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3 steps to building a highly successful IT self-service portal

Hannah Price Service Management Consultant and Knowledge Management Expert, TopDesk UK

Nearly three quarters of business leaders recognize that their users want to self-serve when they interact with the service desk, but they still prefer to rely on old-school methods of communication. That was one of the findings in a survey of 500 C-suite business leaders by survey consultants Censuswide. Among the others: More than half (54%) of the respondents cited email as one of their most important customer communication methods, followed closely by telephone (53%) and face-to-face (40%).

This is problematic because if service management organizations don’t deliver what their customers expect, the customers will feel dissatisfied with the experience they receive, resulting in increased hostility toward the help desk.

So how do you make the transition? Here three steps you can take to empower your users with the self-service they want and need.

1. Create an effortless self-service portal

Getting the design right is key. Users are looking for easy access, and they’re trying to avoid the effort of calling, emailing, or dropping into the service desk.

Here are a few essentials to include when creating a portal that’s effortless for users:

Master the keywords users are likely to use

Search is an easy way for people to find what they need, and search engines are a fundamental part of how people access information day-to-day. For a business, mastering the art of keywords is essential. Let's say a user is having a problem with a computer monitors You need to accommodate the other things people call monitors, such as screens or displays. Download the search terms your users are typing so you understand their language and cover all the bases, thus ensuring your users are empowered to find the information they need, no matter how they describe it.

Don’t overwhelm your users with an overly complex user experience

The portal you provide should be streamlined. Presenting users with a long list of services on offer will make your portal cumbersome and unattractive. Logically group services into a small number of categories so that users have a sense of simplicity when they come to your portal. When it comes to look and feel, less is more.

A clean interface also allows the important areas of your portal, such as the search bar, to stand out. You can use a contrasting background to make it more visible or your corporate mascot to point to it.

Answers should be no more than three clicks away

Your self-service portal should not be a maze that forces users to click their way through to what they're looking for. If they feel lost and frustrated before they find the page they need, they will give up on the portal. Use the rule of three: No service or knowledge should be more than three clicks away from the portal’s homepage.

2. Knowledge is power

Self-service should not be confined to letting users request what they need. Yes, they should be able to enlist the help of experts, but self-service can be more than that. Encourage your customers to learn and self-solve by interacting with your knowledge base.

Embracing the knowledge-centered services (KCS) methodology is the cornerstone of successful self-service. The more resources you’re able to pump into your portal, the more your users will be able to achieve on their own. KCS is a way of working driven by the power of knowledge: Rather than supporting users with internal knowledge, you can design and deliver services to provide that knowledge directly to your users, empowering them to solve their problems on their own.

Day-to-day, this process of building out the knowledge base happens as the service desk actively creates knowledge after solving a problem, updating the knowledge base in real time, and displaying this knowledge in a simple and logical way for the user so that when a similar problem occurs, customers have access to the most up-to-date information to solve their issue for themselves.

According to the KCS Academy, this methodology enables self-service strategies by encouraging the use of self-help assets—and cuts the time it takes to resolve tickets by 50% to 60%.

3. Evolve into a one-stop shop

The final step toward empowering your users is to provide a full suite of services in your self-service portal. This takes time and effort to achieve, however. So how do you do it?

Onboard new departments

The more departments in the organization that you can encourage to adopt your service delivery method, the more resources and services you’ll be able to provide to your users. Don’t confine your portal to the typical service teams (IT, HR, facilities). Instead, think outside of the box: What self-service options could your marketing team offer? Or if the legal department has its own tool, can you use your portal to direct questions from the legal team to it?

Realize that the customer is king—and treat them all that way

Too often, service organizations rely on guesswork when deciding what to provide to users. Listen to your customers. Implement user group sessions to find out what developments they want, use your portal’s reporting facilities to find gaps in your offering, and ask for real-time feedback through forms on your portal. Know what your users truly want so you can provide it.

Embrace technology

State-of-the-art technology can make it easier to deliver service excellence by improving the efficiency and functionality of your self-service portal. Take chat as an example: Introducing chat gives users a direct line of communication to the service desk. Rather than submitting a form and waiting for a response or moving away from the portal to call, email, or visit the service desk, users can get an answer to their problem almost immediately. Yes, this can be a lot of work for operators. But AI-based chatbots can interact with users and use an algorithm to help them solve their problems. This means operators don’t have to deal with FAQs in chat, and chat sessions are only escalated to them if there’s a complex problem or request.

Think win-win

Self-service shouldn’t be a chore, for you or your users. It should be a win for everybody. By providing self-serve options, you’re giving your users what they want while taking work off the service desk staff’s plate by empowering users to resolve more of their own problems.

By designing an effortless portal, harnessing the power of knowledge, and creating a unified offering, you can evolve to become the service desk that provides your users with exactly what they want and need.

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