In this article we compare the achievements of crossing the Atlantic with creating beautiful knowledge base for your organisation, with a focus on Helpjuice, who make simple knowledge base software.
We explore what knowledge base software is, and is not; how many organisations aren't actually that excited about delighting their customers/users; and we discuss the importance of ease of use; customisation; simplicity in design; functionality; price/value; and how you should look on your knowledge base as a key intellectual property (IP) asset of your business - and treat it as such.
1. A KNOWLEDGE BASE SOFTWARE THAT SOARS
In 1927 Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly an airplane across the Atlantic. When he returned to an adoring nation, he was given a ticker-tape parade on the Washington Mall on 11 June, 1927, which attracted the largest crowd ever in the history of the capital of the great nation of the United States of America.
Why did people flock to see him that day? For many reasons, but foremost because his single minded dedication and focus had helped make the impossible become possible, had opened up unconsidered ways to travel the world; and, importantly, because he had a utter, ruthless dedication to his goal.
2. A SIMPLE, BEAUTIFUL PRODUCT
I think if Lindbergh ran a SaaS company today, and if Lindbergh was looking for knowledge base software, he’d choose a 4 year old tech start-up called Helpjuice.
Because to my mind at least, the HelpJuice team have applied the same level of intellectual and practical discipline (that Lindbergh applied to his dream of flying the Atlantic) to the HelpJuice dream of creating an epoch-defining solution to a uncracked problem (clunky, over-complex knowledge base software applications).
For Lindbergh and the adoring American public, that problem was the barrier of no person having ever flown the Atlantic (the cost to business being so great through lengthy sea voyages). Lindbergh proved it didn’t always have to be like that, that a more affordable, better way lay ahead.
For HelpJuice, they’ve gone and done the same, albeit in the less headline-marking arena of knowledge base software!
3. HOLD YOUR HORSES THERE SOLDIER! WHAT IS THIS THING THAT YOU CALL A 'KNOWLEDGE BASE'?
First things first. This article doesn't purport to be an in-depth analysis of the wide range of knowledge base software solutions on the market. All this article represents is the view of one tech company co-founder, and their experience of using knowledge base software created by one company. So this is neither an authoritative, nor a particularly objective view of the market; rather it's the outcome of one customer - Complyfile - having a great experience with one provider - Helpjuice.
I'm personally not a great fan of the phrase 'knowledge base'. What is meant to describe? Well, essentially, a website that is set up in such a way as to give you the answer to any question you might have about a particular subject or organisation. It's built by the organisation answering the questions, structured by them, and is essentially them putting their best foot forward in terms of how to answer queries or questions that a customer has.
But what 'base'? Why knowledge 'base'? Certainly it's not clear to me, and I'm not convinced it does a great job of communicating to potential consumers of the information contained on that 'knowledge base' what the knowledge base contains.
Maybe this point doesn't seem important to you. But to me it does, for 2 reasons. First, it's not so much about showing off an organisation's 'knowledge', but about imparting help/support/information to a consumer. And second, I have no idea what the word 'base' does to clarify the point.
Of course, you can argue that it's not important what the software's called, and, to a point, you'd be right. Personally, I prefer 'Help Centre' software - it does a better job in my view to impart the end game of what you're trying to achieve: help to the consumer/user. But I digress. My point is more that if you give your help centre (or, knowledge base) a label which consumers / users of your organisation just don't 'get', then you're reducing the likelihood that they're going to use it on your site!
Perhaps it's more an academic point in as much as knowledge base software companies may describe themselves as this, but the reality on the ground is that users of their software tend to label the button that accesses the 'knowledge base' with labels like 'Help Centre', or simply 'Help', or 'Support' or 'Support Centre'.
It's probably easiest to think of help centre / knowledge base software as a sophisticated version of FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions). It's like a mini-website whose sole purpose it to deliver delight to your customers who're searching for answers to their questions. From an organisational point of view, you get essentially a blank slate ('carte blanche') on which to ask and answer every conceivable question you and your customers can think of.
The purpose then is two-fold. First, to give a self-service answer to your customers, who can find out what they want to know without having to interact with your organisation. Second, and as importantly, it gives the employees of the organisation a go-to consistent resource with word-perfect answers to any question they'll ever be asked. Why's that important, you ask? Because it accelerates the time in which they can deliver a comprehensive reply to a customer's query (which should delight their customer), thereby freeing them up to answer another query in the same amount of time that they'd still be dealing with the initial query had they not had the help centre resource already built.
4. SO, DO *YOU* NEED A KNOWLEDGE BASE?
Most organisations probably don't need a help centre or knowledge base (we'll stick with knowledge base for the rest of this article, as it seems to be the generally accepted term).
So, why don't they need one? Because, being brutally honest, many organisations aren't actually that bothered about delighting their customers.
Don't believe me?
Ask yourself how many times you were delighted by the customer service you received from a company in the last 7 days? Five times? No? Four times? No? Twice? No? Surely once?
"Many companies & organisations just aren't that interested in delighting their customers"
That's right, it probably takes you a little thought to think when you were last astounded by the ease and joy of top-drawer customer service.
Now, don't get me wrong; having a help centre or knowledge base doesn't put you into the premier league of companies delivering customer delight. But is it a big step in the right direction? I think the answer to that question has to be an unequivocal: yes.
5. WHO SHOULD I USE?
Before deciding what knowledge base software you want to go with, it’s important to take a step back and think long and hard about what the strategic objectives are of the business when it comes to customer education/support, and how you want to meet those objectives.
We’re almost spoiled today as consumers of SaaS applications: think Google (unbelievably powerful suite of applications), Intercom (a 'fundamentally new way for any business to communicate with its customers'), and, in my view, Helpjuice.
First, my disclaimer: I’m a technology start up co-founder of Complyfile, who make simple volunteer recruitment software; Complyfile's a customer of Helpjuice, who have been incredibly helpful in getting Complyfile's knowledge base off the ground (a la Lindbergh).
Disclaimer out the way, now for my qualifications. Before moving into technology I practised law for several years as a litigation / dispute resolution attorney. One of the things I learned at the coalface of helping people out of a tight spot, or educating about them about the options open to them through the law, was that the time you spent behind the scenes in creating first-rate, top class templates of information and resources, more than paid for itself through the delight clients experienced at receiving detailed, actionable legal advice.
Why do I mention this?
Because Helpjuice is the go-to tool in my view to help any SaaS business achieve this end.
See, at the moment, if you want to get an answer to a question on the internet, what do you do? You go Google (or Bing etc), you type in your question, and lo and behold! Your answer appears (as if by magic). Of course it’s not magic, rather a lot of serious behind-the-scenes programming to bring you the most relevant response to your query.
6. EASE OF USE
HelpJuice does the same for your knowledge base. With a search bar front and centre on the home page of your site, your users/customers are able to ask their question; and are shown the most relevant answer to their query. If their question is new (i.e. not answered in the Knowledge Base), a page appears asking them to submit it directly to the company (effectively a query lead capture form), which the company can then use to (a) answer the customer directly and (b) create a pro-forma template reply as a new response on the knowledge base.
The ability to pretty much make your Knowledge Base on HelpJuice reflect exactly how you want it to (a) look (b) feel (c) be structured, is very valuable. As with most things, the more thought you put into the look/feel/structure, the more likely it is that you’re going to create and extract real value out of your HelpJuice account.
People come at knowledge bases with varying degrees of experience and vision as to how they want theirs to look. One of the absolutely stellar aspects to working with HelpJuice is their exceptional customer service. ‘Customer success’ is a much-hyped, over-used phrase today in the world of SaaS. But in this instance, the HelpJuice team seem to have a real understanding of the necessary alignment required between their customers expectations (world class knowledge base software) and their role (as hosting software for that knowledge base). Their customer success team goes out of their well, especially on set-up, to ensure that your knowledge base looks exactly how you want it to look; and they essentially provide professional services worth several hundreds of $ (if not more) in getting you to that point where you’re satisfied/delighted.
8. SIMPLICITY IN DESIGN & EXECUTION
Complexity in product design seems almost to be end-game in many SaaS products today. If you’re looking for complexity, you’re not going to get it at HelpJuice. In fact, what they don’t do is as important as what they do offer.
So if you’re looking for an advanced ticketing based customer support system, you shouldn’t choose HelpJuice.
What? No ticketing system? How can they help me then?
Well, their niche is that they’ve decided to apply a laser-like focus to the Knowledge Base. Many well known customer support software providers claim to have first class Knowledge Bases built into the product. The reality is that for most, these are mere afterthoughts, tacked on to the end of a overly complex and difficult-to-navigate customer ticketing programme. Not HelpJuice. They decided that the skills required to design and maintain and develop a knowledge base software solution are considerably different from a customer support ticketing software solution. Madness? Some companies might say so. But apparently thousands of other companies disagree (from some of the world’s most successful technology companies, to some of the world’s most prestigious colleges, to small SMEs worldwide).
“The skills required to develop knowledge base software differ from a customer ticketing support solution”http://blog.complyfile.com/2015/10/25/why-should-your-voluntary-organisation-have-a-knowledge-base/
And a company that can serve – with passion – Ivy League colleges, VC-backed tech companies, and mom-and-pop start ups, well, that’s a company you want to partner with, who will help you on your journey to educating your users and/or customers, who will align themselves with your marketing ambitions, and who will create value far over and above the price you’ll pay them on a monthly basis.
In my view it’s probably one of the easiest software solutions I’ve adopted to date in terms of set-up, on-boarding and use of the product.
One illustration of the thought that's been put into Helpjuice's software is the navigable elements of an article. What does that mean? Well it's like in this article, how at the beginning and end you can click on a title/header, and you get whished (as if by magic) to the right section in the article! Neat! Well, actually it *is* neat: it saves time (scrolling down the page) and accelerates the speed at which someone can get their question answered:
9. "WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET"
'What You See Is What You Get' is the technical description of a super easy interface that allows you to type the title to your article/post, and then - boom! - you just type the answer in the big inviting white box beneath it.
You can also play around with how the article looks and feel by emboldening, italicising, underlining, adding bullet points etc. It's actually quite fun!
So this is how your articles end up looking like (running from the general categories, down to sub-categories, down to specific questions):
Click on a category (e.g. 'ID Validation') and you open any sub-categories created:
Click on a question and you get the answer you created:
Helpjuice offer a very good range of functionality without offering features that aren’t required. Depending on the package opted for, you get:
- thousands of searches a month on your help site
- dozens of user admin accounts
- different role/access segmentation (access priorities)
- customisation of the knowledge base (mentioned previously)
- support pretty much any which way you want it
On the higher end packages you also get:
- a 99% Service Level Agreement
- the ability to segment your knowledge base (restriction on user access)
A very interesting take on the KB is the fact that you can also make it an internal KB rather than a customer facing one; so that it becomes a repository of an organisation’s collective insights/wisdom.
11. PRICE AND VALUE
Helpjuice - like many knowledge base software solutions - comes at a price. Their entry level package is $199 pcm.
Now, whatever way you cut it, $199 is a not insignificant amount of money. Paid monthly you're looking at a cool $2K+ a year.
But - and you can quite fairly call me biased as the founder of a software company - I think that you need to consider what you pay your employees or professional advisers in your organisation. What's the monthly salary? Probably in excess of $2K? How much do you pay to get your accounts audited for the IRS/Revenue? $1k? $2K? And ask yourself quite how much 'value' is created by the filing of your accounts... oh yes! Not so much. It's just one of those things that all organisations have to do in a properly functioning society.
12. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY & ASSET CREATION & CONTROL
No, the real 'price' for knowledge base software should in my view be to compare what you pay someone for a month's salaried employment, as against the complete hosting of the treasure trove of information pertaining to your organisation, giving you complete flexibility, control and security over what is, at it core, a key intellectual property asset of your organisation.
"Think of ~ and treat / value ~ your knowledge base as a key intellectual property asset of your organisation"http://blog.complyfile.com/2015/10/25/why-should-your-voluntary-organisation-have-a-knowledge-base/
On the flipside, there's the monetary saving made in terms of time *not* spent answering email and customer support queries, when those queries can be answered ahead of time on your knowledge base. What does that look like in reality? Well, remember that person you're paying $2K a month to answer customer queries and emails? Let's say you can reduce that person's time on answering queries by 25% ($500 pcm), then you can see how it's possible to make a reasonable business case that investing $199 pcm on software could make the business a net saving of $299 (i.e. $500 salary time saved from answering queries, re-directed to better value-add activities, less the cost of a monthly software subscription of e.g. $199).
13. CUSTOMER SERVICE
Lots of companies talk the talk; very few actually walk the walk. Helpjuice is one of those that do in fact walk the walk. Skype calls, live demos, email support with detailed follow through, and an enthusiasm only to close a support request when the item has been dealt with completely to the customer’s satisfaction.
So if your curiosity has been piqued, check out Helpjuice. (Don't forget to check out other providers too, though I suspect you'll conclude like I did that Helpjuice are good partners with whom to work).