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Stephen Mann | June 21, 2017

3 Reasons IT Needs to Improve Its Self-Service User Experience

Self-service for IT issues and information/service requests has long been sold as the “magic bullet” solution to many of the average corporate IT department’s woes. It might have started off, at the dawn of the decade, as “You need a service catalog (or service request catalog)!” statements but, once people realized that a service request catalog is only one part of providing better end-user access and communication channels, self-service then became the offered “cure for all IT ills.”

Think back to the time before your self-service technology was selected and implemented – did you get told “You need self-service!”? And was it sold to you with a wealth of benefits that included: cost savings, greater IT service desk and employee efficiency, better use of IT staff people (thanks to both call deflection and back-end automation), and a better end-user experience? “Because everyone wins with self-service (and self-help)!” Okay, I went a little too far with that last sentence.

The reality is that many organizations are still struggling to reap the promised benefits from their self-service technology investments. This blog briefly touches on some of the main causes, and explains why it’s still so important for these organizations to improve their end-user experience in getting self-service right (and the promised benefit reaped).

A quick self-service sanity check (in numbers)

So, I just stated that “…many organizations are still struggling to reap the promised benefits from their self-service technology investments.” If you aren’t buying this, or even if you are, let’s look at some self-service adoption statistics:

  • Over 80% of organizations have now invested in some form of self-service technology. Both HDI, in the US, and Service Desk Institute (SDI), in the UK, surveys repeatedly report this. It’s the good news that unfortunately hides the bad news.
  • Just 10-15% of end-user contacts are now via self-service – with both HappySignals and MetricNet data still placing the channel-volume split for self-service a long way behind telephone and email (both of which are 30-40% each). HappySignals’ “employee experience management” data also has self-service as the least-loved of all access and communication channels.
  • SDI data shows that only 17% of organizations think that they’ve realized the expected benefits – based on ROI – from their self-service investments. It’s not unsurprising if volumes are insufficient to provide a regular stream of financial savings that outweighs the project and ongoing management costs of self-service.

Reasons why IT needs to improve self-service user experience

Some reasons are inextricably linked, but there’s also a need to separate out IT’s need to improve self-service capabilities across different drivers (or levels). A key one being the volume of use that substantiates real self-service success. Here are three key reasons, and hopefully the bullets also explain how they stack up:

1. Level 1 – employees won’t automatically use the corporate self-service capabilities. It’s such an obvious statement to make, but consider this – if employees wanted to, and could easily, use self-service, then why wouldn’t they? After all, many of us (but I appreciate not all of us) are happy to use self-service in our personal lives. It’s often the quickest route to a solution and can offer the best experience. However, the reality is that there’s often a gulf between consumer-world self-service capabilities – they just work (and we try to avoid the ones that don’t) – and what’s offered by IT. It’s not just the technology. It’s also how it has been designed and set up for ease-of-use, and how what’s ultimately a change to the employees’ ways of working has been managed. For example, there might have been insufficient end-user involvement in the self-service design and/or a lack of investment in organizational change management (OCM) activities in planning through to implementation.

2. Level 2 – employees now expect better service and support in the workplace. As per the previous bullet, our personal-lives now include a wide choice of access and communication channels offered by suppliers. This includes self-service. And, more and more commonly, it’s self-service that has been designed and delivered with customer experience – an increasingly-common business-to-consumer (B2C) approach for winning and retaining customers – in mind. So why wouldn’t employees now expect something similar at work? It’s the real impact of consumerization, not just the use of iPhones and personal cloud services at work. And if employee worktime is important, and IT downtime a negative pressure on their productivity (and potentially their ability to generate revenue), surely self-service needs to make life easier for them, not harder, for it to be used?

3. Level 3 – self-service needs to be easy to use to deliver the expected benefits. The self-service benefits, financial or otherwise, need higher levels of employee use to be realized. For example, the ROI calculation for self-service technology, and the people/process change-work around it, is made up of the savings realized each time self-service is used. And insufficient self-service use could mean that the investment never breaks even let alone delivers tangible operational cost savings. Or alternatively, how can self-service deliver a better customer experience to end users if many of them never use it (and instead stay with telephone and email channels)? To get this extra use-volume, employees need to want to use self-service (level 1). And for them to want to use it, it needs to meet their expectations of what self-service should be (level 2) – with this based on their personal-life experiences with exemplars such as Amazon.

There are of course many other reasons to improve the self-service user experience, but these three collectively make up much of what’s needed to make self-service successful for both end users and the IT service provider.

If you want to hear more on this, and what you can do to improve the end-user experience, then please join Chris Dunn, of EasyVista, and me for our joint webinar next week: How to Meet End-User Expectations in The Digital Era Through Consumer-World Design, Customer Service, And Operations Best Practices.

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Stephen Mann

Principal Analyst and Content Director at the ITSM-focused industry analyst firm ITSM.tools. Also an independent IT and IT service management marketing content creator, and a frequent blogger, writer, and presenter on the challenges and opportunities for IT service management professionals. Previously held positions in IT research and analysis (at IT industry analyst firms Ovum and Forrester and the UK Post Office), IT service management consultancy, enterprise IT service desk and IT service management, IT asset management, innovation and creativity facilitation, project management, finance consultancy, internal audit, and product marketing for a SaaS IT service management technology vendor.