Support was a breeze when we first started HelpDocs way back in 2016. We had a few tickets pop in here and there but nothing too wild.
We were building a platform to help people scale their customer support despite our own support tickets trickling in. The thing that spurred us on was the fact we’d rely on our own product for support in the future.
This made the creation of HelpDocs super insightful. Fast forward a couple years and we’re in a different position.
We’ve grown to serving millions of page views every month and we’ve had to find new ways to make sure our service scales. After supporting a growing product I’m super glad we have a place where customers can find information themselves. This has allowed us to focus on creating a better product over the years.
We’re currently a three person team and with thousands of users to support we wouldn’t be able to cope. The proof is in the pudding and our own Knowledge Base has played a huge role in allowing us to grow with such a small team.
Looking at our stats for this month (June 2020) we’ve received 317 tickets via the contact form and direct messaging. With our with our Knowledge Base we've managed to avoided 3,671 tickets.
If we assume each ticket takes around 7 minutes to resolve based on our email analytics, that’s around 428 hours. As a bootstrapped team of 3, we couldn’t handle 428 hours of extra support.
If we compare that to where we were even a couple of years ago (March 2018) where we received 56 tickets and avoided 1,256. That’s around 209 hours. Over two years our tickets avoided have more than doubled and our customer base has tripled.
We place a ton of importance on providing awesome support. Every time we hear from a customer because they can’t find what they are looking for in our Knowledge Base we use that as an opportunity to learn.
What can we do to avoid this question in the future so the customer can use their time on other things?
It’s not that we want to avoid hearing from our customers. We love hearing how we can make HelpDocs better! It’s about empowering our customers to help themselves find the answers they are looking for.
Over the years I’ve realized that improving self service is an ever evolving process.
What questions might need a bit more one-on-one support? How do we encourage people to browse our Knowledge Base? Are there more creative ways we can engage with our customers through both content and conversations?
Running a Knowledge Base company has given us some unique insights. Both in how support scales and the way people feel about their Knowledge Bases.
It’s so wonderful to see how invested our customers are in their customers' success. Setting up a Knowledge Base isn’t a one-off thing. The majority of our customers are logging in multiple times a week updating and sorting articles to level up their self-service game.
If you’re reading this (👋) you're probably interested in setting up a Knowledge Base. Or you’re looking to reorganize your existing one.
If not you might still be trying to figure out if a Knowledge Base is for you. Head on over to our Knowledge Base Basics mini course to see what a Knowledge Base is and why it might be useful for your company.
In this guide I’ll talk about how to provide amazing customer support by providing a self-serve option.
You’ll come to see that a Knowledge Base is your support team's new best friend!
It’ll give your customers the chance to find answers on their own and free up your team’s time answering repetitive questions. I’ll also give you handy category and article templates to help get you started on your Knowledge Base journey.
From a blank slate to a fully functional Knowledge Base. I'll give you tips and tricks throughout based on our experience of supporting thousands of Knowledge Base creators.
Every time I hear positive feedback about our support from customers, I can’t stop smiling. When someone takes the time outta their day just to say we’re doing a good job—well, it doesn’t get much better as a Customer Advocate than that.
Sadly support is often underrated in the internet age. Support coexists and matters just as much as a good product does. If you can do both well you’ve got yourself some happy and loyal customers.
We’re always finding ways to improve and provide the most amazing support experience for our customers. Sure, we make a Knowledge Base product—but it’s just as important for other industries to make support memorable and pleasant too. We are grateful to help play even a little part in this.
Zappos is an excellent example for providing great customer support.
They take caring for the customer to the extreme and highlight the fact that an online shoe store can be known for something more than just shoes. They’re known for providing an amazing customer experience. Shoes + excellent customer experience = happy people with happy feet! 👣
So how do you balance customer experience with growing a company?
Often support will be the first to suffer as it’s time-consuming, difficult to scale, and seen as something that can be easily outsourced.
Think of a company that’s left a lasting impression on you because of the way you were treated by their support team. Whether it’s a good or bad experience I’m sure you’ll remember the way you felt rather than the error you were facing or product request you had.
Product and customer support go together like peanut butter and jelly. They just work. To have an awesome PB & J sandwich you need them both. They are both equally important.
As your business grows you’ll have more customers to support.
At some point though you’ll feel the shift of not having enough time to support your customers. At least not the way you've done in the past. At this point it’s just not possible to provide 1-on-1 help to every single customer question.
Keeping customers happy and resolving their problems in a reasonable amount of time can make a huge difference to your reputation. Plus, it’s just the right thing to do. Your customers are paying you for a service and it’s your job to help them succeed.
With more tickets and less time with each customer you have three options to help you scale:
All are good options! Which ones are the quickest and easiest to do?
You guessed it! Options 1 and 2 are the way to go. Especially if you’re just starting out and can’t afford to hire quite yet.
Not to mention hiring a good customer support team member can be rather tricky. You’ll wanna find the right culture fit, someone who can match your brand style and tone, and also respond to customers efficiently. Which brings us right back to Knowledge Bases.
When your company is the equivalent to a newborn baby (a few months old) your primary goal is obtaining customers and keeping them happy, not trying to support them at scale.
You wanna make sure your baby is fed and bathed but you’re not buying them a car anytime soon.
At this point it’s great to talk to your customers 1-on-1 and really get an understanding of what they need. This will always be true, even four years in we still find value in all of our customer conversations. We just need to be more selective on how we can support them as we grow.
Learning about their pain points, how to solve them, and whether or not your product is doing a good job is a recipe for success. Listening to your customers allows you to build the best product you can. A product that works for the people that use it.
When we founded HelpDocs it was vastly different to what we have today. It’s only through listening to our amazing customers that we’ve created something people actually want to buy.
Far too many businesses jump into creating a scalable way to support customers too early on. It pays to be prepared, but it’s more important you focus on your product and making that easier to use than it is scaling your support for the future. At least in the beginning.
If you’re listening to customers while building your product, you’ll start to grow. As you start to grow your user base, you’ll find yourself answering repetitive questions. Not too many of them, but enough that it starts to seem silly that you’re typing the same words to different customers over and over again.
Here are a couple ways you can handle this:
So you’re saying that setting up a Knowledge Base right outta the gate might not be the best idea?
I’m not going to sugar coat it—it can be a big job and your time could be better spent getting customers to start with because their questions will become the foundation for your Knowledge Base content.
Here’s a path that a lot of companies tend to take.
So what exactly is the purpose of an FAQ page? Shouldn’t you just dive right into creating a Knowledge Base? Not always.
Creating an FAQ first is really helpful to understand what questions are important to your customers. A Knowledge Base is an extension of that and more useful when you are starting to see that the number of questions coming in is outweighing your capacity to support them.
Ah, the FAQ page. It usually doesn’t get much love but it’s one of the most important parts of starting to scale your customer support.
They’re great if you’re at the stage when you’re getting repeat questions but you’re not quite ready for a full-on Knowledge Base.
The neat thing about creating an FAQ page is that you can start providing information to your customers proactively. This will encourage lurking leads to sign up and empower your customers to start helping themselves.FAQs are like training wheels for your Knowledge Base. They allow you to get a sense of what your customers need and require very little time investment to set up.
Let’s start with a common FAQ example. Billing 💸. This is a subject customers will always have questions about.
Can I get a refund? Do you offer discounts? What’s the cost of an annual plan vs. monthly? It’s reassuring for customers and leads to know you’ve thought about how to handle something as important as their credit cards.
A great place to answer these questions is your pricing page on your website. Your current and potential customers are already on this page and curious about your pricing. So why not catch 'em while these questions are top of mind?
No need to pull up your code editor or Wordpress login. To start with just paste these questions into a Dropbox Paper or Google Doc (Word was so last decade 🙄). I’ve even gone ahead and made a template for you so you could just fill this out too.
Let's go through a few more examples 👇
The best place to put these questions is under your plans section on your marketing site. If you use something like Wordpress or Wix this shouldn’t be too tricky.
If not, you’ll need to get the person in charge of your marketing site to add these. We’ve whipped up a handy email template that you can send:
You could also host these questions somewhere else. If you wanna create a simple one-pager here’s are couple options:
This is where things start to get fun! You’ve outgrown your FAQs and are ready to make the leap into Knowledge Base territory.
You’ll know you’re at this point when your FAQs are getting too long for your customers to find what they’re looking for. It’s also a sign to level up if you start noticing that you have more in depth answers or multiple options for how to achieve certain tasks. Here’s where your shiny new Knowledge Base comes to the rescue.
What’s a Knowledge Base and why should you spend your hard earned cash on one?
Put simply a Knowledge Base is a place where all of the information that you want to share with your users/customers lives—so that you can help them help themselves. Think of it as a library of information and instead of having to create and print out books you have the information right at your fingertips online.
The key that sets apart a Knowledge Base from FAQs is the ability to search.
They’ll often have extra features to help you understand and support your customers further too.
Using stats to see what content your customers are searching for or the ability to connect with your current tools are just a few that come to mind. These features can make a huge difference if you’re a fast growing company with a lot of customers.
Not only does it give customers a way to help themselves (saving you both time!) but we’ve heard from our own customers that it’s super helpful for new hires too. It helps them understand and get up to speed with your product—from new customer support reps to a new VP of Sales your Knowledge Base is a resource both internally and externally.
A good Knowledge Base has two main jobs: it needs to be effortless to navigate and your content needs to be easy (and ideally enjoyable) to read.
A Knowledge Base can quickly get out of hand if it’s not organized well from the start. Like a well running hotel, a certain amount of housekeeping is required to keep it in tip-top shape. To keep it working as it should.
It’s understandable that a Knowledge Base can easily get overwhelming. As your product grows in complexity. This is when you can rely on your Knowledge Base to counterbalance that complexity and keep things simple for customers and your support team.
The challenge is to get all that awesome information your product team has been storing in their heads written down on paper.
If you’re just starting to explore creating a Knowledge Base it can be tough to know what to write and how to write it.
Similar to starting this guide staring at a blank white page and trying to figure out what the heck you’re going to write and how you’re to organize it can feel daunting.
Educating people can be tricky and you need to make sure you’re clear on what you want to teach them.
Your goal is to make complex ideas digestible for your readers. It takes time and patience. If your customers are still getting confused after reading your articles don’t be disheartened. You can take this as an opportunity to learn and it’s just a matter of practice.
Many writers are given the advice to simply write something—anything—on the page. That’s exactly how I’d suggest you get started too!
Lucky for you we’ve already come up with some ideas from earlier in this guide. I’ll go over how to turn these into categories a bit later.
The following ‘barebone’ category ideas should serve as a great starting point to set up your Knowledge Base. It’s easy to assume the order of your Knowledge Base articles doesn’t matter. Won’t customers just search if they’re looking for an answer? Well sometimes, yes.
But the surprising thing is many customers choose to navigate your Knowledge Base for a self-directed crash course in your product after they sign up. And many potential customers take a look to see what your product is like before they sign up too. Having a Knowledge Base as a resource for them to explore will help them succeed in using your product and feel excited about what you can offer.
While a marketing site and onboarding sequence can hold a lot of information you won’t wanna go into extreme detail here. Onboarding is not the point that you want to overload your new customers with too much information (they might get frustrated and end up leaving) but you also want to make sure that they can dig deeper to find further support content if they need it. What is possible with your platform and what might they be missing out on? That’s exactly what a Knowledge Base is for.
The secret to an amazing Knowledge Base is stepping back and thinking about how your customers are going to actuallyuse it.
You can do some detective work using customer support tickets, user analytics—and if you’ve already got one—your Knowledge Base views to work out what your customers start looking for when they first sign up.
Here are the types of questions you’ll want to ask yourself in order to understand what’s going on with new customers:
Gathering some common questions or areas where your customers are struggling will be super handy later on.
Armed with the information above we’re now ready to get started on creating your first categories.
Organizing your Knowledge Base for the first time can be daunting. You want to help your customers succeed but where do you even start? Here are a couple category names to help you out:
Let’s dive into more detail about each of these categories, how you can organize them, and what type of content should be in them.
Billing is the easiest place to get started with your docs. These are the commonly asked about questions and the easiest to answer with a Knowledge Base because there is no grey area here. Your price is your price. Your refund policy is your refund policy. Your trial period is your trial period. The snozberries taste like snozberries! Now all you gotta do is write these down in a clear way.
Here’s a template for your Billing category.
Description: Take a look at how we handle billing at COMPANY, what comes with each plan, and how you can pay.
Giving article examples is a little trickier since every company is unique and you’ll wanna make sure that you’re speaking to your customers in your brand voice. Here are a couple ideas and feel free to copy any of the article titles you like the sound of.
Do you sell to businesses? Us too! Here are some common questions we’ve had customers ask us.
You’ll wanna make sure that your answers are straightforward so that you’re setting the right expectations for your customers. Having clear answers is also really helpful for your support team and creates boundaries around what they can and cannot offer customers. ie. Can they give them discounts? When can they offer refunds?
Most of your questions will be about payment methods, refunds and returns. Make sure your customers are clear on how all of these processes work.
We can’t provide specific examples for your Getting Started category because your product is unique. The best way to come up with topics is to understand what customers need to know when they sign up. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:
Here’s what we have in our Getting Started category to help our new customers 👇
At HelpDocs, Logging into their account and Managing Users are two of the most important things our new customers will do so we’ve featured these articles for them. This makes it really easy for our customers to find what they need right from the beginning.
If your product is a project management app your getting started articles might be:
If you’re unsure on where to start here just ask your customer support team! They’ll have first hand experience with the types of actions or questions your new customers have.
Another great way to see where you need to answer your customer questions is to follow along with a new customer (or maybe even a new hire) when they onboard with your product. Sometimes things that seem obvious to you might be where your customers get stuck and going through the process with a fresh set of eyes can be extremely valuable.
Here’s a starting point for the description of your category.
Title: Getting Started
Description: New to PRODUCT? Here’s how to get the most out of your first few days.
Your frequently asked questions category is home to all of the content that doesn’t quite fit anywhere else in your Knowledge Base. You can’t have a category for absolutely everything and if you did it would get a little confusing for your customers to navigate.
Here’s a template for your FAQs category.
Description: Here’s the place for questions that get asked a lot but don’t quite fit anywhere else.
Getting a handful of categories and some article ideas down will help you start visualizing how your Knowledge Base will be organized.
Your best plan of action is to get something written down and then perfect it along the way. You wanna make sure your customers have access to knowledge about your product ASAP so that they can start helping themselves.
Having a Knowledge Base is an ongoing project. It’s continuously evolving as you grow! You’ll start to notice trends about what questions you should be answering and you can tweak your content as you go to help better serve your customers.
The sooner you share your Knowledge Base with the world the sooner you can collect feedback from your customers and see how it’s performing. It’s not a set and forget it process. It takes time to build up and create a robust resource for your customers.
The juice is worth the squeeze! Once you’ve set up your Knowledge Base you’ll see your support time free up and also notice happier customers because they feel empowered to help themselves.
When you first start writing your docs you might feel a bit lost. It can be hard to pin down exactly what your customers are searching for and what terms they use to do so.
Trying to predict what your customers might be struggling with and giving them a clear answer takes a lot of practice!
The purpose of your Knowledge Base is to get your customers to read your docs so you’ll wanna make sure that they are easily digestible. No one wants to be confronted with a wall of text to dig through and try to find the answer they are looking for. For longer format writing keep it to your blog. Your Knowledge Base is for quick and easy solutions.
It’s easy to assume that once you’ve got the majority of information down about your product or service that it’s not going to need updating for a while. The truth is, maintaining a Knowledge Base is an ongoing process.
It definitely saves you and your customers a bunch of time but information changes quickly and you’ll need to make sure you're updating it to keep up with your growth. If a customer finds your Knowledge Base article and follows all the steps but ultimately ends up at a dead-end.
You’re wasting their time and not creating a sense of trust in your product. They’ll likely need to get in touch with your support team at this point which will take up more of your team’s time too! It’s a cycle you don’t want to get stuck in. That’s why it’s so important to keep your Knowledge Base in mind when releasing new features, processes, or products.
When we founded HelpDocs we thought customers would create their account, write a set of docs, and then leave and never think about it again. We’ve come to learn that’s totally not the case.
The majority of our customers log in monthly—sometimes even weekly—to improve, iterate, and update their docs. They are continuously improving their existing docs or adding new ones based on product updates and feedback. It’s a beautiful sight to see!
Now that you have basic categories and articles within them you should be ready to launch your new Knowledge Base to the world. This is your first big step to start empowering your customers to find answers themselves. It’s a great start!
As you grow your product will change over time and you’ll need to make sure your docs change along with it. It can take some time to get the whole team used to updating and improving your Knowledge Base alongside product releases but once this becomes an internal habit—it’ll make your life a whole lot easier.
One way to stay in the loop is by attending product team meetings and jotting down notes. You’ll need to be proactive when it comes to staying in sync with the product team as they’re likely moving fast to get features shipped. If you’re able to sit on these meetings you’ll have a well rounded idea of what content might need to be created or updated in your Knowledge Base.
Here’s a template you can use to get in on these meetings:
This is not only proactive but respectful. It could be a little strange for the team to have someone jotting down notes in the corner silently, so try to get involved and provide customer feedback if you can.
Sure, you might not have engineering experience, but you’ve got something just as important—knowing how to talk with the customers, understanding what they want out of the product, and the skill of simplifying complex ideas for them. Your opinion is valuable.
As you’re jotting down notes about the new feature and thinking about how to write articles for it here are some good questions to ask yourself:
Keeping these questions in mind will give structure to the notes you take during the product meeting and serve as a great foundation for your articles.
If your team uses a task management tool like Asana, Trello or Flow, make sure to include "write documentation" or "update documentation" as a subtask. It’s a little reminder that you’ll need to write docs and that your whole team needs to keep it in mind before releasing a new feature.
As a rule of thumb, you’ll wanna draft up any documentation for a new product feature about a week before it’s released. That way the product is at the stage that it’s nearly ready (giving you enough resources to write about how it works) and you have time for someone else to review the article before it’s published.
You don’t want to rush and publish something that will confuse customers rather than help them. Do yourself a favor and make sure to give yourself enough time to create a well thought out article This will save you much more time in the future if it helps deflect a bunch of customer questions. Thank you past self! 🙏
Depending on your company size, you might need other teams to fill out a short description of how the new feature works & how customers enable it. It’s probably a good idea to get any pre-release screenshots or assets from your design team too.
You could use the following template within your task management software to make sure you have all the details for new feature launches.
If your team is pushing updates daily, the list of docs to update might pile up so much that it’s impossible to get through andome docs are just more important than others.
To help with doc overload you could employ a prioritization system within your task management software. If it’s a major product release you could score that a 1 which means it’s most important. If it’s a small update that only a few customers use you could score that at a 5.
A scoring system helps make sure important updates aren’t missed and that your customers are getting the most out of using your product.
Getting your team to log into yet another tool every time they want to draft up a new article isn’t super appealing. Instead, use apps and processes that compliment the tools you and your team are already using.
Do you use Slack? In your daily or weekly meetings be sure to make a note of any docs that need updating. You could go as far as having a #docs channel in your Slack workspace for any discussions and make sure you loop in engineers and team members if you need to get additional information.
We have a Slack integration that’s pretty neat! You can quickly draft up articles, get notifications about feedback and inbound contact forms, and search your docs from inside the Slack It’s a game changer!
Our Slack integration gives your team an easy way to draft article ideas.
It’s all too easy to keep docs shoved away, gettin’ all dusty and old once you’ve already created them. Keep them fresh by making sure nobody on your team forgets about your good ole Knowledge Base.
It’s often the first impression your customers will have of your customer support and is super important to make sure that they can find what they need.
We’re all about the guides! Here’s another awesome guide that’ll help you keep your Knowledge Base content accurate as you grow 👉 Ship & Sync: Keeping Your Knowledge Base Updated Alongside Your SaaS Product.
The success of your customers really matters! It’s all well and good getting leads to sign up and buy your product, but if they swiftly cancel their account this means you’re gonna have problems.
Whether you define customer success as a sales or support role, your Knowledge Base can help you gain the trust of potential customers and proactively help current customers.
Making it easy for them to know what they are signing up for by providing useful docs creates a better onboarding experience all around. Your customers' success is your success so let’s make sure to keep em’ happy!
Teaching new customers how to use your product is not an easy feat sometimes. You’ve spent countless hours creating and using your product and it’s your job to teach someone who’s never even seen it to understand the why and the how behind it all. How do you take a step back and remove the in depth understanding of your product so that you can explain it to someone who’s brand new?
Luckily there are loads of resources for onboarding—a quick Google search should give you some great articles. There are two main ways to onboard users, through your app or by email. You can do both if you’re really feeling it!Tools like UserLane, Drift, CustomerIO, Intercom, Vero, and Autopilot offer different methods of helping your users when they first sign up.
But how does your Knowledge Base tie into this? Well, you can give users links to relevant articles in addition to a short explanation or video. This means their notifications or email won’t get clogged up with information that’s not relevant to them.
The email above is an example of what we send to Admin users in our onboarding process. Simply sending links to articles they might find helpful is a quick and useful way to give them the support they need without the gritty and unnecessary detail.
To understand what to send and when, take a look at your Getting Started category. Since you’ve already researched what new customers struggle with when they first sign up, it’ll be a breeze to point them in the right direction at the right time based off of the articles in there.
While a Knowledge Base can do its best to help answer a lot of questions, you’ll inevitably still get messages from customers who are struggling to make something work or just haven’t read the docs thoroughly. If a customer asks something that’s already answered in your Knowledge Base, you should use links to support answers to tickets, not replace them.
Obviously just pasting a link to an article instead of talking to them is pretty rude, so if they ask a question that’s already in your Knowledge Base simply summarize what they need to do and then paste in the link at the end for extra information.
Add links to answers from your Knowledge Base for customers at the end of your response.
We have a few handy integrations to make this easier. Our Chrome extension helps you paste in links from your Knowledge Base from anywhere on the web and our Drift & Front plugins give you an easy way to access articles inside each platform.
We’d like to thank the academy…kidding! Thanks for sticking it out with us this far 🙏. We’ve covered a bunch of stuff in this guide. From why you need a Knowledge Base to how you start writing content for it and everything in between. Now more than ever as it’s easier for businesses around the world to sell to other businesses or consumers. This means more customers, which means more support.
Starting out with support doesn’t have to be daunting. You can scale your support as you grow. When you start trying to scale your support make sure you know the product inside-out. Look at where new users get stuck and start becoming proactive with support by introducing messages at the right time with links to your docs.
We hope this guide helped you to get your Knowledge Base up and running and that you feel confident to continue creating awesome resources for your customers.
If you need a easy to use platform give us a try over at helpdocs.io/signup ✨🦄
Happy Knowledge Base creating friends!