Building Customer Knowledge

7 min read

Customer knowledge is fundamental for any successful business. It strengthens product success, which ultimately, creates a successful customer experience as a whole. And this is so crucial today. Consumers have a staggering number of choices and more channels to pursue them on. Customers cannot have success overall, buying more of your products, returning, referring, and contributing to growth, unless they can succeed with the product they are purchasing. In fact, 47% of consumers say they will stop buying from a company if they have a subpar experience.  

Now a lot goes into helping your customers have valuable product experience. Product experience is multi-faceted and encompasses every aspect of a company’s offering—product and service features, quality, ease of use, reliability, packaging, cost, and of course the quality of product support. Creating hit products isn’t easy, but, you’re more likely to do well if you enable customers with the knowledge they need to be successful.

Completing the check-out process should not be the end of interaction with your customer, but a beginning of of the educational journey your company takes them on—from learning about which product or service is best suited for their needs, learning how to use them, exploring articles and guides to get the most out of different features, obtaining the ability to resolve issues and questions on their own, to joining community groups and gaining enough insight to want to purchase again. So let’s dive into how you can do just that. 

What Exactly Is Customer Knowledge?

First, let’s make sure we have a clear picture of what customer knowledge includes. This is a term that often gets thrown around with little substance, when in fact, it is quite complex. Customer knowledge is defined as a combination of experience, value, and insight information that is needed, created, and ultimately absorbed during customer and company interactions. 

Customers need all different kinds of product information. What are the specs on this device? How do I sync it? What’s your warranty policy? Can I disable this feature? The questions are endless. Creating this resource can come in many forms: product docs, compatibility checkers, educational communities, blogs and guides, knowledge base content, and more. And it can be syndicated across many different platforms, like your site, apps, help-center, and social media accounts. 

In this article we are going to cover those three basic steps of building customer knowledge: understanding the customer need, creating the resource, and encouraging users to absorb it. 

customer knowledge base components

Understanding Your Customer Needs

The first step in building customer knowledge is figuring out what exactly you need to create. And this is done by understanding your customer needs. 

  • Start by looking at your existing customer base and their unique behaviors. Look into abandonment trends, escalations, returning customers, frequently asked questions, and common pain points to start discovering what gaps are in your content. 
  • Collaborate with customer service. The support team has the most first-hand experience dealing with customer concerns, and understands your customer’s biggest pains. They also can generate insight into common issues customers face or frequent requests they are given. You can also collaborate with sales. Find out about the common apprehensions customers have before purchase. Lastly, try collaborating with the product development team. They often have the best understanding of the products and services your company offers along with in-depth understandings of different features. They also often understand market gaps and can predict what customers of the future are looking for. This can be especially useful in understanding what content your audience will need.
  • Try looking into a specific customer. Choose a reliable one who continuously purchases. Research them specifically, even interviewing them or asking them questions to gather more information. Learn what content they find the most useful and what persuades their loyalty.
  • Try the inverse as well. Look into less successful customer interactions you’ve had, and try to research why they didn’t go so well. This can help you uncover the areas your content is lacking that are leading to abandonments.

Creating Knowledge

Once you fully understand the content needs in your customer base, you can start creating knowledge resources. Building this customer knowledge can come in many forms, depending on your unique customers’ needs, so let’s cover some common and valuable options. 

Pre-Purchase Resources

Offering educational content before the purchase is critical in guiding a sale and it can come in many forms:

  • Frequently asked questions can provide information on the most common concerns that customers face before deciding to purchase. 
  • Recommending products based on who the user is, what their product goals are, or how they will use the product is a great way to offer personalized and tailored selections easing the amount of effort the customer expends in searching through endless product descriptions. 
  • Recommending products that are frequently bought together can also offer customers insight into more purchases they may find valuable or useful. 
  • Offering compatibility information on different products can help your customers understand what will or will not work for them before purchasing and running into possible issues. 
  • Providing convenient warranty information can ease some of the customers’ pre-purchase questions and prevent contacts. 

Post-Purchase Resources

Providing educational materials after the purchase is just as important in ensuring that the customer has a successful experience and chooses to buy again. It also can be done a lot of ways: 

  • User onboarding is crucial to ensuring the customer understands how to fully use a product and reap all of its benefits, especially with more complex services. Using in-depth interactive learning and engaging visuals can help customers achieve success with the product. 
  • Getting started guides are a great tool for your beginner customers who are just learning how to set up their new product. These guides can cover any number of topics and are super flexible. Remember how we talked about understanding customer needs? Well, as those needs shift, or as your products update and change, you can quickly and easily add more relevant guides. 
  • How-to videos basically serve the same function as getting started guides, but with the added visual component. If you’ve got the budget to make videos explaining different features and use-cases, then go for it! Visual learning tends to be more successful and can be more engaging and entertaining for your users. After all, you want their experience of learning to use your product to be fun, not a drag. 
  • A great example of a company with entertaining and informative educational video content is Webflow University. They successfully cover a lot of technical content in a small period of time, while keeping it light, simple, and even fun. 
  • Articles on different specific functions and use cases are also quite useful. Beginning users are not the only ones who need educational content. Oftentimes the customers seeking these resources already have a general understanding of your product and are looking to further their knowledge. So, providing information on all the different ways the product can be used is how you help customers get the most value from their purchase. 
  • Product docs and manuals are the most basic level of post-purchase content you can provide, but also might be the most important. Providing the product documentation and manuals, not just with the physical purchase but, in a convenient, searchable, and online place can make customers’ lives much easier. 
  • A knowledge base is fundamental to generating customer knowledge. It is where you can pull in all of these different resources we’ve mentioned to one convenient, searchable, and easy-to-access place for your customers, partners, dealers, and even internal teams (which we’ll get to in a moment). It should be the center of knowledge for your entire company community, and working to build it out is an important step in building this customer knowledge. Here are a few ways to start creating a knowledge base if your company doesn’t have one yet:
  • Chances are you already have product manuals, getting started guides, product information, and documentation. Organizing those sources (and making them conveniently searchable) will be an integral part of your knowledge base and can help many customers resolve their questions and issues.
  • Leverage product experts within your organization to create and review content. Your product managers, training teams, and service teams know your products inside and out. You can lean on these teams to enrich content, make it more useful, and create long-lasting assets.
  • Leverage community content. If you have an online community of passionate users with a valuable understanding of your product, you can tap into that too. 

Exploratory Resources

Oftentimes, customers want to expand their knowledge on your product or service beyond the minimum amount required to use it successfully. Many users want the option to explore all different content to ensure they are fully grasping the capabilities of what they have purchased. You can offer this a few different ways: 

  • Offer a learning center of educational tools like an academy or training portal. This is a great place for users who already have a good foundation of knowledge on your product but are looking for a more in-depth view. This is also where you can send partners, installers, or employees to gain that level of well-rounded information. 
  • Utilize your community. Oftentimes customers want to learn more about the products you offer, but generating that much content for hundreds (or even thousands, yikes!) of products can be impossible. Creating an educational community resource where members can help each other and learn from all different internal and external assets can be a big help! It can include community discussions, open forums, Q&As, etc. You can also take this to social media with separate accounts made solely for helpful tips, live videos, or Q&As for your users. 

Making Knowledge Available Where Customers Need It

Understanding customer needs and creating useful resources to fulfill those needs is crucial to customer success with your product or service. But it is equally important to make these resources available where your customers are so they can easily access and consume this valuable content. And this is a two-pronged step: First, you should make this information available in convenient, easy-access locations that promote customers to self-serve with this product knowledge. Next, ensure your internal teams have access to this knowledge so they can better serve customer interactions. 

Step 1:

This is where things may get a bit trickier. It’s time to loop back to your research from the very beginning of this article (remember that?) on your customers’ behaviors. Dig into this research even deeper to uncover the different places your customers are most often visiting and utilizing. This could be your mobile app, your help-center, product landing pages, or any combination of places that is unique to any business. This is where you want to focus your educational material. 

  • For example, if you find that many of your customers are visiting your site, shopping on product pages, and not purchasing, that would be the perfect place to start including more pre-purchase educational resources. 
  • You can also leverage your negative interactions here again. Maybe you find from your customer service team that many contacts include customers struggling to set up a certain feature that you have an article on in your FAQs. With this information, you can learn that either your FAQs should be moved to a more convenient place on your site or simply just be made easier to navigate and searchable. 

Step 2: 

When deploying a whole bunch of new educational resources, you should make sure your employees are equipped with the same materials. We covered it a bit in the sections above, but find that it is crucial in getting right. Some customers don’t want to search for information themselves and always choose to contact and some may struggle to find what they’re looking for and have to resort to contacting. When those situations arise, you want to make sure that they are still being supplied with the same good knowledge you are providing across the various platforms, like the knowledge base, product docs, FAQs, community forums, etc. 

  • As we talked about before, using the knowledge base as a universal place of shared information is a great way to ensure all members have up-to-date, relevant content and maintain consistency. 

Final Thoughts

The key to customer success is product success and one of the critical factors in creating a successful product is building customer knowledge. Helping your customers learn more and develop more knowledge of your product is how you make them successful. Creating product success is all-encompassing. Customer knowledge is the foundational, but there is a lot more than businesses can do to empower their customers. Learn more about guided selling and how branding contributes to product success to continue improving your product experience. 

To learn more about building customer knowledge, read about the key elements of a great kb article and how to write one.

I love to write with one goal in mind - to help you build amazing customer experiences. Our content is tailored to help you understand your customers, design great products and deliver world-class customer self-service. I share my knowledge and experience through my articles, videos, podcasts, templates, and more - so you can take your customer experience to the next level.‍

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