Product knowledge is what enables your team to develop, market, sell, and service the software you’re building together.
In this article, you’ll find out why this skill is so important for SaaS businesses and learn how to develop and distribute it so everyone at your company can benefit.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start with a proper definition of this crucial business term.
What Is Product Knowledge
In SaaS business, the sum of all information about the product is called product knowledge.
This includes the product’s build, characteristics, features, use cases, bugs, and everything else that's relevant to the product your company is building and selling.
So, who has this knowledge?
Obviously, the product and development teams do.
However, everyone on your team needs to have this skill to efficiently collaborate within the company and adequately explain the product to interested parties or existing customers who need support while using it.
When your customer-facing team members don’t know the product down to the last detail, situations like this one can occur:
On the other hand, when these employees know the product down to the last detail, they can do a much better job helping potential and existing customers with all of their questions and information requests.
They can communicate and represent the product and all of its features effectively.
Clearly, product knowledge is crucial for the functioning and growth of the company.
In the following sections, we’ll explore the benefits it can have for SaaS business and provide some actionable advice on how to foster it at your company.
What Are the Benefits of Product Knowledge
Product knowledge can positively impact your business in more ways than one.
It can help your team deliver a better service to the customers you already have, as well as enable them to attract new business.
Let’s see what these benefits are.
Building Employees’ Confidence
This one should make sense right off the bat.
Employees who aren’t given access to knowledge about the product their company is building are very likely to find themselves in situations where they don’t have the answer to a product-related question or don’t know the procedure for a specific task.
In those situations, employees can start to lose confidence and feel like they might not be a good fit for the company.
Have a look at this example from Reddit.
This person doesn’t have access to enough product knowledge and therefore has to ask their superiors and colleagues how everything is done, which is chipping away at their confidence.
However, when employees are given access to the relevant information and are able to learn in their workplace, these negative emotions and experiences can be significantly reduced.
There’s actual data to support this.
One study has found that people who learn at work are significantly more confident and happier than their peers who have restricted access to knowledge.
Long story short, product knowledge and employee confidence are strongly correlated. That makes sharing product knowledge absolutely worthwhile.
Improving the Quality of Customer Support
Providing customer support without product knowledge is extremely difficult, if not impossible.
That’s because, without product knowledge, the agent is in exactly the same position as the customer experiencing the issue.
There is a problem to solve, and they just don’t have the means to do it.
When that happens, the agent needs to make the customer wait while they look for the solution or ask their superiors how to help the user.
That can be problematic because customers need quick answers, and making them wait can jeopardize your relationship with them.
In fact, waiting on hold for support is what customers report as their number one frustration.
To prevent that, customer service agents need to be trained and educated about the product and know how to solve issues when customers use it.
If they know all there is to know about the product, they can answer questions and solve problems quickly and efficiently, which should leave customers satisfied and happy.
And this kind of customer care can reflect positively on your brand.
High-quality, efficient customer support isn’t just nice to have.
It’s a necessity in today’s SaaS landscape, and it’s always based on support reps who are knowledgeable about the product they’re working with.
Increasing Product Sales
The sales department has as much to gain from product knowledge as customer support.
Sales reps who are knowledgeable about the product are much more likely to explain the product well and, consequently, show the potential customer why it would be a perfect fit for their needs.
It, therefore, comes as no surprise that sales reps who know a lot about the product they’re selling are likely to close more sales. This, too, is backed by data.
This makes sense because knowledgeable salespeople can accurately identify needs (use cases) and connect them to product features.
They can also answer all questions customers have and instill a sense of competency that the customer will associate with the product as they decide to place their trust in your company.
Sales is another department that just can’t perform at its best without extensive product knowledge.
Giving sales reps access to information can greatly impact sales and, therefore, company revenue.
Helping Companies Retain Customers
Good customer service is a prerequisite for optimal retention rates.
If you’re not able to help your customers use the product successfully, it won’t be long before they seek an alternative, even if your product is superior in quality.
Therefore, we can definitely tie high levels of product knowledge to higher retention rates simply because product knowledge is what enables your team to provide stellar support to your customers.
Here’s a concrete scenario.
It’s a proven fact that a lot of customer churn (i.e., product abandonment) can be significantly reduced if the issue they’re contacting support about is resolved on the first interaction.
That means that your support staff is capable of directly influencing customer retention, but only if they’re knowledgeable enough to solve issues efficiently and on the first try.
The takeaway here is that investing in making sure that your team possesses adequate product knowledge can have a large return on investment.
Knowledgeable employees contribute to reducing churn, which safeguards the company’s revenue and helps it grow.
What Are the Types of Product Knowledge
There are many sides to any software product. Product knowledge can therefore be broken up into multiple knowledge types, all of which are equally important to your customer-facing staff.
Let’s take a look at a few of them.
A software product always has a specific audience to serve.
Being familiar with the needs and wants of that audience allows your employees to make a more convincing case for buying the product when potential customers are trying to decide if it’s the right fit.
A good way to systematize customer knowledge is to build buyer personas for your product.
These are semi-fictional biographies for your audience segments that allow sales and marketing staff to understand the challenges and goals your potential buyers have.
That way, they can better explain how the product can be of value to the consumer.
Here’s an example:
Buyer personas should always be firmly rooted in reality, by which we mean that they should reflect the actual characteristics of your customer base.
Use real data and information you’ve collected on your customers to isolate what your customers have in common and then rely on that knowledge to appeal to interested buyers.
This type of knowledge is beneficial to everyone on the team.
Product and development teams can use it to update the product and align it with the current trends and developments in the industry.
Customer-facing teams find it helpful to explain how the product solves the contemporary challenges in your niche.
Industry knowledge is peculiar because it mostly comes from outside of your company.
In order to acquire and maintain it, your employees should take steps to follow industry publications and information resources, such as:
- Industry blogs and magazines
- Conferences and educational events
- Social media groups and forums
Top SaaS companies offer book and publication budgets for employees and organize visits to industry events.
In order to secure a constant stream of knowledge for your staff, you should consider the same.
This is product knowledge in the narrow sense. It comprises every bit of information you have about the product and how it’s used.
Usage knowledge includes important information concerning normal product use, troubleshooting, use cases, configuration, customization, and all other knowledge specific to the product.
It’s usually found in product knowledge bases, online repositories of product-related information that are always available both to the teams within the company and the customers.
Most teams working in your company will utilize this knowledge, but it’s particulary beneficial for customer service reps.
They are the ones who interact with customers and help them with their issues and questions so that they can have the best possible customer experience.
Therefore, usage knowledge is essential for them.
Tips for Improving Product Knowledge
To wrap up this article, let’s provide some actionable tips to help you improve product knowledge among your team members and empower them to provide a better service to your customers.
Provide Product Knowledge Training
There’s no better way for your employees to acquire product knowledge than having them use the product themselves as a training exercise.
The more employees interact with the product, the more they’ll understand its features, functionalities, and limits.
An interesting example of this can be found at Hubspot. Hubspot offers an all-in-one CRM tool that has many features.
New employees at the company are required to complete a special project over the course of their first days working there.
During the onboarding, they are tasked with launching a fictitious business and using every Hubspot tool available to manage it.
That way, they have first-hand experience with the product and can better explain it to the customers.
First-hand experience is the best educational tool. If you want your employees to truly know your product, be sure to give them unlimited access to it.
Create a Product Knowledge Base
We’ve already talked about knowledge bases in a previous section, but let’s expand on that topic some more.
Knowledge bases are important in collecting and distributing product knowledge.
They enable all of your employees to quickly and easily access every bit of information about your product.
Also, they are created using special documentation software, such as Archbee, that allows you to write documents, publish them online, and maintain them as your product evolves effortlessly.
Since such knowledge bases are easily accessible online, customer service reps can use them to efficiently find solutions to users’ issues, and salespeople can share articles they find there with interested parties to help them understand how the product works.
You shouldn’t expect your employees to know everything there is to know about your product by heart.
Instead, arm them with a powerful knowledge base where they can always access accurate and up-to-date information about your software.
Offer Incentives to Motivate Employees
Finally, you should be aware that learning isn’t always an easy process, and you should reward your team's efforts to acquire and disseminate product knowledge.
Product knowledge isn’t easily quantified, so you need to develop a system that’s highly relevant to your company and your practices.
For example, if you’re using documentation software that enables you to track document history, you could reward employees that put in the effort to update or improve the articles in your product knowledge base, as this is a clear-cut instance of contributing to product knowledge.
As for the format of the incentives, you can use whatever you think your team will respond to: cash bonuses, concert tickets, extra time off work…
Anything that you know will motivate your team to take product knowledge seriously.
Remember, product knowledge is a skill acquired through effort.
Incentives and rewards could be the perfect way to motivate team members to learn, practice, and develop product knowledge for your company.
Product knowledge is a deceptively simple concept. After all, since your team works with the product daily, they must have a working knowledge of it, right?
In truth, wielding that kind of knowledge is a skill that needs to be acquired, practiced, and updated in continuity, and that won’t happen without a conscious effort.
So start putting systems in place to help team members learn about the product, and you should be rewarded with a more capable team and happier customers.