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Roy Atkinson | January 23, 2020

Why Self-Help Technology is the Answer to Increasing Demand for Self-Service

Technology is redefining the way we work. As more organizations focus on digital transformation, new systems and applications are being brought to the workplace, driving increasing demand on support year over year. 1 So how can organizations leverage technology to help support teams relieve stress from these high-ticket volumes?

This blog will discuss more about why ticket volume to the service desk is rising, and how organizations are using technology, such as self-help technology, to address it.

The Facts: High-Ticket Volume

HDI’s annual research report on ticket management and metrics for 2019 records another year in which a majority of support organizations and service desks saw the volume of tickets (i.e., incidents and service requests) go up.

In fact, over two-thirds (68%) of these organizations saw an increase this year. This should not be a surprise, since technology is very much at the heart of every business.

The factors organizations cited for increased support ticket volume include:

factors for increased support ticket volume

Source: HDI, The ROI of Shift-Left: Optimizing Service Desk Costs with Self-Help, October 2019

Meanwhile, other annual HDI research on staffing shows that only 27% of organizations are creating new positions in the support organization, and 52% are filling positions that come open. In short, staff is not being expanded at nearly the same rate as demand.

When this happens, the resulting resource constraints mean that proactive work—including projects and process improvements—is put on hold while available resources are devoted to dealing with the volume of incidents and requests, work that’s often referred to as firefighting or KTLO (keeping the lights on). Support is on a treadmill that keeps going faster.

What is truly amazing is that support has been able to deal with the ever-increasing demand for so long; ticket volume has increased in the majority of organizations every year since 2011.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

According to HDI, a small percentage (10%) of organizations experienced a decrease in ticket volume in 2019. The top two factors cited by these organizations were:

  1. Self-Help
  2. Knowledge Management

Sharing knowledge within the organization and providing users and/or customers with relevant, accessible self-help does decrease the demands on support staff time and effort. This eases the constraints and frees up time for the proactive tasks so often put on hold while the firefighting gets done.

It’s important to note that self-help is not a panacea; not every issue, question, or request can—or should—be resolved by the end user. The point here is not to completely replace the support organization, but rather to augment it by providing users with solid information that helps them get on with their work.

Avoiding the Self-Help Paradox

Recent HDI research shows that, when asked for their primary reason for putting self-help in place, organizations most often state that it is because users are asking for it. At the same time, the most often stated reason for lack of full satisfaction with self-help is the difficulty in getting users to adopt it. How can that be?

Let’s look briefly at the most common way organizations have chosen to provide self-help: A web-based portal containing a service request catalog and a knowledge base. Within the knowledge base are Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and knowledge articles. While somewhat of an improvement over having no available self-help, this approach does not encourage adoption.

In these organizations, users must:

  • Be aware that the portal exists and know where to find it
  • Sift through information that may or may not be relevant to their question or issue

To complicate matters while attempting to simplify them, the support organization populates the FAQ with questions they think the users will ask; in 83% of the organizations that provide FAQs, they are written by support staff. Too often, these FAQs are often full of IT language and may not be fully understood by the people they are intended to assist, and the same holds true for the knowledge articles. Combine these factors with inadequate search tools, and it is no wonder users are not flocking to these systems. It’s simply easier to contact support.

In today’s high-velocity organizations, users expect to get information that is useful and relevant to them, and to get it fast. They do not want to scroll through long articles containing information that does not bear directly on their current question. Whether we like it or not, they are going to compare their experiences searching Google for answers and YouTube for how-to information with your organization’s self-help. That’s tough competition. Luckily, there is assistance available in the form of emerging technologies.

Context Is Key

If I have a new Model X-3750 VoIP desk phone and I need some help with its features, I don’t want general information about the phone hardware or the features of every phone in the product line, the type of information I might find in long-form knowledge articles. I want the information that is relevant to my context; in this case, Model X-3750 features.

If there is some intelligence in the form of AI augmentation and machine learning built into the knowledge management software, it can draw from existing data residing in multiple sources, such as the make and model of phone I have, the date is was delivered (let’s say two days ago), and the fact that I have not yet set up my voicemail. Now when I need assistance, it is presented in easily consumable form with the right information. The self-help system is contextual, and that goes for applications and systems I use as well.

The Results: Self-Help Technology

Once your organization’s users discover that they have a powerful way to get information they need, where and when they need it, they’ll discover that it’s easier, faster, and more efficient for them to use self-help rather than contact support and wait for a response and resolution.



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Roy Atkinson

HDI's 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award honoree Roy Atkinson is one of the top influencers in the service and support industry. His blogs, presentations, research reports, white papers, keynotes, and webinars have gained him an international reputation. In his role as senior writer/analyst, he acted as HDI's in-house subject matter expert, bringing his years of experience to the community. He holds a master’s certificate in advanced management strategy from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business, and he is a certified HDI Support Center Manager. He was inducted into the HDI Hall of Fame in 2018. Follow him on Twitter @RoyAtkinson