How To Build And Localize Your Knowledge Base

This article was originally posted on the Wordbee blog. Wordbee are the makes of the popular translation management system and CAT tool for translators.

What is a knowledge base and why your company should build one

A knowledge base is a database used to collect, organize and manage all the knowledge and information of a company. It is a fundamental resource that provides staff and customers with a basic reference and a first point of contact, for the most  common problems.

More often than not, a company’s information is buried—and sometimes forgotten—in some old, seldom-accessed paper archive, or scattered along files of different formats that are stored on various servers, websites, intranets, personal devices and computers. 

Gathering, structuring, and making this data and information easily available might be hard, but it is worth it. You’ll see that it is extremely beneficial to create a knowledge base, especially when your  company is dealing with a demanding clientele through multi-channel customer support. If, on the other hand, you doubt whether a knowledge base may be beneficial (if not even strategic) to your organization, just try and weigh risks and benefits, and then make an estimate of the relevant costs.

Risks

The main risks are: spending a fortune in money and time (which is money, isn’t it?) to respond to each and every single question (sometimes the same question coming from different users); providing incorrect or inconsistent information that confuses the customer and leads him to seek a second, third and fourth contact within your company; and, therefore, overloading (if not harassing) operators and consultants… And let’s not forget costing money.

Benefits

Enabling users to quickly find answers to their questions makes them more interested in the services or products that your company has to offer. Also, a well-structured and updated knowledge base will allow you to free up internal resources (customer service staff, for example) who can then focus on solving more important issues… And help save money.A knowledge base can also prove a useful resource for your sales people, so that they can retrieve all the information they need to sell, as well as for new hires during the onboarding process.

How to structure your company’s knowledge base

To help you jumpstart your knowledge base project, we’ve created a list with practical suggestions that will allow you to structure your company’s knowledge base in the best possible way, making it more effective.

Structure your knowledge base with the users in mind

Your knowledge base will be worthless if your customers won’t be able to find useful information when they access it. Including customer-specific information is the very first step. Of course, you cannot predict all the questions coming from the users. Therefore, make your customers your best allies: give them the possibility to propose questions to be integrated and allow them to comment on a knowledge base article as well as to report problems and criticalities. Also, to make your knowledge base really interactive and further help visitors to your website, consider the possibility of adding a Live Chat functionality or a chatbot.

Start from the FAQs

By integrating your FAQs into the knowledge base right from the start, your customer support staff will be able to concentrate on the most complicated requests. If your company doesn’t have a FAQ section on its website, together with your customer support team, draw up a list of common requests and write answers, giving priority to basic content. Also, think of all the questions that customers ask from day to day and from month to month. Go through the search log of your website’s search functionality. There are probably a lot of hints on the kind of information your customers need.

In addition to the FAQ section, a knowledge base could include:

  • form to submit queries, if necessary linked to the company’s CRM.
  • forum, where users can ask/answer questions and exchange information and experience.
  • A section with articles and case studies that can help people better understand certain issues.
  • glossary explaining most technical terms specific to the company’s services/products. 

Choose your categories carefully

People are attracted to tools and platforms that are structured in a simple way. To first-time visitors, your knowledge base should not seem daunting or scary: if customers notice the presence of dozens of categories presented in a chaotic manner, they will be discouraged and will look elsewhere in search of an answer to their questions. 

Assign specific tasks to each contributor

To improve on content quality and regularly expand your knowledge base over time, define the role and tasks of each contributor: Who is in charge of writing the articles? Who will edit and check the information? What are the deadlines? Who is charged with posting the article? Who will collect users’ feedback? By doing this, you’ll be sure that your knowledge base is always well-structured and up to date.

How to localize your knowledge base

The decision to localize your knowledge base in one or more languages should be made from the beginning, in the design phase. If your company’s website is already available in various languages, it follows that your knowledge base should be available in the same language or languages as your website. 

Machine translation (MT), in combination with a middleware, offers the quickest and most efficient localization option. Just make sure that at the top of every knowledge base entry, there is a warning stating that the content has been machine-translated and which engine has been used. 

The choice of the engine – a general, vertical or a proprietary system – is also a consideration. A general engine, like Google Translate or Bing, is fine for volatile content, while a proprietary system will allow you to collect the translated texts and reuse them to improve on the MT engine.

Finally, independently from the chosen MT engine, be sure to draw pre-editing guidelines for your writers. Following basic content strategies and writing rules to attain the three main elements of content adaptation for MT will allow you to make sure your knowledge base content is machine translatable.