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John Prestridge | July 25, 2019

Are IT Self-Service Portals Really Failing?

Building a well-established self-service journey should be on every company’s to-do list. Delivering self-service experiences should be on their priority list.

Gartner revealed in their “3 Simple Ways IT Service Desks Should Handle Incidents and Requests” report that “76% of enterprises are [more] focused on improving the self-service experience”1. This is most likely due to the associated benefits that come with self-service itself, including reducing level-1 support costs, delivering faster solutions to all employees, and providing 24/7 support to everyone in the organization.

Discover 7 tips for getting knowledge management right for self-service.

Businesses, however, shouldn’t limit IT self-service to a single designated place, such as a self-service portal, but rather have a combination of tools that provide self-service experiences across-the-board.

In this blog we’ll look at what employees really think about self-service portals, what challenges they face when it comes to adopting them, and what you should focus on to provide a wholesome employee self-service experience.

What do Employees Really Think About IT Self-Service Portals?

Recent data from employee experience management company, HappySignals, shows that IT self-service portals have the lowest happiness score among the 300K surveyed responses.

Not only that, but compared to other delivery channels, portals caused the most loss of productivity for employees, and haven’t significantly reduced the use of phone and email contact, which comes at a higher cost.

HappySignals What do Employees Think about Self-Service PortalsSource: HappySignals, (July 2019)


On the other hand, an article by the Harvard Business Review stated that across industries, 81% of people attempt to take care of matters themselves before reaching out to a live representative.” If people are really looking to help themselves and organizations are harvesting the benefits of self-service, then why are self-service portals not enough?

High Benefits. Low Adoption Rates.

The first step in improving the employee self-service experience is to understand why employees are not using self-service portals. Below are three challenges organizations face when trying to increase self-service adoption.

  • The information on the portal is hard to find. Maybe the user interface of the portal is not intuitive, and it is taking a long time for employees to find what they are looking for. When users spend more time searching for the answers versus finding them, then they might end up calling the IT service desk directly instead. The information can also be hard to find if the knowledge articles are too lengthy and provide multiple topics within one article, making it overwhelming for employees to find the answer they need.

  • Knowledge articles aren’t helpful for users. If the knowledge articles are not relevant, then employees are most likely to call the service desk to get the right answers. If you don’t have the right team to help manage the knowledge base or lacking subject matter experts, then the knowledge articles will be outdated—and employees will stop using them.

  • Employees don’t know the portal exists. Think about it this way, if you launch a new product or service and don’t market it, how will customers know it’s there? The same idea goes for IT self-service portals and any other self-service tool. When the implementation or update of a portal is internal or limited to a department, then other employees that might benefit from it won’t be using it at all.

So, what can organizations do to overcome these challenges? The answer does not revolve around replacing self-service portals. Instead, it is about expanding self-service beyond the portal and focusing on the overall employee experience.

7 tips for getting knowledge management right for self-service

Taking the Employee Self-Service Experience to the Next Level.

  • Expand—by adding more than one delivery channel for employee support. In other words, supporting omnichannel access to knowledge. This will not only facilitate employees’ access to knowledge but will also benefit their self-service experience. For example, implementing a chatbot can provide quick responses with a ‘human-like feel’ and can be integrated in any application, messaging platform, or website to provide support wherever the employee works. Role-based apps is another example of omnichannel support where employees can obtain information that is specific to a department without having to go through a long list of irrelevant articles.

  • Enable—by providing a solid knowledge base. The availability of multiple channels is the first step in shaping self-service experiences, but these only act as knowledge delivery systems. If the right knowledge is not available, then it will be hard for employees to get the information they are looking for. For example, as stated in the previous section, long knowledge articles are not the quickest way to find answers. Providing easily-digestible information in a more interactive format will not only give employees what they need faster, it will increase employee engagement.

  • Educate—by talking to employees about what is available and how they can access it. As mentioned previously, implementing new delivery channels and having the right knowledge won’t do anything if employees can’t find or access it. Take advantage of organizational communication such as internal newsletters to let employees that there are self-service options. The onboarding process can also be a great opportunity to show and train new employees on employee self-service.

The success of your employee self-service experience is not limited to the IT self-service portal. By offering the right knowledge delivery channels, strengthening your knowledge base, and communicating to your employees what is available will lead you in the right direction for self-service success.  

1 Gartner, 3 Simple Ways IT Service Desks Should Handle Incidents and Requests, Figure 2. Current and Planned Use of IT Self-Service, March 2018

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John Prestridge

John Prestridge is the CMO and Senior VP of North America at EasyVista. An accomplished marketing and product strategist focused on customer needs, he helps drive product innovation and market development within the IT service management software industry to support the digital transformation of enterprise companies. He is a firm believer that ITSM 2.0 is the critical path for companies transitioning to the Digital Workplace. John brings broad expertise in the technologies shaping the future workplace, including service management, cloud computing, application virtualization, mobility, intelligent automation, and compliance.