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John Prestridge | May 02, 2019

Self-Service Needs an Upgrade and Self-Help is the Best Way to do It

The IT industry has been striving for self-service success for years now; the goal being a single, online location for end users to find everything they need. But most organizations hadn’t truly gotten self-service right before a newer concept called “self-help” started working its way into the conversation. So, what are the differences between the two concepts, and which one should you focus on to reach your goals?

Are you experiencing high ticket volume? Get the free 5-step guide to start  reducing calls to your IT service desk!

Isn’t it just semantics?

It can be hard to articulate the differences between self-service and self-help. To “help” employees or customers you must deliver “service.” Let’s review the technical definition of the actual terms according to Merriam-Webster: 

  • Self-service (noun): the serving of oneself with goods or services
  • Self-help (noun): the action or process of bettering oneself or overcoming one’s problems without the aid of others

The reality is, the technical definitions do not completely reflect what they mean to the service desk. If you can’t easily differentiate the two, you may bundle them together and write them off as industry-marketing speak. Let’s add some context to these definitions: 

  • Self-service is requesting a service that normally requires interaction from another human or automation to deliver something.
  • Self-help allows employees and customers to solve problems and get answers without human interaction. However, there is one caveat to this description and that is that automation can also add value to self-help.

Improve your self-service strategy from the start with the right tool.

It’s true that self-service has been surviving without a focus on modern self-help strategies for years now. But, has self-service been succeeding without self-help? Self-service is built around the idea that every user has a request. If you can automate the reception and fulfillment of that request, you will decrease calls to the IT help desk and that will ultimately save time and money. The problem is, self-service in every organization is designed, developed and implemented by and for the service desk. It’s meant to make the service desk’s life easier, not the employee’s.

Self-help is built around the idea that every user has a question to answer or a problem to solve and if you can guide them to the right answer or solution, they may not need to submit a request for help at all. This can be extremely effective because users often want to search for and find answers and solutions on their own. In fact, the Harvard Business Review states that “81% of people attempt to help themselves before reaching out to support.” 

If self-help begins with guiding users to answers and solutions, they may still need to submit a request, but self-help allows them to identify unknowns before submitting their request. This leads to better qualified and more accurate requests coming to the service desk. So, the advantage of adding self-help to your self-service strategy is that you and your users will reap the benefits of starting with answers and solutions as opposed to blindly submitting requests.

Self-help employs a deliberate, more curated knowledge approach than traditional self-service.

A common misconception is that self-help is just a new way to talk about your old knowledge base. If this were true, self-service would work better than it currently does for most organizations. So, why is a self-help strategy so different than a traditional knowledge management strategy?

Traditional knowledge management is a large database of information collected and maintained for the good of an organization. Self-help is meant to guide users. To accomplish this, you will need to think of each user question as a journey and define the paths they could take to reach answers. Then, you can prepare your content to be self-sufficient.

But before you can leverage self-help, you first need to analyze the requests you get most often to the service desk and grow from there. The purpose of self-help is not only to reformat thousands of articles in a more engaging way. It is also about curating knowledge journeys for a small percentage of high-return articles—most common questions to the most common problems—and delivering it in a more engaging and dynamic way so that users can help themselves. 

Read more: Shaping Knowledge Management for Employee Self-Service

There is some feature overlap, but more modern features are needed for true self-help success.

Traditional knowledge lacks some specific features that self-help requires to make it as effective as it should be. Effective self-help allows employees and customers to guide themselves to solutions and answers with confidence. Certain features are needed to ensure that users follow the right path as opposed to dropping a 10-page instructional guide in front of them and wishing them luck. Some examples are included below.

  • Knowledge Workflow Engine  to design knowledge journeys based on questions and answers
  • REST & SOAP API  to integrate with 3rd party platforms like Messaging, CRM, ERP and ITSM
  • Web-Responsive Screens  to allow for mobile use and integration with self-service portals
  • Natural Language Processing (NLP)  to improve search result accuracy and end user confidence
  • Contextualization to provide more targeted answers and solutions based on the current user
  • Interaction Tracking to report on user interactions within every step of every article
  • Multi-Media Content to improve article design using clickable images or embed video
  • User Comments /Feedback  to allow users to submit suggestions or edits to articles and procedure steps
  • Knowledge Sharing to allow users to socialize useful articles or steps to fellow users 

Read more: 4 Help Desk Software Capabilities You Need to Deliver the Best Employee Experience

Is it worth investing in self-help?

Absolutely! First, identify the top service desk calls that you receive and map any coordinating knowledge articles that document a resolution to each issue. Turn those knowledge articles into guided knowledge journeys that map to solutions. Integrate these knowledge journeys with your ITSM system for ticket creation and market the journeys to your user base so they use them before calling the service desk. Theoretically, you should be able to decrease your call volume by 20% and increase utilization of your service catalog through automation.

At the end of the day, self-help is an essential ingredient to powering various self-service channels, including portals, chatbots, and virtual agents. It also provides a unique way of capturing, curating, and delivering knowledge in a more interactive, engaging format. See it for yourself and request a demo of EV Self Help with one of our solution experts.

5-Step Guide to Reduce IT Service Desk Call Volume

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John Prestridge

John Prestridge is an accomplished marketing and product strategist focused on customer needs. He helped 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. Prestridge brings broad expertise in the technologies shaping the future workplace, including service management, cloud computing, application virtualization, mobility, intelligent automation, and compliance.