Getting the Most From a Self-Service Solution

ITSM self-service portal solutions give businesses an opportunity to take a major leap forward when it comes to developing customer-centric operations. A good self-service platform will empower business users to get the support they need without having to engage with your service desk staff. Essentially, this kills two birds with one stone. The first is improving IT service desk operating conditions by reducing the number of incidents that make their way to the support team. The second is improving response times for business users by letting them help themselves immediately, avoiding any time waiting for a support ticket to get resolved.

While these potential benefits are fairly straightforward, the process of actually creating value through a self-service platform isn't always so simple. In fact, many IT organizations have struggled to implement a self-service platform successfully, but they can improve their chances of finding success by taking a consumer-focused approach. Consumerization is a huge issue when it comes to self service and should be treated accordingly.

Look to Consumer Tools
Both self-service tools and service catalogs have been in use for a long time in consumer settings. In many cases, people aren't even aware that they are taking advantage of these solutions due to being so intuitive that people don't mind finding their own solutions. For example, consumer-facing websites like Amazon.com have been providing self-service opportunities for years, and, for the most part, consumers happily interact with these solutions because they often provide faster, more efficient solutions to low-level incidents.

Real-world examples set by the consumer segment serve as vital case studies for IT organizations to examine while trying to use self-service portals effectively. Self-service initiatives can give users the ability to provide feedback, access forums that discuss common user issues, quickly access services, and otherwise make basic interactions with the IT or support teams. All of this functionality can diminish, however, if the self-service portal is not convenient or accessible enough to the end-user. To this end, organizations should strive to make the solution easy to use, simple enough to be navigated efficiently and capable of actually resolving issues. Nobody wants to go through a self-service portal only to find that their basic problem cannot be resolved without going back to the support team.

Consumer tools provide a model of this functionality, and IT teams can benefit substantially from looking to those solutions as a guide when designing their self-service processes.

Consider the Self-Service Portal Strategy as an Ongoing Project
The self-service portal should not be taken for granted. In fact, it should be likened to the CMDB in that just by simply putting it into place does not, by any means, allow you to think of them as a "finished product." CMDBs always need to be populated with configuration items and updated based on new relationships between systems and different work roles. In the same way, you will continually need to add new services and functions to your self-service platform if you want to keep pace with the various challenges end-users are facing. As such, treating the self-service portal as an ongoing project is critical to maximizing the value it creates over time.

Including search functionality is a key example of the need for continued work on the solution. If the various entries into the self-service portal are archived properly, users should be able to use an internal search engine to find solutions to their problems, even if the issue they are facing doesn't fall under an obvious service category. This functionality is critical when trying to get the right knowledge to the right people at the right time. However, taking advantage of search capabilities hinges on continually updating search archives so the system knows what terms are tagged for different entries and can sort through both organizational content and customer-created information.

Customer Needs Should Be the Focus
Self-service in many ways bridges the gap between IT expert knowledge and end-user needs. Most organizations do not have the manpower to utilize support teams for every single end-user issue at every waking minute. Self-service portals are a great way to facilitate knowledge to the user without putting a strain on organizational resources. Additionally, thanks to the consumerization of IT, regular people within the enterprise are becoming more comfortable with technology each and every day. With this in mind, many individuals are often more than capable of following knowledge base articles and tutorials in order to resolve basic issues without having to deal with filing a support ticket.

In short, self-service technologies let you make the customer the primary point of emphasis for your support operations - a cultural shift that is key as IT departments face mounting pressure to create business value.

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