When operating a small business it is essential to manage time, effort and costs. Maintaining a lean and focused business is the key to long-term success.
Unfortunately, not all businesses make full use of their experience and knowledge. Repetition can prove costly, missed paperwork a legal nightmare and failure to ignite the spark of inspiration can make or break a business.
We live in an age where information is available 24/7 and can be sent round the world at the touch of a button. Therefore, it is important to create, maintain and make full use of company wide knowledge in the form of an online knowledge base. We will now take a look at six ways in which this can enhance your small business.
Improving management of new recruits
Even the most experienced new recruits will need assistance bedding down in their new role. In a perfect world the personal approach would be the preferred choice. Unfortunately, this is not always possible when you have regular new recruits throughout the year. Using a knowledge base of information, procedures and techniques built up over the years is vital. This can be tweaked and improved on a regular basis, thereby streamlining the process.
Formal paperwork and background notes can be accessed by new recruits in their own time. This allows better use of face to face time, to go through questions, queries and processes in more detail. The use of a knowledge base also ensures that each recruit goes through the same process. All recruits should have the same foundations on which to build.
If the individual in charge of new recruits is unavailable, the replacement is able to use the same process. This helps to avoid the spread of uncertainty and misinformation. An online knowledge base also allows recruits the opportunity to revisit information, which was perhaps unclear the first time round.
How to enhance customer experiences
Many people dismiss FAQ sections as old school and out of date. In reality, they can be a priceless source of information for your customers – and great for SEO! As a business owner/employee, you see the business very differently to a customer. You will be surrounded by information, new products and new services every day. What you deem simple, may not have been fully explained to new customers and can cause confusion.
When creating a knowledge base of frequently asked questions it is important all employees are on board. Creating a central point for collating information, this should be used to constantly enhance the FAQ section. These are questions and queries asked from a customer’s point of view. They are also asked in the style of non-experts, customers of the future.
If one customer is asking a question, you can be fairly certain that many more have the same query. They may be too embarrassed to email or call or simply don’t have the time. If the information is not to hand, you risk losing customers.
Improved record keeping and formal paperwork
The majority of business time is spent looking at how to improve customer experiences. After all, this is what brings in the money and keeps the business going. However, it is important to maintain records in an orderly manner. It is also vital to ensure that formal paperwork is made available to relevant parties.
Failure to abide by issues such as data protection regulations can prove costly. We have seen some companies fined millions of pounds for failing to secure customer information. While this is an extreme example, it does highlight the importance of record-keeping and formal paperwork. A knowledge base should be seen as more than just information. It is an area to store formal and informal paperwork, information and define clear procedures. This is a gold mine of information.
When considering your company knowledge base it is important to be flexible. Encourage feedback from employees and customers. Take on board what they are saying and make changes where relevant. The best businesses are those that learn from their employees and customers. After all, dictators are eventually toppled!
How to avoid repetition in the workplace
Collating information such as interesting articles, research notes and customer feedback is important. This not only ensures that all employees have the same information available to them, it also avoids repetition. If your colleague has managed to source an interesting article this saves you time, time you can spend enhancing the business.
If you think about it, there is a cost to every action by employees. Time, money and resources are often scarce and should be used efficiently. Whether a small, medium or large sized business, there are potentially huge benefits to centralisation. This may be information which can be relayed to clients and potential clients. It’s simple, avoids repetition and increases individual and team productivity.
It is also important to ensure that new information, feedback and research is flagged to the relevant parties. There’s no point having the information there if nobody is aware. A simple alert email to the appropriate parties can prove wonders. As this creates a paper trail, it also encourages employees to be proactive with regards to use of the knowledge base.
Igniting that spark of inspiration
Many of us have what are often called “Eureka moments” only for them to fade away. We all have different skills, thought processes and knowledge. Very rarely will one person be able to follow through with a spark of inspiration and innovation without assistance. It can therefore prove extremely useful to create a knowledge base for new ideas.
One employee may be an expert in coding, the other in design and one more in marketing. In isolation these are valuable skills, collated together they can prove dynamite! Just one spark of inspiration, out-of-the-box thinking, could have a huge impact on business prospects. All employees have roles to play and tasks to complete. However, inspiration and forward thinking should always be encouraged.
Companies which pigeonhole employees may not be getting the best value for money. A mix of inspiration, sensible thinking and problem-solving can be very potent. After all, you need to get the best out of your employees in the longer term.
Ensuring everybody is singing from the same hymn sheet
Mixed signals cause confusion. Rumours and counter rumours can ruin a business. It is therefore important to use a central knowledge base to ensure all employees are “singing from the same hymn sheet”. While you should never discourage individuality, it is important to deliver the same message. Any employee should be able to pick up a lead and follow the same process – seamlessly. These well-known companies make great use of internal knowledge bases.
External and internal processes and procedures will likely change over time. You should encourage feedback from employees and customers. What was correct last year may be out of date this year. Some elements of the procedure may require more clarity. The more focused and informative the messages to your customers, the more chance they will return. It can also encourage referrals which are the Holy Grail for many businesses – especially those with restricted marketing budgets.
The sharing of information with employees and customers can be priceless. The ability to access an online knowledge base 24/7 is vital. It is important to collate all experiences, thoughts, information and feedback from employees and customers. Ultimately this will enhance your customer experiences. It can also ignite that spark of inspiration which could change your business forever.
Formal and informal procedures should go hand-in-hand. Regular tasks and inspirational ideas should be embraced. More importantly, all of this information needs to be shared, shared and shared again.
About the author:
Jake Stainer is currently Co-founder at Outreach Humans. Before, he spent 4 years growing Typeform from $1m to $25m ARR.