The benefits of self-help IT are well understood, but how can you go from theory to reality? Kevin J Smith of Ivanti has some advice to reach that next level.

Self-service and self-help IT are now less blue sky thinking and more a reality within the majority of organisations – a recent study that we conducted in partnership with the Service Desk Institute (SDI) found that 74% of businesses are using self-service (a 10% increase from 2013) and 58% are offering users self-help.

Self-service and service catalogue continue to change and evolve, but today these powerful models encompass a whole spectrum of self-service capabilities. Self-help is a minor part of this that allows users to access information which enables them to help themselves, such as “how-to” videos and handy FAQs. This fits in nicely with modern society and a consumer lifestyle that is as likely to “Google it” as ask a person when they have a problem. Self-service, however, should include more diverse capabilities that allow users to serve themselves: for example, ordering new IT services, checking the status of an incident or request, resetting a password, and the more futuristic dealing with an AI-enabled chatbot or intelligent assistant to solve both simple and potentially more complex IT issues.   

Sounds great, right? These services have grown out of the omnipresent need to improve users experience and save time. As IT becomes more and more of a business critical service, the IT department needs to be working proactively to enhance the business, rather than being bogged down with mundane tasks. Self-service, self-help and automation can all help with this and create happy users at the same time. Respondents to our survey echoed this statement, citing several major benefits of these services such as better user experience, reduced call volume, 24/7 support and a better perception of the service desk overall.

However, there are a few roadblocks.  Some users continue to have a preference for the “human touch” with 80 – 90% of users preferring to phone up the service desk than servicing or helping themselves. Arguably this is in part due to users not fully understanding the services on offer to them. This isn’t something that can’t be changed, however. In everyday life we are all starting to favour online shopping and chatbot help services over dealing with a person, which is often a slower process and can be much less convenient. Therefore, it is IT’s duty to communicate the benefits to users and help them build an understanding of the role and value of these great tools, so they hold them in as high esteem as other online services.

For adoption to succeed, self-service and self-help need to be simple to use, without users needing to turn to instructions. Have you ever referred to a guide book when ordering something from Amazon? No, because the experience has been designed to be intuitive and easy to use above all else. There is a great power in Easy.  Likewise, business users don’t want to re-learn how to use a self-service site every time they access it.

Have you ever referred to a guide book when ordering something from Amazon? No, because the experience has been designed to be intuitive and easy to use above all else

You can gain significant immediate and short-term benefits by following a few best practices that empower your users to gain the most from self-service. Get it right and user adoption will increase. You’ll also benefit from enhanced user loyalty, less Shadow IT, and word-of-mouth endorsements for the self-service portal. If you put the time in now, you’ll get “ROI” from the tools as users embrace them, allowing you to work on the proactive tasks that make the business run faster and better than ever before.

Consider these best practices when designing your self-service site, and then remember to effectively communicate that it is there for your users and will make their life much easier.

  1. Focus on design simplicity: Simplicity doesn’t equal usability, but simple designs are typically easier to use. The 80/20 rule often applies to self-service. Eighty percent of visitors are seeking only about 20 percent of the content. Remove what isn’t used or doesn’t add anything meaningful. Once deployed, go back and track what is used. Move things used less frequently to an “out-of-the-way place,” but make them easy to find when needed. It may sound counterintuitive, but, rather than risk the whole experience being abandoned, provide fewer options to improve the chance that any one option will be chosen. Each additional option adds complexity to your business user’s decision-making process.
  2. Leverage engaging content: Ensure that content is written plainly without jargon, especially knowledge articles intended for business users and your ITSM team. This also makes it easier to translate content if you’re serving a multilingual customer base. The more complex the language in your content, the more likely it will be poorly translated or misinterpreted.
  3. Group-display items: Place things into logical groups—like all hardware or all software available for a Mac—so they’re easier to find. In the service catalog, highlight featured services or recommended services so they stand out.
  4. Guide users with a rich site: Enriching your content with product images or icons a user will recognise, videos, and emboldened text can all increase user engagement and help them select options faster.
  5. Think white space: Too much information will overwhelm users and they’ll abandon self-service. Create plenty of white space around items, and then use techniques to expand items so more information is revealed if required.
  6. Offer optimal viewing: Craft your self-service for optimal viewing and interaction across a range of devices (from desktop computers to mobile phones). Keeping in mind that mobile is increasingly the preferred platform.  Check each device view to ensure that reading, navigation, and interaction can be accomplished with minimal resizing, panning, and scrolling. Critically, make sure the user experience is consistent no matter the device that’s used.

The companies that achieve the best self-service success rates are the ones that make their users feel self-confident, self-reliant, and empowered. Every self-service experience, every interaction opportunity, every process, and every technology chosen for deployment must reflect the requirements of the user it is serving. Bring the “human touch” to self-service by making an intuitive site that a human would enjoy using!

Ivanti has produced a two-part guide to improving IT support:
Is self-service serving its purpose, part 1
Is self-service serving its purpose, part 2

Guest post by:
Kevin J Smith, Ivanti

Kevin J Smith

Senior vice president, Ivanti
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