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3 Best Practices to Drive Self-Service Support Capabilities

Posted by on October 07, 2020

Remote Workforce Management

Organizations focused on providing excellent customer service and employee support know the importance of enabling self-service capabilities. Many people prefer solving issues independently and getting back to their task at hand without disruption. Service desks also benefit when 20 to 30 percent of common requests and support issues get resolved through self-service capabilities. It frees them up to focus on more complex issues and enables resolving them faster and with greater end-user satisfaction.

There’s been a significant increase in requests and issues raised to support teams because of COVID-19 shifts to remote working, and with customers relying more on digital experiences. Per Strand, Co-Founder of ComAround knowledge management software, a Cherwell technology partner, told me they saw a 155 percent increase in usage during April when employees, customers, and suppliers turned to self-service support capabilities.

It’s not just the increase in service and support needs that’s driving self-service support options. As organizations want to respond to changing working conditions and customer needs proactively, it’s created a greater need and demand for providing self-service support capabilities. Consider the following opportunities:

  • Universities that welcomed new students back this fall must continue to adjust their policies, services, and directions as health and safety conditions evolve.  

  • Manufacturers must keep factory floors safe and update workers on changing work schedules, operating procedures, and safety protocols.

  • Hospitals must regularly inform healthcare workers on procedural changes and provide patients with up-to-date information on healthcare services.  

  • Banks servicing consumers and small businesses must now increase self-service options for customers looking to inquire about loans and other financial services. 

Providing self-service capabilities that consistently solve end-users’ issues and inquiries with high satisfaction ratings requires a holistic approach to the implementation. Just throwing up a chatbot on a self-service portal may resolve some of the basic issues but often fail to assist in more complex requests and tasks. 

The key to enabling self-service capabilities is having 

  • A low-code service desk platform configured with workflows that drive self-service options

  • Integrations for delivering self-service capabilities wherever the end-user is working 

  • A knowledge management system populated with self-service content

  • Content management processes to enable updating content regularly

Below are three best practices in planning, implementing, and supporting self-service support capabilities.  

Define a Broad Self-Service Mission and Target Multiple Audiences

In a recent paper that I authored on enabling great employee experiences with the modernized IT service desk, 43.8 percent of executive respondents identified improving knowledgebases and self-service capabilities a top priority for enabling employees to respond to new opportunities and challenges.

I would suggest that organizational leaders target a broad self-service mission beyond IT services. When employees have inquiries or issues impeding their work, they prefer simple interfaces to ask their question or complete a task without regard to whether the issue is an IT, HR, sales, finance, or other departmental function.  

Strand informed me that at current levels ComAround helps employees self-service 50 million issues yearly or 1.77 issues per second, and the numbers continue to rise. That certainly helps people solve issues faster, but it also frees up the service desk to provide better service on the more complicated requests. 

But let’s take self-service capabilities one step further. Delivering them to end-users may be the primary object, but providing more advanced self-service options directly to support teams also has benefits. Service desk employees must often research answers and use different tools to respond to a service desk ticket. Asking subject matter experts to develop knowledge base articles, FAQs, videos, and other content for service desk teams increases the breadth of issues first level support teams can address without escalating to higher-level support functions.

The approach helps shift-left support functions from higher support tiers to lower ones and aids in developing a career path for support personnel. 

Develop Consumable Knowledge Articles for the Target Audiences

For self-service to deliver on its mission, content in the knowledge base must be understandable to the target audience and written to solve a specific problem. People can’t successfully solve their problems if articles and instructions are riddled with technical jargon. Before enabling a self-service capability, the documentation provided by subject matter experts often needs rewriting into simplified language that helps the targeted end-users find and then solve their issue.  

Sometimes, a rewrite is all that’s required. When a written FAQ or article is the best approach for helping end-users, then the underlying knowledge management technology should support language translation, decision trees, intelligent search, and other features for creating, editing, and managing written content. 

Other times, it may be beneficial to convert knowledge articles into short and engaging videos. Organizations succeeding with video content to enable self-service support functions often engage video production agencies to create professional-quality storylines and recordings. 

Design a Complete Experience to Drive a Self-Service Culture

Many employees are used to calling the service desk whenever they run into problems, and pre-COVID, people could just walk up to the service desk and get quick and easy help. Unfortunately, these options are less viable for remote workers or when policies and procedures are frequently updating.

But technology can help deliver a complete experience to end-users that is inviting, easy to use, and accessible. These are some best practices to design these experiences:

  • Interview end-users that call the service desk frequently to understand their pain points and where self-service capabilities are most useful.

  • Seek help from a user experience professional to design service desk landing pages. Don’t settle for the out-of-the-box screens that don’t provide context and clues for how users can seek help independently.

  • Integrate Cherwell with ComAround to provide self-service capabilities for the end-users making requests and the service desk employees servicing them.

  • Bring self-service capabilities into workflow platforms and tools. While portals are required entry points for self-service support functions, it’s equally important to bring the capability to where users are performing their day to day work. Knowledge management technologies should have easy integration capabilities with platforms like Microsoft Teams, Dynamics, Microsoft 365, SharePoint, Salesforce, and other platforms heavily used by employees.

  • Measure utilization and look for improvement areas. If a service function or knowledge article has low utilization relative to the number of associated tickets, then that’s a clear signal that some changes are required.  

Taking a step back, you’ll see that providing self-service capabilities in knowledge-rich industries like financial services, healthcare, higher ed, and managed services requires a best-in-breed technology approach. Self-service capabilities require integrations between a service management platform, an AI-driven knowledge management platform, and chatbots. These platforms must also integrate with SaaS and enterprise workflow platforms and have easy-to-use APIs for other integrations. 

For organizations that recognize that great customer and employee experiences drive competitive differentiation, instituting best-in-class platforms to implement self-service capabilities is a top priority.

Isaac Sacolick, President of StarCIO, guides companies through smarter, faster, innovative, and safer digital transformation programs that deliver business results. He is the author of the Amazon bestseller, Driving Digital: The Leader’s Guide to Business Transformation through Technology, industry speaker, and blogger at Social, Agile, and Transformation.