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Reach New Heights in IT Maturity with a Self-Service Portal

Want to reach new heights in IT maturity while reducing bottlenecks and giving IT department employees more time to work on high-priority projects? One way to achieve this is to include more self-service options in your client portal. Organizations that optimize client portals for self-service allow users to resolve more IT-related issues on their own with limited or zero involvement from IT staff.

In fact, a recent IT Service Management (ITSM) market study shows most organizations at least acknowledge the importance of self-service, with 81% reporting they have a knowledge base and 56% stating they run a self-service portal. 

However, only 5% of those with a knowledge base say that it is fully maximized with updated, crowdsourced and relevant information. And only 25% of organizations with a self-service portal say it is highly adopted and effective in administering self-service support.

The Importance of Creating a Useable Portal and Knowledge Base

One of the most efficient ways to improve ITSM and service desk delivery is by removing the need for starting a ticket in the first place—by empowering users to answer their own questions and solve their own problems before an issue requires human intervention. 

In general, people would much rather resolve issues themselves instead of submitting a service request and waiting for a response. With the increasing desire for more self-service options, it is essential for those in IT to respond accordingly. Having a well-organized portal with the ability to search for solutions by keywords or tags goes a long way in quickly helping users get the information they need.

Self-service models that deflect calls from the helpdesk to the portal and give users access to an intuitive, timely catalog of technical knowledge not only improve customer satisfaction, they also dramatically reduce the per-incident cost incurred by IT.

“Creating an employee self-service portal was a pivotal step in streamlining IT service for the city,” said Nathan Ignatz, system support analyst for the City of Buffalo, NY.

The city uses TeamDynamix for ITSM and the introduction of a self-service portal has made a significant impact on how IT support is provided.

“It allows us to provide service quicker,” Ignatz said. “Before the service portal existed, employees would call or email the help desk to ask questions or request service.”

And this influx of service requests through calls and emails often tied up IT staff time as they had to field questions, create service tickets and make sure everything got into the hands of the correct team members. Having employees enter service requests directly through the portal, as they do now, has resulted in a faster resolution to issues and is freeing up IT staff to work on other tasks instead.

For Best Results, Keep it Simple

So how can you create a successful self-service portal? Simplicity is key when designing the layout for your portal. Users shouldn’t have to scroll or navigate extensively to find what they are looking for, nor should it take them longer than a few minutes to locate the information they need.

Outlined information written in understandable, everyday language is essential to encouraging self-service and making your portal a success.

In addition, you can add a conversational AI chatbot to help users find answers quickly or to even resolve issues right from the chat.

While traditional chatbots have a stigma of not being accurate or the most helpful, conversational AI chatbots are different. While 76 percent of chatbot users report frustration with their current chatbot, a study from TeamDynamix and found that when conversational AI chatbots are used, more than 61 percent of users could effectively resolve their issues without having to put in a ticket or contact support – that’s compared to only a 35 percent resolution rate when traditional chat is used.

Here are five key benefits of including a conversational AI chatbot on your service portal:

  1. 24/7 Instant Support: Unlike human agents, chatbots are available round the clock, ready to assist customers instantly, anytime, anywhere. This constant availability reduces customer waiting time and boosts customer satisfaction.
  2. Cost Savings: Implementing a chatbot can significantly reduce operational costs. By handling routine queries and tasks, chatbots free up your IT service desk employees to focus on complex issues, leading to increased efficiency and cost savings. In addition, this can help improve your IT employees’ morale.
  3. Increased Customer Satisfaction: With their ability to provide instant, personalized responses, chatbots can significantly improve the customer experience, leading to higher satisfaction levels and stronger customer loyalty.
  4. Scalability: Chatbots can simultaneously handle multiple conversations, allowing businesses to scale their customer service efforts without additional manpower.
  5. Data Collection and Insights: Chatbots collect valuable customer data during interactions, providing businesses with insights that can be used to improve products, services, IT processes and customer engagement strategies.

Be Sure to Measure ROI

Of course, transitioning to a self-service portal does not happen overnight. Such a move requires proper planning, time, and in some cases, new technology. But the ROI potential is there when factoring in the benefits:

  • Reduced service ticket volumes.
  • Enhanced overall user experience.
  • Higher satisfaction throughout the organization.

Self-service has quickly become the norm, so having the right ITSM tool to support your portal and knowledge base is key.

Creating an Easy-to-Use, Functional Self-Service Portal and Knowledge Base

So, how do you know your tool is the right one? To start, your ITSM software should offer an out-of-the-box self-service portal with a knowledge base (KB) that’s easily configurable and can be personalized with your organization’s branding WITHOUT any coding or scripting. In addition, the portal should be WCAG 2.0 AA compliant and fully accessible.

Here are four questions you can ask about portal and KB capabilities when evaluating ITSM vendors:

  1. Can I create a portal with my own branding? The portal should allow for branding and design without requiring HTML or technical resources to code the content. It should be easy to manage across multiple departments and entities, allowing for individualized branding.
  2. Does it interface with a knowledge base and offer automation? The self-service portal needs to offer the ability to deploy a knowledge base that can search across articles using natural language and tagging. Being able to find information, and having that information be relevant and accurate, is key to success. If your end-users perceive the articles to be erroneous or outdated, then adoption of the self-service platform will suffer.
  3. Can you manage the knowledge base content easily? You should have the ability to manage publication dates and evaluate usage. The knowledge base also needs to accommodate a feedback loop, taking comments or even net new content, and pushing that through an iterative review process. This is called Knowledge-Centered Service® (KCS). The knowledge base must support this framework so that you can stay current. Also, if customers or employees can’t resolve their issues using the information found on the portal or knowledge base, there needs to be a button they can click to quickly submit a ticket or a request. That ticket/request should route directly to the appropriate technician or departmental resource.
  4. Is the portal WCAG 2.0 AA Compliant? Accessibility is a very important topic, and in order to adhere to the strict standards, it’s best to deploy an end-user portal that is already WCAG 2.0 AA compliant out of the box. This means that you can create new content and present services without the additional worry that your portal is not compliant or accessible. WCAG 2.0 AA compliant out-of-the-box is a critical factor, particularly if you are servicing end-users in education or the public sector.

The Benefits of Knowledge-Centered Service for ITSM

Crowdsourcing knowledge can be a fast and accurate way to build a knowledge base. There’s no question that KCS should be a valuable part of your organization’s ITSM processes, as it can help you quickly fill your knowledge base with accurate content.

Here are a few reasons why Knowledge-Centered Service can be so powerful:

  • Helps to continually lower inbound call volume.
  • Increases customer satisfaction.
  • Provides customers with the answers they need now.
  • Crowdsourcing knowledge helps maintain accurate content.
  • Offers opportunities for professional development and career progression.

By adopting KCS, you can not only improve customer satisfaction but dramatically reduce the per-incident cost incurred by IT (from about $22 for a level 1 support call to $2 for self-service); and reduce the volume of issues and requests coming to the help desk, allowing IT to reallocate technicians to higher priority tasks and projects.

Want to see what stellar portals and knowledge bases look like? Here are some great examples from TeamDynamix customers: Stellar Service Portals.

©KCS® is a service mark of the Consortium for Service Innovation™.

This post was originally published in October 2016 and has been updated with new information.