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Self-service is any activity where your customer performs work on their own without the assistance from your staff. Even if it was feasible to provide personal human support for every individual, we know that people often prefer to answer their own questions, without contacting support.
As a matter of fact, people use self-service tools every day in their personal lives. We visit websites on our mobile devices and computers in search of information on millions of various topics ranging from “how can I install new flooring” to “what are the symptoms of …”. But when it comes to our workplace, we have a different experience. There’s an IT self-service portal but it has its challenges so employees resort to sending an email or calling the service desk—defeating the purpose of self-service altogether.
So, to better understand how we can overcome the challenges of IT self-service, we must first understand them. Let’s look at some of these challenges and how they can be avoided.
Organizations are excited after they create a self-service portal that will finally deflect all those routine service desk tickets that cost valuable time and money. But, many don't do their homework in the beginning. Successful organizations spend time researching potential solutions so they can begin the process with a solid understanding. They would rather succeed slowly than fail fast.
What you should do: Take the time it requires to learn what you and your users want to see in your IT self-service portal, then plan a controlled and successful implementation and deployment. Put together a focus group of your employees and ask them what they want their experience to be like. And don’t forget to do your research and understand what the most frequent issues that come to the service desk are so you can use self-service to solve them.
You can make a buffalo go anywhere, as long as it wants to go there. It’s not uncommon to see as much as 80% of people say they prefer to call the service desk over any other means of contact. Yet we can see a similar 80% who attempt to resolve it themselves before reaching out to you.
What you should do: To get your end users to go the self-service route, they must first see the value of it, and to that end, this may require some encouragement. For instance, when they call for a service that’s fully accessible on the IT self-service portal, assist them in finding the information, but don’t actually do the work for them. Send them the link from the portal to their tickets when they request an update. The idea here is to refer to the portal as much as you can to make them grow accustomed to it.
Let’s not pretend. One of the most important obstacles that your service generate is customer satisfaction, or lack thereof. Satisfaction is what makes your customers feel comfortable handing you their issues and requests and it is what drives them back to you. Satisfied customers trust you. So, let’s be honest, if they don’t trust you or are not satisfied with your service, they are less likely to try self-service and will instead see it as a sinkhole where their requests get forgotten.
What you should do: One of the ways you gain satisfaction and trust from your customers is by delivering on your promises. You get that right and people will want more through self-service because they will recognize it as a source they can trust, just like they trust you.
Build it and they will come—but not really. If you want people to use your self-service, they first have to know about it and you must show them why it’s better than calling or emailing the service desk. Sending the link in a corporate email is not enough.
What you should do: You need posters, coffee mugs, pencils, t-shirts, etc. to remind everyone about your IT self-service portal. And to help matters even more, why not give it a unique name that people will remember and that can be related to your own activities? All in all, you need a marketing campaign. Customers do prefer self-service, but if the presence and benefits of your own resources aren’t evident, customers will miss out on the opportunity.
A lot of people think that self-service can be a quick win, but to succeed you need to be in it for the long haul. SDI reports that 43% of organizations who achieved their ROI have their tools for more than 5 years. So don’t expect this to be a done deal just because you built it. It takes work. A self-service platform must be alive and make your customers want to go there.
What you should do: Each quarter, evaluate how IT self-service is contributing to the service desk. How many tickets is it deflecting? Do you have the right knowledge base articles? Are they relevant? Are new ones needed based on recent recurring issues? All of this information will help in continually improving your self-service portal.
Many organizations believe that the IT self-service portal should include everything from the organization, so it can be a one-stop shop. But you are not building a company portal, you are building a self-service portal.
What you should do: Provide only the services and information to help employees resolve issues. Your portal should be built around your service catalog, your knowledge and self-help tools. If the portal tries to be more than it should be, users will get lost and may never come back. This doesn't mean that your self-service cannot be integrated in a company portal, but it should have its own point of entry.
IT self-service does not mean you must read a 32-step article on how to set up your printer. Information should be concise, clear and simple.
What you should do: For how-to's, use automation as much as possible. Self-help tools can assist with this because they guide your employees through the steps that are most relevant to them, so they’re not stuck reading 32-steps when they only need five of those steps. If it's too complex, you should always have the option to create a ticket from inside of the knowledge base to have someone get back to them.
Your customers use self-service technology every day and they already have expectations on how it should function. If it does not work on mobile devices, or requires a certain version of Internet Explorer, or needs a special plug-in, well, the issue is self-evident.
What you should do: Keep things simple, especially if you are just starting out. Don’t think you must have the latest and greatest when it comes to technology. While you do need technology that’s robust enough to efficiently power your service desk and work effectively, it’s crucial that you have a strong foundation that can support advanced technologies in the future. This way, you can grow your portal at a pace that fits with your users’ needs.
Self-service and cost reduction discussions are never far apart. Everyone wants the savings in both cost and resources, but if that is your only goal, you will create a major obstacle on your way to success. Cost reduction, while real, should be viewed as an aspirational outcome and not as the end goal alone.
What you should do: Customer satisfaction should be your ultimate goal and focus. The more satisfied your customers are, the more they will use your services and the more savings you will reap.
If your IT self-service is one of many points of entry to your service desk, this could be another obstacle. Having too many options means letting people choose their route. Why not remove all other means of communication in favor of only your self-service portal? This would be a bold move but one that, if executed well, could completely transform your service delivery.
What you should do: Invest in knowledge management and self-help to produce an abundance of information to help your employees help themselves. You also need a fail-safe you can provide your customer with another means of contact like an email or a phone number for emergencies. In any case, this approach would allow you to see what works and what does not work.
In the end, when investing in IT self-service, you are making an investment in better tools and best practices to prompt a behavioral change in your users.
All of these obstacles can be hard to avoid, and you may have even experienced some of them. But, understanding your target audience and delivering an effective user experience is key when implementing an IT self-service portal and making sure it’s successful in the long-run.
Benoit Tessier, EasyVista Director of Product Marketing, is an IT veteran with 20+ years of professional IT Service Management experience. He has extensive knowledge on process implementation and technical integrations, and has presented at ITSM conferences around the world. In this role, he helps lead the marketing direction and strategic vision for EasyVista’s services and solutions.