Your staff, members, customers, board members, partners, etc. (collectively referred to as users) all need quick access to accurate and succinct information that quickly answers their questions.  Some of the information may be intended for all or limited staff, while other information needs to be readily accessible by all users. 


Knowledge base (KB) technology enables your users to quickly get to answers wherever they reside (be it in the form of Q&As, web pages, documents, or multi-media, but always with a keen eye towards getting users to answers first and letting them decide if they desire to view other relevant information of a broader nature). 


Over time and with proper planning, your knowledge base can actually become the central access point to your organization’s aggregate knowledge required to support your entire operations. 


Whatever KB technology is used, it is critical that your KB is tightly coupled with your assisted support so that: 1. Your KB naturally grows as inquiries are resolved using information not already included in the KB, 2. You can quickly and easily send the user a link to the relevant KB item when already present in the KB, and 3. The staff providing assisted support to the user, who understand what information is required and how best to communicate it, are the ones creating and evolving the KB content. 


This assisted support can be delivered from multiple support channels.  Since users expect several alternatives, they choose the channel that is perceived best for them and expect you to provide consistent, accurate, prompt and personalized support across all channels and staff.  Whether the support is provided in-person, over the phone, using email, during a chat session, or when helping themselves using your KB, users expect a seamless support experience. 


To meet user expectations, your customer care technology must be tightly and seamlessly integrated and readily accessible to all staff for assisted support and to all users when helping themselves or requesting assisted support.  Properly implemented, all answers will be accessible from a single source, and your support staff will have a complete history of any user’s support experience at their fingertips. 


Since it is rarely practical or beneficial to purchase and implement all the necessary customer care components out of the gates, you either want to purchase a modular software suite that allows you to purchase and use the fully integrated modules when they make sense to your organization, or you need to purchase individual software components with attention towards how you will integrate and administer them in the future.  The last thing you want is to end up with a disjointed user experience that requires multiple technologies, permissions and disparate data sources to be independently managed.  You also want to be able to quickly mine and leverage the vast user insights exposed during the support process. 


As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the technology used to support your knowledge base must also allow you to selectively define who can see what information.  What’s more, the permissions used to control the number and types of staff required to review and publish information before it is accessible in the KB must be flexible enough to support situations where the information is used on a restricted basis internally and needs only limited control, to more rigorous controls required for information that is publicly accessible and can have a direct impact on how your brand is perceived. 


To support the requirement of selectively controlling who can see what and how it is controlled, you can always have multiple knowledge bases, but with that approach often comes many problems and inefficiencies.  Among other things using this approach you very well may:  1. Expend more resources to administer multiple systems, which can be quite significant, 2. Duplicate information across multiple KBs, 3. Have insurmountable challenges to integrate all your KBs with your assisted support, 4. Be unable to search all your KBs at one time while retaining the ability to filter search results using your KB categories, 5.  Lose the capability to relate KB items to one another such that the user will only see the related items they have permission to see -- this capability is quite valuable when relating procedure or cross-sell information only accessible by some staff with product related information available to all users, and, 6. Have difficulty producing reports and exports representing aggregate information across all your knowledge bases and assisted support. It is also worth calling out that a properly engineered knowledge base will ensure that Private information cannot be placed in publicly accessible categories.   


Consumer loyalty and repeat business come down to product, price and support.  The customer care technology and partners you select are critical for your organization to successfully differentiate your brand.  Think strategically, get the right staff involved, and develop an implementation plan that scales with your needs to make the right decisions.