What Is A Knowledge Base (And How Does It Improve Customer Support Automation)?

By Machielle Thomas

Customers today expect fast, expert responses to their questions. That expectation can’t be met without a good knowledge base. They allow customers to find the information they need, but more importantly, they power any automated customer support you offer.

Customer-facing automated support typically comes in the form of a chatbot. And traditional chatbots often fall short. Or, they downright suck. 

That could be because they’re not AI-powered and can’t stitch together answers to complex customer problems. Or, it could be because they’re working off an outdated or incomplete knowledge base.

Either way, brands struggle to implement chatbots that meet their customers’ needs. With generative AI, there’s significant potential to change that. 67% of support agents think generative AI will help them better automate customer service communications. 

But that only works if they can surface the right information. A well-maintained knowledge base can turn chatbots from frustrating to fantastic, significantly improving the customer support experience. 

What is a Knowledge Base?

A knowledge base, sometimes called a ‘Help Center,’ is a centralized digital library for your customers. It offers information on different products, services, and even business tools. 

This information hub typically contains helpful resources like how-tos, frequently asked questions (FAQs), white papers, e-books, troubleshooting guides, and more.

It’s essentially a one-stop shop for customers to get their questions answered. It should be able to answer every repeatable question your support team faces regularly, so they’re not drowning in quick requests. 

Plan to update your knowledge base whenever you introduce a new product or upgrade an old one.

How a Knowledge Base Improves Customer Support Automation

Automated customer support can help customers self-service, but they rely on the information you give them. If your knowledge base is outdated or poorly maintained, it won’t help customers self-service. The principle “garbage in, garbage out” applies. 

Customers will be frustrated, support will be ineffective, and all communication channels between teams and customers will be chaotic.

Let’s use a hypothetical customer, Jenna, as an example. She starts with self-support and heads to your website’s help center. There, she sees a chat feature and starts a conversation. 

Initially, an automated agent tries to assist her. But it doesn’t understand her query and provides incorrect information.

It’s the analog equivalent of needing to shout ‘REPRESENTATIVE’ into your phone at the ineffectual automated phone assistance. 

Customers also appreciate speed when it comes to solving their issues. 74% of customers would choose a chatbot over a human agent to look for answers to simple questions, emphasizing the importance of quick, accurate responses. 

If the chatbot surfaces a poorly written article or incorrect information from the knowledge base, customers get even more frustrated as they wait to be rerouted to a support agent. 

On the other hand, if your chatbot provides accurate and helpful information, the support ticket will be deflected, and the customer will walk away satisfied.

Knowledge Base Essentials

Not all knowledge bases look the same, but they include many of the same types of content as best practices. FAQs, troubleshooting guides, and documentation are familiar to customers looking for help once they’ve bought a product.

1. FAQs

FAQs provide quick answers to basic questions, such as hours of operation, the cost of the product or service, and even security protocols. 

Presented in an easily searchable format, FAQs are a first line of customer support where users can quickly find solutions to general issues without contacting support.

This example from AppleCare lists frequently asked questions and answers them succinctly. 

2. Troubleshooting Guides

Troubleshooting guides are pages with step-by-step instructions to help more advanced users resolve technical issues. These can be long guides, articles, or video formats organized by category or product.

The lengthy guide from Kajabi includes a quick table of contents at the top to help users navigate their specific issues. It also quickly explains exactly what customers can expect from reading the article so they can decide whether it’s the right guide to follow.

3. Product Documentation

Product documentation may also help advanced customers solve problems, but it also helps them discover new features and functions they might not have come across themselves. 

This example from Slack highlights the automations you can build within the tool, which may not have been an obvious feature for someone who signed up just to have a chat application.

4. Centralized Repository of Information 

Your knowledge base should be the central hub of information for your customers, automated support, and support team. 

It’s difficult to keep information updated in many different places. If you have only one place to find information, you can help ensure that the information your customers get is usually accurate.

Upwork’s help center is a one-stop shop for all customers—freelancers, agencies, and clients. You can also come here to contact support and speak to someone if you don’t find what you need first.

5. Additional Resources 

Your knowledge base might include support materials like case studies, blogs, webinars, videos, and infographics. 

A strong knowledge base will segment these resources into subtopics or product features, ensuring customers have a wide range of information to support their needs.

UpWork’s resources center has sections like AI services, guides, success stories, and more to help customers navigate their resources.

6. Homepage

If your customers come straight to your knowledge base to find answers instead of an automated support agent, they need to be able to find what they’re looking for easily.

You’ll want to make the following easily accessible:

  • Search Bar: A front-and-center search bar helps users quickly find specific articles or topics by entering relevant keywords or questions.
  • Categories: Organized sections help users navigate through different topics. Topics from “Getting Started” to “Payment Information” make navigating easier.
  • Trending and Recent Articles: This section should show a mix of popular and new articles or blog posts to provide users with quick access to insights on commonly sought issues and the latest updates.

NVIDIA’s homepage is a good example—their knowledge base is easily searchable and organized into clear topics to guide customers.

4 Benefits of Improving Your Knowledge Base

A good knowledge base takes time and resources to maintain. Maintaining ours and helping our clients maintain theirs is a never-ending project—but one that just keeps giving. 

The substantial ROI makes it well worth the investment. A knowledge base enables self-service, reducing the need for extensive human support and lowering operational costs per resolved issue.

1. Better Business Results

If you have a great knowledge base powering your automated customer support, you can reduce your support team’s workload, respond to customers quicker, and take on more customers without expanding your team.

Increased deflection rates

Ideally, you want an automated agent to be able to answer the repeatable questions you get day in and day out, at minimum. It would be even better if it could answer more complex questions, leaving the hardest problems for your agents.

Achievers uses automated support to improve their customer and agent experiences. When they first launched, they expected a 10% deflection rate, with a best case of 30%. Today, they’ve achieved a stellar 44% deflection rate

They used Forethought Solve’s Gap Detection to identify gaps in data and improve their knowledge base.

Decreased time to first response

An automated agent has a limited window to provide the correct information before the customer gives up on the chat and requests human assistance. 

69% of consumers prefer chatbots for instant responses, so an automated agent must deliver accurate information quickly.

An automated chatbot will automatically decrease your time to first response because no matter what, it’ll respond immediately. If a good knowledge base powers that automated agent, you’ll also reduce the time it takes you to resolve issues across the board.

Achievers reached 93% first-contact resolution, which means 93% of their tickets are resolved at the first contact with the customer. This happens in no small part because their knowledge base is frequently updated and complete.

2. Enhancing the overall quality of support

An updated knowledge base plays an important role in enhancing the overall quality of customer support. 

Both support agents and AI-powered chatbots can accidentally provide incorrect information if their reference materials are outdated.

Contextual Accuracy:

AI-powered support tools can analyze the context of customer queries to deliver information in the right tone and cadence. 

This reduces the chances of misinterpretation and provides clear, concise answers. For example, Spordle uses Forethought Solve. 

They leverage generative AI to provide accurate, human-like responses to chat inquiries automatically. The generative AI models are trained on Spordle’s data, enabling the system to understand sentence structure, meaning, and tone and extract the perfect answer from numerous documents.

Answering based on context requires extensive background knowledge of your product. To get it right, an automated agent will need to scan several related knowledge base articles and a client’s history. And it only works as well as the information it has to work with.

Backend Support for Agents:

Automated support tools also surface critical information for support agents to streamline their workflow. 

Instead of agents having to search through multiple tabs and keeping frustrated customers on hold, the AI provides the necessary information in real time. This enhances support efficiency and keeps your customers happy (who wants to wait on hold?). 

Upwork support agents use Assist to surface relevant knowledge base articles, past cases, macros, and notes within their help desk in real time. This led to a 50% reduction in time to close tickets and eventually allowed them to complete 100% of tickets in the queue.


How annoying would it be to ask a chatbot a question twice and get two different answers? Or, if you asked a chatbot and an agent and got two different answers? You’d for sure lose confidence in the automated agent and always want to skip right to the human.

Usually, this is a symptom of not having a centralized repository of verified information. 

If you did, you’d eliminate discrepancies when automated and live agents pull information from different sources. 

Desire2Learn support agents use Forethought Assist, which sits in their helpdesk. When an agent opens a new case, Assist automatically pulls relevant past cases, knowledge articles, and macros related to the new case, leveraging the collective knowledge of the entire support team. 

This increased the number of cases their agents could answer per hour by 32%.

Real-Time Updates

Your automated support tools can sync with your knowledge base and automatically use updated information. 

There is never a gap between updating your knowledge base and receiving information from your agents.

3. Maintaining consistency across different support channels

Maintaining consistent information across all support channels minimizes confusion among agents and customers. 

For example, a frustrated customer, Steve, tries to work with an automated agent to solve an issue through a chatbot. It’s after hours, so he can’t talk to a person. The automated agent isn’t helping because it can’t find the right information in the knowledge base.

So, Steve decides to send an email. He gets an automated response that a team member will reply in 24 hours. So, he tweets at the company to speed up the process. The support agent tweets back at him and tells him one solution, and a day later, the support agent tells him another over email.

These customer touchpoints are going awry because there isn’t a central hub of information, which frustrates the customer and ultimately destroys their trust.

4. Scalability and Efficiency in Customer Support Operations

If you can nail automated support, you can reach more customers without expanding your support headcount. 

You can also ensure that the agents you employ are focused on complex issues that require relationship-building and nuance instead of repeatedly answering the same questions about how to reset a password.

Your Knowledge Base can Update Itself: 

With AI-driven solutions like Forethought Solve, your knowledge base can automatically generate new articles from support team insights. 

This ensures continuous learning and updates, keeping your knowledge base current and scalable.

Reducing Overhead and Resource Allocation: 

If your knowledge base is up to date, your automated agents will deflect issues from your team. 

You’ll be able to support more customers without expanding your headcount and have your people focus on issues that require relationship-building.

Integration with Customer Support Automation Tools

By 2027, chatbots will become the primary customer service channel for roughly 25% of organizations. 60% of consumers still prefer waiting in a queue for a real agent because their experiences with automated agents have been so poor. 

At Forethought, our suite of AI-driven products is designed to transform customer support through intelligent automation so your customers are happy to interact with automated agents. 

  • Solve leverages knowledge bases to provide instant, accurate answers and identify content gaps
  • Triage is an automated system for analyzing and routing support tickets
  • Discover offers proactive insights to enhance knowledge base content
  • Assist delivers real-time information to support agents.

Your Automated Support is Only as Smart as Your Knowledge Base

If your knowledge base isn’t providing good information to your automated support tools, you won’t be able to reap the benefits. 

Investing in tools like Forethought will help you ensure your knowledge base gets automatically updated and provides the necessary foundation for exceptional automated support.

Ready to improve your automated support? Request a demo to see the difference a robust knowledge base can make.

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Interested in generative AI for customer support? Check out this guide to learn about the 3 key pillars you need to get started.

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