How to increase knowledge base searchability

To succeed with self service, the knowledge base needs good searchability and to generate relevant hits. In ComAround Knowledge™ it is the search bar, which is based on the powerful search engine Microsoft Azure Search, that technically enables the search itself. The searchability of the content is largely determined by structure and wording, and this is where you and your colleagues can make a difference. In this article you will get several handy tips!

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Whether the target group for self service is within or outside the organization, the goal is to quickly provide answers to questions and solve problems. When the technical foundations are in place, it is the content of the knowledge base that determines to what extent your customers find self service to be an effective way to answer questions.

Content based on the customer’s context

I guess you search using a major online search engine almost every day, starting with a question or problem, and typing this into the search bar. Sometimes you know what’s causing the problem and want to know how to resolve it, and sometimes it’s the cause of the problem you’re looking for. You also know that you get different hits depending on what you type in the search bar. It’s the same principle for self service. That’s why the key to searchability and relevance is content based on the customer’s context and wording. In reality, content is often created based on an answer or solution.

Here’s a clear example of how content is created based on an answer, rather than a question.

The above article most likely describes how to solve the problem of printing, but it is less likely to appear in the search results or that the customer feels it is relevant based on its title.

To use the customer’s context as your basis when creating or updating existing content, you need to capture the actual problem. This can be done via the support channel the customer chooses to use – phone, e-mail, chat, case management, etc. and is often in direct dialogue with the customer.

If you want the same information in ComAround Knowledge™, use the Business Intelligence function. The “Searches” tab shows how many searches have been carried out, and the number of hits per search.

By identifying the searches that returned no hits, you can draw two conclusions:

  1. that there is no content relating to the search phrase; or
  2. that there is relevant content in the knowledgebase, but it hasn’t been found.

In the first case, new content needs to be created to match the request, provided that you’re certain that relevant content doesn’t already exist. This is known as finding “knowledge gaps” as part of the Knowledge Management methodology KCS (Knowledge-Centered Service).

In the second case, existing content needs to be updated to better match the request. There may be multiple solutions to the same question, and in those cases there should be one knowledge article per solution.

That brings us to how to create titles, headings, and body text that increase searchability.

Titles, headings, and body text that increase searchability

You now know that if the customer is to find relevant hits, the titles, headings, and body text need to match the customer’s question and context. A structured and effective way to do this is to use templates. In addition to a title, best practice in a problem-solving knowledgebase recommends the use of the headings problem, environment, solution, cause, and metadata. The template below contains a number of questions and descriptions to answer or find out from the customer.

Title

The title is written once the questions under each heading below have been answered. A searchable title should contain the most generic problem (in customer’s context) and the environment.

Problem/symptom/question:

  • What is the customer trying to do?
  • What doesn’t work?

Environment:

  • Function, subject, platform, browser, product, model, version?
  • Has something changed in the environment?

Solution/answer:

  • How the problem is solved.

Cause (optional):

  • The underlying causes of the problem, if known.

Metadata (not visible to the customer)

  • Keywords that increase searchability.

In the example we looked at earlier, it would mean the following change to the article title:

Templates create structure that increases searchability

If you think the above structure makes sense, I recommend using templates when creating content. ComAround Knowledge™ features a ready-to-use template based on this model, which is in turn based on best practice and the KCS methodolgy. The template is available in edit mode in a knowledge article, and it’s easy to access using the button shown below:

If you want to use other headings or templates depending on the type of content, it’s vital that the templates are uniform, that they specify how they should be used, and that they’re used by everyone who produces content. Within the KCS method, templates are managed as part of something called the “content standard.” The content standard describes how we should communicate in a structured format so that customers can find relevant information easily. Find out more about the content standard on the Consortium for Service Innovation’s website

You now have the basic principles in place for increasing knowledgebase searchability and I hope you feel suitably inspired to get started! By way of a summary, here are the three most important things to remember and share with your team:

  • Use the customer’s context as your basis when creating knowledgebase content.
  • The title should contain the most generic problem and environment.
  • Use a uniform template for all content

To find out more about searchability, templates, and functions, or how you and your colleagues can create an efficient content workflow, please get in touch with ComAround’s Customer Success Team. We offer several courses in ComAround Knowledge™ as a tool and in work methods that seek to optimize the service desk’s workflow in order to increase the use of Self Service and raise the level of service provided to customers.

Heléne Källgården, Customer Success Manager, ComAround

Related links:

Knowledge: The shift to good enough

5 Essential Tips for Self-Service Success

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