how to raise a ticket, while you need the product or engineering team for troubleshooting articles. The process can get messy, so here’s a step-by-step method:

  • Assign an owner: Find someone on the team who knows the product well and has great interpersonal skills. They can collaborate with other team members to create knowledge base content.
  • Find your knowledge base software: Creating and managing knowledge base content is easy when you use software.
  • Outline the content: Identify your customers’ most common queries and list the problems they are likely to run into while using your product. Sort the list by importance. Look for answers in internal documentation or seek help from subject matter experts on the team.
  • Organize the content: Design the homepage and determine the number of folders the knowledge base will have. For example, you could create folders that contain guides that help new users get started, troubleshoot common problems, and answer FAQs.
  • Start creating content: At this point, you can start writing the knowledge base content. Prioritize the most important content, and remember, you can always add or remove content from the knowledge base — it’s not set in stone.
  • Publish: Publish the knowledge base and place it in the “Support,” “Help Center,” or similar section on the website. Also, place the knowledge base inside your app and in any other place where users may need it.

Of course, don’t forget to follow knowledge base best practices while building your knowledge base.

Use AI knowledge base software to improve customer service

Knowledge base software enables your support team to find information faster. But you can achieve even more speed with AI.

Here's how: you can choose AI-powered knowledge base software and integrate it with an AI agent. An AI agent can skim through your knowledge base and answer queries even when the customer uses complex language or inexact phrases.

Translation? AI agents can amplify your knowledge base’s utility. Your customers can resolve queries faster and more accurately while using natural language.

That’s the kind of CX top companies aim for.

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