What is a knowledge base?

A knowledge base is software an organization can use to store knowledge acquired in the course of doing business. We’re talking about a database, only filled with knowledge and wisdom rather than just randomly accumulated data, so it’s a knowledge base. I’m here to tell you a knowledge base is essential.

When we’re trying to create a business, we hire the best people we can, and there is talk of corporate culture. In a clinical sense, “anthropologists have grown more and more inclined to define culture as knowledge shared by a group (Kroeber and Kluckholm 1952; D’Andrade 1995; Romney 1999).”  Cultures that are well-documented are more efficient at sharing knowledge and generally more successful. Knowledge in a CRM scenario can be defined as shared knowledge among your organization’s support staff, and it may yet be wide ranging, from product details, to user issues, to workarounds, common errors, equipment settings and configurations, change histories, to FAQs to…most anything. You’re looking for information that customers want to know and staff needs to know at their fingertips.

Why should I use one?

You can’t have scalability without documentation. A knowledge base is where your organization documents communal knowledge that teams are acquiring through hard experience. Your customers are the reason you need to use a knowledge base. You need to be able to respond to their queries and challenges quickly and correctly. Whatever problem they have, most likely someone else has had it before, and you need to NOT be constantly reinventing the wheel when it comes to solving their issues.  The amount of time customers spend on the phone affects your customer satisfaction rating, which can be challenging to measure.  The amount of time customers spend on the phone directly affects your phone bill, and that’s EASY to measure.  Keeping call times short has the dual benefit of pleasing both the customers and the CFO.

The second big reason to use a knowledge base is to be able to keep the knowledge your employees acquire, rather than letting it walk out the door with them if and when they eventually move on to another job, retirement, or the great beyond.

There are certain truisms we constantly come back to again and again, and the grandaddy is TIME IS MONEY. It’s true. The longer it takes to resolve customer issues, the more likely it is they’ll become dissatisfied and cease to be a customer. It’s takes more time and money to gain customers than to keep them.

It also takes a lot of expensive time to train to train employees, but a well-maintained knowledge base can reduce those costs significantly over the long run. Rather than training on the job, and having new hires shadow the veterans, hoping the new hires learn everything by osmosis, use a knowledge base to create a definitive text, and an authoritative resource for questions about your products and services.

This post will (sadly) not tell you what knowledge base tool you should use, because there are many and they vary in cost, features, and complexity. Do your research and find to the solution that works best for your organization. For a small company, a Wiki and or an open source approach may be the way to go. For larger organizations, with larger budgets, more mature systems with integration to other enterprise software packages may be the way to go. Many enterprise CRM solutions provide knowledge base functionality.

In any case, your own organization’s maturity depends upon growing and preserving your hard-earned communal knowledge. If you leave knowledge to chance, it’ll cost ya!