As your business grows and your staff people change and develop, it’s common to encounter problems related to inconsistent internal processes. Without a knowledgebase in place, people don’t always know where to look for the “right” way to credit an invoice; to run a monthly expense report; or to handle a customer question. They either have to wait on the right person to show them how to do it, or they create some other way that doesn’t align with your company style. We see this happening especially as companies try to cross-train staff people and implement standard processes. The goal is to become more resilient when a single person who “has it all in their head” is out of the office or unavailable – but it needs a strategy in order to be successful.
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Why You Need This
If you are not already using a knowledge base (KB), you need to create one. You risk being reliant on a single point of failure for multiple processes to work.
Using "Solutions" in Sage CRM
We recommend using the “Solutions” knowledgebase within Sage CRM. It’s built for this purpose, it’s integrated with the “Cases” entity, and there’s an ability to both use it internally and externally. (You have the ability to publish certain Solution records to your site as a searchable database for your customers if you wish to use it externally.) It doesn’t have to be complete right away- it’s a database that grows and improves over time. It’s a place where teams go for answers and advice. And it can be wiki-style so that multiple people can easily contribute to gaps when they find them. The essential element is that you’ve designed it thoughtfully so that KB answers are transparent, descriptive, and easy to find.
At DataQuest, we created an internal knowledgebase of technical solutions to common customer issues. Here we’ll share the process we used to develop our internal KB, the design we chose, the kinds of solutions we recorded, and how it was used by our team.
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Our Process of Building a Knowledgebase
As DataQuest grew, we added more members to our team. Typically a consultant would join the team with deep expertise in Sage 300 and/or Sage CRM. However, not every person begins with expertise in the third-party solutions that we deploy- for example, Crystal Reports, Orchid Info Explorer, Orchid Extender, Sage Alerts & Workflow, PrintBoss, Accelerator, SQL Server and Realisable IMAN all require a different skillset. We realized that in order to grow, we needed to both provide official training on these products and create a place where consultants could find answers and share internal knowledge related to these solutions as they grew.
We wanted a design that would be easy to use, where solutions could be classified in an intuitive way, and where we could attach documents or links as needed. We knew we wanted to leverage an existing solution that we believed in so that we could “drink our own champagne” before recommending it to clients.
We chose to use Sage CRM’s “Solutions” entity. We decided to use Solutions to classify answers by area, where each “area” would represent a certain software publisher. That way, our team members could search the entire knowledge base by selecting the area of “Accelerator” to find published solutions related to that product. Solutions could include technical procedures for installing Accelerator on a terminal server, the best ways to resolve conflicts between Microsoft Outlook and Accelerator, or the process to update the license key in the configuration file.
The more we used it, the better it got. We expanded the “Area” values as needed, and made it easy to enter data by simplifying and paring down the number of total fields. We simplified the Solutions search screen and limited the number of required fields. Our design choice was that the easier it was to enter data, the better our Solutions entity would become. Ultimately it became the first place where we would look to find out if another consultant had encountered the issue before. We would even use solutions on the fly, answering another team member’s question by creating a solution and sending the Solution ID instead of sending the answer in an email.
But it doesn’t just have to be an internal space. Sage CRM also ships with the ability to add “Create Solution” to any existing workflow. Often customers use this to create a Solution after a case has been closed. This gives customer service teams the ability to link solutions to cases, which builds out the knowledgebase over time.
Additionally, Solutions created from cases can even be linked to your website via the Sage CRM portal. These solutions can be displayed and searched externally as a way to enhance your customer service offering and provide value to customers by making answers more readily available.
Making it Happen
So - this is how you build a knowledgebase. It’s partly having the right tool, and it’s partly modeling the right behaviors, using the tool, and getting your team on board. Once people see how it benefits them, it takes hold and becomes a habit.
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