5 Metrics for Measuring Self Service Adoption

Self-service enables the Service Desk to scale operations and offers 24×7 support to end users without any additional cost. Service Desk managers should have a program in place to document the results of a self-service initiative. Here are five measures that Service Desk managers can use to demonstrate self-service success.

Each will be looked at from three perspectives:

  • The metric itself, its definition
  • The business value of the metric
  • How to measure/set targets for the metric


Metric #1: % of Contacts Logged via Self-Service (% of Service Requests | % of Incidents)

Most service management platforms enable the ability to track the source of an incident and/or service request. Understanding the trend for each source and the percentage of contacts for self-service options vs. phone/email enables the organization to measure adoption and adjust where needed. Common sources include:

  • Non-self-service: Phone, email
  • Self-service: Service request catalog, knowledge, automated chat with a chatbot

The formula: # of Self-Service tickets / All tickets

The Business Value

Prior to self-service 100% of contacts are coming via phone and email. While the business driver of the self-service initiative is to increase the use of knowledge to self-resolve issues, self-service is bigger than this, offering several concrete benefits:

  • The gradual elimination of unstructured emails in favor of structured requests with automated fulfillment and or fulfillment workflows to reduce fulfillment time frames
  • Ability to drive knowledge to an individual logging an incident (help) ticket, using a commonly available technique called “incident deflection.” 
  • Ability to serve customers 24×7
  • Lower phone volumes to avoid expansion of staff; enable existing staff to spend time on more valuable tasks

The Target: “Ticketless” Support (100% self-service)

Most service requests are fulfilled outside of the Service Desk, so the ability to log a service request directly to the fulfillment team is a significant benefit of the service request catalog. The use of the service request catalog also ensures the submission of the appropriate items to managers and others for approval. So, in an organization that has invested in the implementation of an on-line request catalog, adoption is key. While 100% may sound like a lofty goal, when there is no value provided by email or phone, it is an appropriate goal. It may not be reached over time, but a high bar means higher effort is expended to reach it.

Going ticketless for support 

If everything comes through knowledge or self-help automation, logging a ticket as part of the process only when the first two methods fail drives an organization towards “ticketless” support. Monitoring should alert personnel and automation should push notification of the issue out to service portal users and self-help should support all issues except hardware failures. Thus, it’s not out of the question to reach 85% of incidents logged through self-service as well, the other 15% representing hardware issues.

Initially, organizations should manage the trend vs. the target. Achieving 100% for service requests and 85% for incidents is a significant accomplishment. 


Metric #2: Incident Deflection

Most service management platforms now include the ability to search the knowledge base when a question or description is populated in an incident form. Measuring the percentage of time a person visits the form and abandons without logging an incident, vs. the number of incidents logged is an indicator that the knowledge provided enabled them to solve their own issue. 

The formula: # incidents logged / total number of visits to incident form(s)

The Business Value

The use of knowledge articles to self-resolve is the most scalable and least expensive support option available and is available 24×7. Measuring knowledge usage and other best practice knowledge management metrics is a good idea but this measure shows how valuable that knowledge is in avoiding calls to the service desk. 

The Target: 60-90% (depending on knowledge management maturity)

Here too, the trend is more important than the target, especially in an organization’s maturity level for knowledge management. 

Metric #3: Customer Satisfaction Results (Portal CSAT | Effort Score)

CSAT or customer satisfaction is the most important metric of all and is measured via customer surveys. Three simple questions provide all that’s needed:

  • Please rate service desk support overall (5-star rating scale)
  • Please rate your experiences using our self-service portal (5-star rating scale)
  • Please rate the ease of logging issues or requests via the self-service portal (5-star rating scale)

The Business Value

This one is bigger than self-service alone. It doesn’t matter how high portal adoption is if customers are not satisfied or are unhappy with the overall support provided. The CSAT scores received with these three questions provide all of the information needed to evaluate support: overall satisfaction, satisfaction with the portal and ease of using the portal. The answers indicate whether an improvement effort is needed or if the portal design is on-track. 

The last question measures the customer effort score, which tells indicates if the issue is ease of submission or whether there’s an issue further down the fulfillment/support chain vs. an issue with portal and service request catalog design.

 The Target: 4-5 Stars

This is pretty easy, aim for 4-5 stars on all three measures, using any that fall below to guide any improvement programs that might be needed.

Metric #4: Call Volume Trend

If the first three metrics are going well, this number, the number of calls/day should be dropping. This statistic is available from the phone system and should be graphed over time as the average number of calls per week. The weekly averages should be graphed over a rolling 6-12 month trend.

The Business Value

This is one of the major inputs to metric #5, but the simple answer is that as call volumes drop, savings increase. These are part of the return on investment for the portal. Once calls drop, each organization has a choice of how to use the lowered number of calls to their benefit:

  • Reduce headcount to realize “hard” or actual savings
  • Train the team to take on more self-service automation / move them to open positions elsewhere in the organization

The Target: At Least 50% (but the sky’s the limit)

Service Desks should see at least a 50% drop over the first few months. A significant call reduction 80-90% would not be unreasonable over the longer haul. That could take years, allowing for knowledge and self-service solutions to grow.


Metric #5: Savings From Self-Service

This one is a significant number that business executives want to see. From the time self-service goes live, it’s worth tallying up “soft costs” as well as costs associated with the elimination of any positions (even if the staff is reorganized into open positions).

Costs to track:

  • # of calls reduced X $25/call (or calculate the exact cost for each call before starting)
  • # of incidents avoided X cost of staff time X MTTR

The Business Value

Ultimately the savings alone is enough value, however, there’s also an overarching value to add to the savings: employee satisfaction and retention, which drives additional savings. There are two areas of employee satisfaction caused by a truly successful self-service initiative: that of IT and that of people outside of IT. Within the Service Desk, people are able to spend the bulk of their time doing more interesting work: 

  • Writing knowledge articles
  • Working on automated self-service opportunities
  • Taking part in the fulfillment of requests and automating fulfillment

Outside of the Service Desk, employees spend less time dealing with Service Desk waits and can go get information or automated fixes they can perform themselves. This makes them more productive and increases satisfaction.

In both cases, satisfaction leads to retention. At the end of the day, the five metrics presented here enable organizations to:

  • Know when adoption programs are needed for their self-service initiative
  • Identify the need for improvements and the types of improvements needed
  • Move to a scalable and cost-effective support operation