Why people aren’t using your knowledge base software

You've finally convinced your execs to take the plunge and invest in knowledge base software. You've set it up, assigned and distributed user credentials, and even gotten started populating both the internal and external knowledge bases with resources from your shared drives.

Now you’re ready for the magic to happen. But the problem is that no one is using it — despite all of your efforts, neither your company’s employees nor your customers seem to be interested in contributing to or accessing your knowledge base. Why?

Here are four reasons why people aren't using your knowledge base software, and what you can do about it.

Your knowledge base software isn't specialized.

In the interest of presumably saving time and money, many companies have started to use more general applications, like SharePoint or Dropbox, as makeshift knowledge base software applications. This is like using a table knife to cut a squash: it will work; it just won’t work very well, and given a choice people might opt to skip the squash course.

File storing and sharing applications can be used to create knowledge bases, if what you mean by “knowledge base” is simply a collection of resources. But companies that practice successful knowledge management know that a knowledge base needs to provide information that people can use to perform tasks.

In other words, it needs to be actionable. Rather than trying to repurpose a more general software application, use a specialized knowledge base software system instead. You will notice the difference immediately.

The resources in your knowledge base aren’t valuable, or the search results don’t return valuable resources.

Knowledge base software allows you to store an unlimited number of resources, but that doesn’t mean that all of those resources are valuable. Especially when it comes to the search function, the most useful resources should appear at the top of the results, not buried somewhere on page 10.

Several features of knowledge base software can ensure that it is easy for employees and customers to access the most valuable resources. These features include version control, content recommendations, content ratings and author ratings.

There isn’t an easy way for people to ask questions.

The primary goal of both internal and external knowledge bases is to provide a forum where people can find the answers to their questions. It is infeasible for you to anticipate in advance all of the questions that your customers and employees might have, so your knowledge base software should provide a way for them to ask.

The search function should allow people to input questions, and there should also be a feature that allows people to ask questions that might not already be covered in the knowledge base, for example, through a “Contact us” form or via online chat with a customer service agent.

People can’t access the resources when they need them.

For a knowledge base to be actionable, the resources need to be available at the moment of action, which doesn’t always mean when your employees are sitting in front of their work computers.

Employees may need to access the knowledge base from a conference room or customer’s office; customers may want to access your knowledge base on their smartphone or read up on your products during their morning commute.

If your knowledge base software doesn’t provide both remote and mobile support, it’s time to start looking for one that does.

A knowledge base is only useful insofar as it can be used. Making this happen entails both removing obstacles and enabling both employees and customers to use your knowledge base more efficiently. Specialized, feature-rich knowledge base software systems can help you build internal and external knowledge bases that people will actually use.