Mar292017

An effective self-service portal can massively reduce the number of tickets handled by the service desk while providing around-the-clock IT support for customers.  But too many self-service facilities are failing.  Eric Wright of Richmond Systems explains why.

It seems too good to be true.  Reduce tickets while simultaneously boosting customer satisfaction scores? But that is exactly what self-service can – and does deliver – for many of our customers, and for many of the businesses we all deal with as consumers on daily basis.

The good news is self-service is widely accepted by customers as a viable support channel.  When self-service was first popularised, customers may have bemoaned the lack of the human contact, complaining they were being forced to use an automated support channel because it saved the supplier the trouble of dealing with them.  Now many people prefer it. 

Most of us have adapted quickly to self-service.  When we have a problem, we go online and find the answer via the path of least residence – whether this is a Google search, a YouTube video or as an FAQ on the product supplier’s site.

So if cultural acceptance of self-service isn’t the problem, why isn’t it more widely accepted?

Here are 4 reasons why self-service isn’t working for your service desk:

Customers don’t know about it
It’s obvious, but you’d be surprised how many organisations go to huge lengths to build a self-service portal, then fail to publicise its existence.  It’s not enough to send an email once and expect customers to immediately use the support portal.  Service desks must make a concerted effort to tell everyone about it.

It asks too much of the customer
Put yourself in the shoes of the customer.  How do they find your support portal? How many clicks do you demand they make to reach the point where help is available? Do they need to log-in with a password used for only this purpose? And crucially, how fast/cumbersome is this process compared to the action of typing a question into Google?  Your self-service facility must be easy to find and access otherwise it will be ignored.

Outdated information
The biggest failure of self-service occurs at this point.  Finding outdated information and irrelevant fixes will quickly destroy the value of your support portal.  Customers are rightly ruthless with their time and so are unlikely to give self-service a second chance if it fails to deliver them the answers they are looking for.   

The problem is that most self-service tools are difficult to edit and update. If they demand too much time of your service desk staff, they will simply be mothballed.

This is why we’ve built the Workflow engine into our customer self-service portal.  It lets you build and edit a support portal in minutes via a drag and drop interface.  We’ve seen the massive difference this makes to our customers, who are able to keep the knowledge current with minimal effort.  Unsurprisingly, keeping the content fresh is the key difference between an effective self-service portal and one that is neglected and eventually forgotten.

Hard to navigate
Just as you must consider how long it takes customers to access the self-service facility, you need to test how easy and time-consuming it is to find answers.  It might be that the tool is clunky and unintuitive.  The information might be badly presented.  Or the process of finding advice may simply be too cumbersome to bother with.  Whatever the problem, until this is addressed, the self-service will be of limited value.

Effective self-service does require effort to build and maintain.  But the rewards for those service desks who persist and get it right are huge.  Make sure you’ve tackled the points raised above and you’re well on your way to experiencing the power of customer self-service.

Eric Wright is managing director of Richmond Systems.

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