Are self-service portals dying?

“But why do you want me to raise a ticket through the portal when I can just tell you right now?”

I overheard this statement when I was walking past the IT team at our office. That made so much sense! Why do we force our colleagues to use self-service portal when it is so out of their routine? 

Why do self-service portals get low adoption?

When I was exploring Selfless Service, I came up with something called Need vs Effort matrix. My hypothesis is that if you want a user to execute an action, the effort they put into that action should be justified by their need.self service adoption matrix

For example, think about paying your bills online. They’re not necessarily a breeze with so many login screens and security screens, but you jump through all the hoops because the bills need to be paid.

When we apply the same science to the world of self-service portals, there is no real need for anyone to be using the self-service portal. Plus, service desks make the self-service portal really hard to use and harder to find.

Self-service portals also put the users through a habitual change and that’s always hard. Have you ever paused to think what it really means for a user to log a ticket through the portal? They usually stop what they’re doing, find a URL, log in using their credentials and fill out a form that you’ve designed built.

If you haven't made it easy for them to use, you can't blame them for not using it #ITSelfService Click To Tweet

self service portal cartoon

“Products that require a high degree of behavior change are doomed to fail” – Nir Eyal

There’s no doubt that service desks have started to invest so much in crafting a really engaging self-service experience through the portal but why toil so much if they’re not going to be adopted?

What does this mean for self-service?

While the self-service through the portal could be on its way to extinction, self-service itself will be fine. Once we look past the idea of self-service portals, we’d be surprised to find that there are many other channels to enable self-service.

While I’m tempted to include password resets as a separate category, Self Service portals are primarily used for two things: Ticket creation and knowledge base consumption.

So, what are the other places where this can be delivered?

Emails were never dead, only oppressed.

We can hate it or we can accept it; Emails continue to be a really popular channel for everyone.

I understand why service desks don’t prefer emails. It’s hard to get structured information through emails and service desks have to go back and forth to get what they want.

They’re not effective but has anyone thought about optimizing the email experience versus moving completely away from it? Making emails great again could be worth investing in especially given the love it receives from the end users. It’s just so easy!

Emails, once optimized, can be a really effective channel for employees to raise tickets and consume knowledge base. One example could be to automatically suggest the relevant knowledge base articles through email based on what they send. Email widgets is another unexplored area that can solve problems with traditional emails.

auto suggest solution articles
Smart article suggester in Freshservice

Messaging apps are becoming powerful by the day

One word. Chatbots.

Messaging apps are no longer used only for messaging these days. Innovative companies like Slack have changed the way we look at messaging apps. In this API powered app world, it is very easy for applications to talk to each other and every application should be talking to the messaging app.

Messaging is slowly on its way to take over emails as the preferred communication channel within workplaces. Though it’s still a while away, messaging is a great place for service desks to deliver Self Service.

Almost all messaging apps support APIs and it’s only a matter of building a chatbot that can effectively capture all the information required for a ticket and also deflect tickets using knowledge base articles wherever applicable. NLP and ML are continuously evolving. That’s going to make the interaction much smoother.


Mobile – Are you there yet?

If you are not delivering self-service through a mobile channel, then you’re doing something really wrong. Employees are used to hailing a cab home through their mobile app. If you’re going to expect them to log into a self-service portal for a pair of headphones, they’d rather buy it themselves (again through a mobile app)

Here are some other not so prominent channels

Enterprise Social Networks are coming up quite fast and Workplace by Facebook has a huge part to play in it. Taking advantage of the familiarity with Facebook, the company created something so similar yet different for workplaces that is very easy for users to adapt to. There was no learning curve for us when we started using it. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if employees start posting on ESN channels when something goes wrong or when they want answers to a question. We also had that and we quickly realized the opportunity and built an integration with Workplace. 

Voice as a channel is also gaining popularity, thanks to Amazon’s Alexa. Even if you don’t own an Echo device, chances are you use the Google Assistant (I use Lumos & Nox all the time), Siri or Cortana (God bless you) when no one’s looking. Voice could be a really convenient way when you want to quickly search the knowledge base or log a ticket.

Contrary to the blog title, I’m not predicting that self-service portals are useless. They obviously add immense value but to me, portals don’t seem to be the most optimal way for end users to reach out to the service desk as it forces a habit change. There are other unexplored channels.

When Uber doesn’t force them to log into a laptop to book a cab, when Slack doesn’t force them to leave the app to schedule an appointment, when Amazon doesn’t force them to stand in a queue to buy something, they’re going to expect the same from the service desk and we better be ready for them.