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The importance of having a mixed knowledge base

22 Nov 2021 5 min read

Written by

Nicoleta Binca

, Marketing Specialist

In our previous articles in this series, we covered the basics of how to build a knowledge base, then went more in-depth about the importance of having an internal knowledge base and an external knowledge base. For the final entry and article, we'll cover how a well-written and managed mixed knowledge base can help you make the best of both worlds at once.

What is a mixed knowledge base?

A mixed knowledge base fits right in the middle definition of an internal or external one. In essence, it acts as a virtual space for both your employees and customers to access the information they need, when they need it. The key/main idea is to have a hybrid knowledge base that can serve both purposes in one single space. You can keep part of it internal, so that only your employees may be able to access it, while another part can be shared publicly to encourage customer interaction and feedback. 

What should be included in a mixed knowledge base?

A mixed knowledge base should include as much relevant information as possible, depending on who you are targeting. This means that what you choose to display and share is based on whether it's going into the private or public. In terms of information that can be accessed both privately and publicly, here are a few ideas to start with. Remember you can always take suggestions from both sides in terms of what could potentially be added and be beneficial. 

  • Company information — Office addresses/information, employee contact, press contacts, and websites
  • Documentation — Procedures, guides, best practices
  • Customer service — FAQs, troubleshooting tips 
  • Documentation — Getting started guides, installation guides, user/admin/developer guides
  • FAQ — The most prevalent questions in the community and their answers
  • Troubleshooting — Common known errors and how to fix them 
  • Tutorials — In-depth guides on how to use the product/service and do certain things
  • Videos — Product tours, demos, features showcase
  • Product articles — How-to articles, features overview, best practices for using the product/service
  • Pricing information — Pricing plans breakdown, how to buy, how to cancel, etc. 
  • Glossaries — The terminology that might be unfamiliar to users

What are the benefits of having a mixed knowledge base?

An effective and well-implemented mixed knowledge base allows you to stay two steps ahead of your customers’ issues, while also ensuring your employees have the information they need right at their fingertips. 

1. Instill transparency

With your information well organized and set in place, it's easy to instill transparency across the board by allowing everyone to keep up with each other. Employees can keep track of progress across departments, while customers can be kept up to date with information relevant to them. Having the knowledge of simple things such as how the company is performing, what needs to be improved, or what is planned for the future helps employees feel more involved and offers (potential) customers an honest overview, all the while building trust.

2. Support self-service

With easier access to information, customers will become more independent. They will be able to navigate the knowledge base (available 24/7) at their own pace to find what they need. They can go as deep as they wish into any topic of interest, meaning they get more out of your company's products or services than they would have just through a contact person. Equipped with how-to-guides, tutorials, and FAQs, customers will have soon start to see your mixed knowledge base as an excellent resource center, giving them plenty of reason to return. 

3. Encourage open collaboration

A mixed knowledge base encourages open collaboration. Once you decide what is public and what is not, you distinguish what type of information needs to stay internal and what can be shared. Then, when the situation calls for it, consider pushing for internal updates to also be updated externally - for example, a relevant internal procedure can reach the client to offer insight into how things work so they can get an idea of what to expect. 

4. Improve communication

Communication is essential to keep things running smoothly, both internally and externally. A mixed knowledge base enables you to maintain an open back and forth communication channel between your employees and customers. It not only makes it easier for your employees to get information across different teams and departments, but it also enables them to reach customers faster. This way, teams can work together in real-time, request edits, leave comments and receive feedback much faster, and customers can scour the knowledge base at their own leisure, filter the information based on their needs and get instant answers to their questions without extended, excruciating wait times. 

5. Speed up innovation and development

With a mixed knowledge base set in place, it's much easier to encourage feedback and receive new ideas for how to improve in certain areas. It's also a convenient way for your customers to reach you with suggestions, proposals, or other concerns they might have. If you choose to, you can allow for certain articles - that are public - to also be allowed be edited by the community. However, do this as long as you can ensure the reliability of those edits. Otherwise, you can enable comments to incentivize discussions and open further communication channels. This way, you will start seeing common trends and pain points customers have when using your product or service. Then, you can look to adapt the guides, tutorials, and so on based on how your audience responds to them and see which ones work best. 

Best practices for successfully maintaining a mixed knowledge base

When it comes down to best practices, the general ones apply as a mixed knowledge base essentially works the same way as an external/internal one. However, it does require a bit more finesse and attention to detail in order to keep track of what is going on since it concerns two different sides - customers and employees. As such, there are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Keep both your employees and customers in mind

Make sure to carefully consider opinions from both your employees and customers. Having a knowledge base that is rich in information is important, but none of it matters if it's not organized in a way that makes sense.  Remember that a great knowledge base design should be able to adapt to who uses it and create an effortless experience either as an employee, or a customer.

2. Encourage feedback

A mixed knowledge is meant to help you provide an improved collaboration environment for both your employees and customers. Encouraging them to submit feedback is an easy way to gain insight into what you can improve and how. More often than not, they will have their own suggestions to make and that could help improve the product. Internally, incentivize your employees to leave comments, mention each other and openly share ideas and proposals. Externally, allow comments or provide short surveys to fill out to assess how useful a certain type of information has been to them (for example, at end of an article you can simply ask "How useful was this article?" and have them rate it on a 1-5 scale).

3. Review and update it constantly

This is the golden rule of any knowledge base — never think of it as complete. Your products, services, and company are bound to change through time, and so should your mixed knowledge base. Your organization, products, and services will continue to grow in different ways and those changes should be reflected in your mixed knowledge base. Create additional content and edit it accordingly, while also making sure it's up to date. Make sure you don’t repeat the same information over and over again, so you can avoid being redundant. Check thoroughly and make sure that every change and improvement being made is done with good reason behind it.

If you are ready to get on board and streamline your business with a knowledge base, XWiki could be the right tool to get you started. Try it for free or get in touch with one of our experts to discuss a custom project.

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