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  • Writer's pictureSorin Alupoaie

How to get customers to "see" your SaaS Knowledge Base

UX swifteq

You finally have the help center you are proud of. Probably you spent months talking with the product team, reading support tickets, writing new articles and refining existing ones. Your new shiny help center is ready, steady, go!

Then every day you look at the number of incoming tickets and hope it will go down. But it doesn’t. Or not by much. Your team is still getting tickets that could be easily solved by reading one of these articles. Only if the customer will look for them!

In this article, I will describe a set of best practices that will help you get customers to see your knowledge base. Not some fancy AI or KB tech. Just a set of simple practices.

Educate the customer that help is available

Your customers are busy and selfish (in a non-negative sort of way). They don’t know or care about your help center. If you announced it in an email campaign, they probably ignored it. When a product doesn’t help them do their job as it should, they want a resolution. To get it, they revert to their default behaviour and reach out to your support team. You need to change this default behaviour bit by bit.

Create awareness

Start by building awareness in your customers’ mind that help is available and easy to get. You can do this with nudges, simple actions that subtly lead customers to take the right decision, which is checking out the help center first:

  • Add a link to the help center in your signature. Very simple yet you’d be surprised how many SaaS support teams are not doing this.

  • Add a link to the help center in the auto-response emails for new tickets and closed tickets.

  • Reference help center articles in the responses to customers, where applicable. For example, when explaining the steps a customer needs to do, add links to articles that are relevant for the job he or she is trying to achieve, even if they’re not directly related to the problem.

knowledge base article links
Create awareness by referencing articles in the response to customers

In addition, outside the customer support org, use any reasonable opportunity in the customers’ journey to let them know about the help available: welcome emails, onboarding emails or customer success communication.

Build trust

Last but not least you need to build and enhance customers’ trust in the help articles available. Think about it this way:

every time a customer successfully gets a resolution from an article will act as a positive reinforcement towards changing his default behaviour (creating a ticket).

Next time, the same customer will be more likely to look for help in the knowledge base first.

To earn customer’s trust, the help content needs to be clear, complete and up to date. This article explains how to use data analytics to grow and improve your help center.

Bring the help within the product

Most of the SaaS apps that I’m using have one link to the help center somewhere in the product menu, top page or inside a nice-looking chat widget. Hopefully, a customer that needs help will find the link, click on it, go to the new tab, search for an answer and find it. Too many steps!

Think of your help center as being part of the solution that helps the customers get their job done. Therefore, it should be a component in your product, not a remote extension.

Intercom is one of the few SaaS products that do this very well. I love the way they embed how-to articles and videos into features

intercom product education
How Intercom embeds help articles into their product features

These are several steps you can do to bring your help center closer to the product:

1. Make a list of complex or frequently used features in the product. Look for features where many steps are required by the customer to achieve something. You probably have come across these when explaining them to confused customers.

2. For each feature, get the best article from the help center that explains it well. Ideally, you’d have a “Getting starting” article that walks the customer through the feature but also includes references to more advanced aspects of the feature.

3. Work with the product team to add links to these articles on the main page of each feature. If you have any how-to videos, add them as well. Videos are a great way to explain a complex workflow to users.

auth0 product education
Embed links to guides and tutorials in complex features - Auth0 example

4. Include links to relevant help documentation in tooltips, feature nudges, labels, modals, and anywhere else it makes sense

5. The product app’s home page is also a good place to share short tips with links to the help center, where applicable.

6. If the product has an onboarding flow, make sure to highlight self-service options during onboarding: help articles, videos and other resources.

Last but not least, all these are product changes so make sure to get the product team on board and involved from start to finish.

Optimize your help center for search engines

Everybody searches on Google, including for product or technical documentation. I see myself doing that a lot. If I need more information about certain aspects of a product, I rarely go to the product’s help center and search there. I go straight to Google and type “[insert product name] [insert problem description or feature name]”.

Therefore if you want customers to find your help articles, make sure Google finds them first.

Search engine optimization is a complex topic and well beyond my area of expertise, but I did some research and these are some of the tips I found:

  • Ensure your content is well structured, original and high quality.

  • The help center should be easy to navigate and to use.

  • The title of each article should be clear and concise. It should describe well what the content is about. Make sure the titles are not too long. There is a limit to the amount of space that Google provides for titles in its results.

  • Use words that your customers use for titles, headers, summaries or descriptions. Remember that the language customers use to describe your product and features is probably different than your internal jargon. Customer support conversations are a good source of data for this.

  • Add explanatory alternative text for each image in the help center. Search engines will use this text to index your images.

  • Optimize page load times - if you’re using large images, compress them first so they don’t slow down your pages

  • Remove duplicate content, if any. Google penalizes the ranking of web pages with the same content.

You can find more useful tips in this article and this one.

Your help center is about helping

Remember, the objective here is to help customers, not to make it impossible for them to reach out when they need help. Try as you might, you can’t “force” your help center down customer’s throat. If you do that, you create poor customer experiences with all the consequences that come after that: churn and bad image. Remember those never-ending conversations with “stupid” chatbots on social media?

Instead, create the right context and conditions for the customer to find the help he or she needs. Nudge your customers towards the help center by creating awareness, bringing help into the product and making it easy to find on Google. This will gradually translate into happier customers and lower pressure on your support team. Step by step, bit by bit.


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