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Loïc Besnard | January 19, 2021

How to Improve Your Self Service Portal

Self-service is a useful and important initiative for both internal groups, like the IT service desk, and external customers. However, despite all of the uses for self-service support, only 9% of customers report resolving their issues via self-service, according to recent information from Gartner. Further, only 12% of self-service initiatives have delivered the anticipated ROI, mainly due to lack of user adoption, according to Service Desk Institute.

This low adoption and use, especially in regard to an IT self-service portal, can be attributed to many things, which is why improving on your self-service tactics should be high on your list of priorities going into the new year. 

Download Report: 2020 Gartner Magic Quadrant for ITSM Tools 

What Are Self-Service Portals? 

Put simply, a self-service portal is a type of support or service channel. But beyond that, what is a self-service portal?

A self-service portal is a webpage or app that allows users to resolve their own needs in regard to help, service, or information. It’s one of many ways to provide self-service, self-help, and ideally self-care capabilities to those who need assistance, with that assistance often not requiring any input from support personnel. This can be part of a service management software, support software, or self-help initiative, and is typically powered by intuitive apps.

Why is Self-Service Important?

The major reason self-service is important is because it creates a greater shift-left. This means that users are able to resolve their own level-0 or level-1 requests, which frees up agents to work on more complex tickets.

Beyond that, self-service is an important evolution in the digital workplace. Workers utilize self-service programs in their daily lives and increasingly expect the same level of service and access at work. This creates a more seamless customer experience for customers and employees. This initiative can start small and focused on IT services, however, with proper adoption and tactics, you will find self-service easy to adapt beyond the IT department.

The Benefits of Self-Service

As mentioned earlier, a major benefit of utilizing a self-service portal is in the ability to shift-left. However, this is not the only benefit of employee self-service software.

Other major benefits include:

  • Higher levels of employee satisfaction due to feeling empowered to do their jobs
  • Increased employee engagement and adoption, which enhances the user experience to prevent employee churn and attract talent
  • Streamlined processes and more uniform procedures
  • Resolution and prevention of repeated errors
  • Simpler asset upgrade requests
  • Easier tracking of ticket request submitted, even when major team changes or moves occur
  • Guided navigation to resources and knowledge articles that go beyond simple coworker to coworker communication

Just as a self-service portal can be implemented in departments outside of IT, these benefits extend in kind. For example, a self-service portal between employees and HR empowers employees with knowledge to solve their own issues, freeing up HR representatives to handle more complex issues like keeping documentation in compliance. This can all result in better return on investment in your self-service software.  

How to Improve Your Self-Service Portal 

In order to get the most out of your self-service portal, your employees must first adopt regular use, and it must become a regular part of their routines. Even the best self-service portal will fall short of those goals, however, without a few key improvements, which are listed below.

Understand the current customer journey

The most important improvement comes in understanding your customer. For the support desk, this customer is an employee, and their needs will differ across departments. Customers are not one-size-fits-all in their needs but understanding the customer journey and mapping out their touchpoints and needs can help consolidate which information should be included in the self-service portal.

The customer journey should begin by defining your customer personas. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who are you supporting? 
  • What are their pain points? 
  • What are their main goals and motivators?
  • What is every possible touchpoint between the customer and your team?

Then work backward to create the self-service portal. For example, is one of your customers a field technician who frequently runs into issues with connectivity? Their persona profile will tell you that your self-service portal should address those needs.

Dial In the Right Self-Service Content

Self-service content does not need to be lengthy. In fact, smaller, snack-sized articles are better for those looking to resolve their own issues. Reading long knowledge articles can become overwhelming, which is why the HOW is just as important as the WHAT in content delivery.

For example, if someone is looking to find support for programming their telephone, they will not want to read a long article (which wastes their time and eats up their productivity). Instead, this is a good opportunity to enhance the user experience with multimedia elements and snackable content, like short how-to videos and bite-sized step-by-step guides or images. 

Make Sure Your Knowledge Base Is Comprehensive and Up to Date

The foundation of any self-service initiative is a knowledge management strategy. This strategy can, and should, be an ongoing process, however it is important to keep knowledge articles as living documents that are constantly under revision. No matter how easy to use or state-of-the-art your self-service portal, if the information being access is out-of-date it is worthless.

Combat this by creating a task force to update knowledge articles. Enlist the help of stakeholders, managers, customers, and agents to refine information on the fly. This means that the documents can be updated and reviewed as changes occur, rather than periodically spending hours poring through articles to update them. Further, this will help identify what is useless and requires more updates.

Create Content That is Viewable on All Devices

Content that is only viewable on a laptop or desktop computer is useless for teams on the go, especially in the remote work paradigm. Providing support that can be accessible from mobile devices, laptops, and tablets is crucial. But above that, providing content that is accessible WITHIN applications, messaging platforms, virtual agents, and chatbots creates a more seamless user experience.

Providing an omni-channel or multi-channel experience in your self-service tactics meets your customers where they are, rather than requiring them to access a completely separate entity or page for information. If you can type into a chatbot on the page you are on to find your answers, you are much more likely to actually use it than if you have to open a whole new window to perform the search.

Create Content That Is Crawlable and Indexable

Search engines have bots called crawlers, which find the knowledge articles, crawl their content, follow any links, and then create an index of the sites they’ve crawled. The index is a database of URLs that a search engine puts through its algorithm to rank. This is how your search engine finds what your users need.  

So how do you make sure your content is crawlable and indexable? For starters, stay away from obscure wording and trying to keep articles as simple and searchable as possible. For example, if you want an AI software or chatbot to find support for ordering a new laptop, you will probably type something like “Need new laptop” or “laptop help”. You likely wouldn’t search a wordier term.

To take this a step further, compile a list of common terms and the way your customers refer to them. Even if you have a very long technical definition or word for something, if everyone calls it something else, be sure to include that in your knowledge articles. For example, if everyone calls your server “black box”, include the term “black box” throughout your article for support of that server.

Conclusion: It All Comes Down to Knowledge

When it comes down to it, your self-service effort is only as good as what you know – in the sense that you cannot build on the tower of self-help without first laying the foundation of a solid knowledge base. Before starting any self-service project, you should take inventory of your current and needed knowledge in order to use these tactics.

To learn more about self-service technology, request a demo!

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Loïc Besnard

Loïc Besnard serves as Senior Director of Product Marketing and Head Technical Evangelist at EasyVista. Besnard served as Global Pre-Sales Director of EasyVista until January 2017. He joined EasyVista in 2009 and is responsible for EasyVista’s worldwide pre-sales engineering strategy. With over 15 years of experience in the IT industry and international technical sales, Besnard supports EasyVista’s growth, international development and technical sales operations.