“No! I won’t do it! That website sucks! ” said Adam when he was asked to raise a ticket on the IT team’s Self Service portal.
If you’re wondering who Adam is, he’s just a fictional character talking to a fictional IT team. Now Adam might not be real but the pain of finding your way around a Self Service portal is very very real. It’s not just me saying this. IT Teams around the globe are struggling with self-service adoption.
While everyone talks about the importance of Self Service, it’s equally necessary to educate ITSM professionals on how to effectively implement Self Service. That’s exactly what I’m attempting to do in this blog.
I wanted to break down the different aspects of implementing Self Service and actually create an easy to remember approach for Self Service implementation.
I’m calling it the ReDeLI approach.
Step 1: The Research phase
Implementing Self Service just for the sake of it is a sin
The Research phase will focus on completely understanding your user. After all, we’re implementing self-service for them. It is completely justifiable to spend time understanding them. The ideal outcome of the research phase would be a document outlining all their needs. This data will feed into the next phase.
1a. Understand your user
The first step is to clearly understand your end-user base.
“What do they do when they come to the office?”
“What are some of the common apps they use?”
“What do they do when they’re faced with an IT issue” are some questions we can answer
Here are a few things you can do to understand them better.
Talk to the users
You’d be surprised how helpful this can be. Just spend some time people, walk up to people at random and ask them about how IT can make life better for them. Remember, to them IT is an enabler. The focus shouldn’t be on IT but rather on your end users.
Identify the top tickets that come in
A simple report on your current ticketing system will tell you where your users are facing issues. If password reset requests are the highest grossed tickets (we hope it’s not), then implementing a self-service password reset solution should be your first priority.
A really good Service desk is the one that avoids tickets, not resolves them
Ask them where they spend most of their time on
If you want to make Self Service successful, you have to take it to them and not expect them to come to you. One easy way to do this is to integrate Self Service into their current activities so they don’t have to change their habits. Ask them nicely and they’ll happily tell you where they spend most of their time on a computer.
Form a user group
This may sound crazy but it’s a really cool idea! You’d be surprised by the number of people who’d like to be included in a ‘secret’ IT project. Ask your users to invite a couple of their friends to a secret group. You can later use the same group to validate any improvements you want to make.
Optional: You can also prepare a user persona that can serve multiple other purposes as well. The data you collect at this phase will help you later.
1b. Document key findings
The next step is to clearly document the findings. That serves as the input to the next phase. Here are some important things your document should contain along with many other details that you may have captured.
Self Service channels
If you’d spent time understanding your user, you’d probably know where they spend most of their time on. The biggest misconception in Self Service implementation is that IT thinks a portal is the only way to deliver Self Service. In today’s world of integrations and chatbots, self-service can be delivered directly where the user exists. If your users are on Slack, let’s enable them to self-serve through Slack!
It may be an ‘Incident’ to you but it’s really just a problem or an issue to your users. Let’s face the truth, your users don’t care about ITIL (gasp!)! They just want a fix!
You’ll be able to understand the most common words and terminologies your users are familiar with. Your self-service channels should all be consistently using the same language – a language that your users can understand.
At the end of this phase, you should have a document with all the information you’ve collected.
Step 2: The Design phase
Designing a Self Service solution isn’t just about designing the portal. It’s about designing the self-service experience
2a. Design a Self Service map
Self Service map is nothing but a visual representation of all the possible self-service interaction points and how a user can get there. Use the data from the research phase to identify these points based on the apps they use all the time.
You can also validate this map with your user group to see if this resonates with them.
2b. Design a user journey for each interaction
If you have more than one self-service interaction, then you must design separate interaction experience for them! Now let us look at different possible interaction points and what possible experience we can give them.
This might probably take the longest to design. If your ITSM software gives you a fully customizable portal (like Freshservice), then this is easy. The design doesn’t have to be visually appealing but make sure you make it easy for your users to navigate. Your portal design should also help drive the right behavior.
For example, if you want to drive knowledge base adoption, then make sure the search bar is the first thing they see.
If you can also identify the commonly requested items, you can place them on the portal’s home page for quick access
Validate it with your user group
If you have the luxury of time, you can start by wireframing the portal on a mockup tool like Balsamiq and validating it with your user group. If not, you can directly build the portal and get feedback. The important thing is to validate your portal and incorporating the feedback.
Avoid IT terms and use simple language
Most of your self-service portal will be text. Your end user should be able to understand everything written on your self-service portal. It’s easy to assume that the text is simple but always validate it with the user group. You might think “Impact” or “Urgency” is easy to determine but it really is not!
Help them through the decision by providing helpful text.
Make the portal accessible
There is no point building a great portal if you’re going to make users jump through hoops to access it. You can make the portal accessible by doing simple things like adding a desktop icon or linking it on your company homepage!
In a world where people can book cabs and watch Netflix on their phone, it’s a crime if you don’t give them an IT Self Service experience on their mobile. Some ITSM Software has an end user mobile app that can be easily downloaded. If you have an Mobile Device Management (MDM) strategy, you can also install it for them during onboarding.
If your company already has a mobile app, you can also explore options for embedding the self-service experience right within their app!
If your company uses a communication platform like Slack or Microsoft Teams, chances are that your end users probably spend a lot of time there. Find a way to integrate with these apps and deliver the self-service experience there.
Chatbots can be used here and the important thing is to use chatbots subtly. Your end users may not enjoy long conversations with a bot so it should bring a human in wherever possible.
Walk up experience
This might seem not so common but walk up experience is very effective. I’ve found a lot of universities and hospitals who deploy self-service kiosks in places where end users can raise any issue,
Focus on keeping this experience personalized and figure out a way for them to authenticate easily.
2c. Build an effective knowledge base
Your knowledge base can make or break your self-service experience.
Remember, your users will only be able to ‘self-serve’ if they can find the content useful. Here’s how you can ensure your knowledge base is effective.
Make it visual
Visual content is much easier to consume. Wherever possible, try replacing text with GIFs, screenshots or videos. Typing it out might seem a lot easier but visual content is more engaging and it’ll actually serve the purpose
Keep the language simple
If you do have to use text, resist the temptation to use IT language. Text content is very useful in short FAQs and answers delivered through a chatbot.
Provide a feedback channel
Your knowledge base is only as good as your least read article. Make sure you set up feedback channels right on the article page so it’s easy for your end user to say if they found it useful. This metric is also important to know how many tickets you’ve deflected.
Set up an analytics platform
This might be taking slightly far but analytics tools like Google Analytics can give you a lot of insight about the self-service portal. This also means you are less dependant on your users to give feedback. Simple stats like bounce rate and avg page on time will tell you how effective thing
2d. Beta test with a few users
You really wouldn’t know if your Self Service implementation is usable until you test it out with a few users. Start by testing out the experience by inviting few users to a beta experience. You can invite people from outside the user group as they might give you unbiased feedback. Once you get enough feedback and you feel confident that you’ve incorporated the important ones, you can call the design phase done.
At the end of this phase, you should have a fully built self-service experience across different interaction points.
Step 3: The Launch phase
There is no point complaining about low self-service adoption if you’ve not invested time in launching it
A lot of IT teams disregard the launch aspect of Self Service but I feel it’s really important. Designing and building the self-service experience is only half the job. The next half is making sure people are aware of it and they actually derive value from it!
Cover all bases
Launching your self-service implementation doesn’t mean sending them an email. It’s much more than that! Here’s how you can almost cover every aspect of the launch to ensure you’ve done all you can!
Putting up posters have never gone out of fashion. Try creating a simple poster outlining the new self-service experience and highlighting the value prop (how this can help THEM, not IT). The poster should also make it clear on HOW to reach out to the Service Desk.
On the launch day, you can also set up a station with a huge TV and teach people how to get value out of the new self-service experience. I still remember Grant Harris from Western Sussex Hospitals giving out chocolates for anyone signing up to their password reset tool! (They also helped them through the experience)
If your company hosts an All hands meeting, get a 5-minute slot to talk about the self-service initiative.
An email still definitely helps. But the email should be so good that it doesn’t go their trash immediately! Try focusing on the email on how the users can get value out of it rather than focusing on what you have built.
Videos are a great way to convey the self-service experience. Work with your marketing team to create a very small video that can be shared with end users or projected on TVs.
Word of mouth
Despite doing all you can to get their attention, nothing helps like their colleague or manager telling them about it. Call a meeting with the department heads and explain your self-service strategy to them. Convince them to circulate the message internally to their teams!
Celebrate the milestone
This might seem an odd item to include in this blog but this is important. If you’ve gone through all the effort to launch the self-service experience, you deserve to celebrate with your team! It could be something as simple as cutting a cake or taking your team out for a few beers.
At the end of this phase, you have a fully usable self-service experience. That doesn’t mean you stop focusing here. There’s one more phase.
Step 4: The Improvement phase
If your Self Service experience doesn’t keep up with your end user, it will soon become redundant
If you want your self-service experience to last through the test of time, then you must invest in improving it. There are two key aspects you can improve and you need to focus on them separately.
1. Improve adoption
Adoption is a key metric to measure the success of your self-service implementation. It is definitely worth investing in improving it. Here are a few activities you can do to improve adoption.
Your end users need the incentive to adopt self-service into their work routine. There is no doubt that you provide value to them but do they know what’s in it for them?
Focus on marketing what value the self-service approach adds to their lives. If you already have an existing user base, get someone to quickly share how it makes their life better [It should actually make their life better, if not you won’t find anyone willing to talk about it]
Reward right behavior
Gamification, if applied correctly, can drive the right behavior. My favorite example is the Speed Camera lottery where they had to get people to drive safely.
Gamifying it doesn’t mean giving every self-service portal visitor 1000 points. It could be as simple as tracking the end user who provides the maximum feedback for knowledge base articles and rewarding them with a small goodie bag from IT. This will not only encourage others to adopt this behavior but also win some good karma for the IT team!
2. Improve experience
Okay, now everyone in the company has adopted Self Service. What next? You make sure they come back. Remember, your end users have the very little incentive to adopt self-service. They’re just one bad experience away from going back to the old ways (Calling you, walking up to your desk, leaving post-it notes)
Here are some ways in which you can improve the experience
Act on feedback
If you’ve set up an effective feedback channel, then you would already have some feedback to work on. Analyse each feedback and decide which one you want to work on.
Here are a few ways in which you can work on them
Validate & Fix
This is straightforward. Someone’s reported an issue with the self-service experience and it needs to be fixed. You fix it, For example, if someone reports a bug in the self-service portal, you fix it.
Validate & Educate
If someone’s reported a feedback because they lack understanding of the approach, you have to work with them to make sure they understand. This could also mean user education has faltered so you can address that in your training collaterals. For example, if you receive feedback saying your self-service portal is hard to find, that means you haven’t focused on the portal URL in your launch!
Validate & Maximise
This is when you receive positive feedback. If you find areas where your end users actually derive value, it means you’re in the right direction. These are things you should continue doing to ensure you keep more people happy. For example, if you know that your users like chatting with your Service desk team, find more places to introduce chat.
Validate & ignore
At times, you will receive feedback that you can’t do anything about. If you receive feedback that someone doesn’t like the color on the portal, it’s really subjective. You thank them for the feedback and you move on
No one wants to use anything that’s outdated. The self-service experience should be up to date. If someone comes looking for information that was announced just the day before, they should find it in the knowledge base. If someone wants to request for a new software that was announced just a week ago, they should find it in the catalog. If they don’t, end users will quickly assume that the Self Service experience is outdated and they will not return.
Whoa, looks like a lot of work doesn’t it? If I read through the post again, I can totally see someone getting overwhelmed by the number of things that need to be done. I would like to insist that you almost always only get one chance to get Self Service implementation right.
It is totally worth spending the amount of time and effort in a self-service implementation project. The returns you’ll get from here are:
Tickets avoided are better than tickets resolved. With a good self-service implementation, you can totally avoid the unnecessary simple tickets that take up your team’s time. Instead, they can now work on those projects that you always wanted them to do but never had the time for
Happy end users
Now, who wouldn’t want this? A good self-service implementation means end users find it easy to fix their own issues (or easy to raise issues). That means they don’t have anything to complain. That means all of us are happy.
Thank you for reading through the blog. If you have any thoughts, please leave them in the comments or reach out to me (firstname.lastname@example.org)! I always enjoy a good conversation about Self Service.