3 Reasons Your Self-Service Site Doesn’t Work


by Roy Atkinson
January 3, 2017

Quite often I hear the question, "How can we get people to use our self-service? We tried it, and nobody would use it." It usually boils down to unrealistic expectations and communication issues. What’s worse, if people try to use your self-service and fail, they are probably already upset when they do call you.

"How can we get people to use our self-service?"
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Let’s look at why people use self-service in the first place. We have to understand that everyone is pressed for time. If they need just a little help, they’ll look for it. If they have a complex issue, chances are they will call you.

Years ago, a journalist friend of mine did an interview with the governor of New York State. He said afterward, "If you ask the governor for the time of day, he’ll tell you how to make a watch." Your customers/end-users do not want to know how to "make a watch," they generally just want the time of day—that is, a straightforward, simple answer that resolves their question or issue.

People won’t use your self-service site if:

  1. It’s Searchable, But Not "Findable"
    Searchable is to "findable" as backup is to restore: If you can’t restore, your backup is useless; if you can’t find, your search is useless. We’ve all had the experience of trying to weed through search engine results, sometimes trying different words until we either find the answer or give up. Self-service/ self-help must get to the answer fast, or people will not come back. The terms they search on need to be added to your system, so that their plain language queries get to the information they need. Do not expect end-users/customers to learn your language; make your knowledge base learn theirs by capturing the way they ask when they call or email as well as search.
  2. It’s Not Relevant
    You’ve just rolled out a new email system, but your self-service site doesn’t have the updated information. Or, you have 56 articles on applications that are no longer in use clogging up search results. Your knowledge needs to keep up!
  3. It’s Not Useful
    Sure, you’ve tested the procedure described in the knowledge base, but you forgot that most of your end-users are not administrators on their computers like you are, and your solution requires admin rights. Oops! Your solution doesn’t work.

For a great method of preparing to share your knowledge base with end-users and customers, read Rick Joslin’s article, What is LZS? (That’s "Level Zero Solvable.") Give your customers the power to solve their simple problems quickly and easily, and save your analysts’ valuable time for the complicated work.

Do you have a tip for successful self-service? I'd love you to share it!


Roy AtkinsonRoy Atkinson is HDI's senior writer/analyst, acting as in-house subject matter expert and chief writer for SupportWorld articles and white papers. In addition to being a member of the HDI International Certification Standards Committee and the HDI Desktop Support Advisory Board, Roy is a popular speaker at HDI conferences and is well known to HDI local chapter audiences. His background is in both service desk and desktop support as well as small-business consulting. Roy is highly rated on social media, especially on the topics of IT service management and customer service. He is a cohost of the very popular #custserv (customer service) chat on Twitter, which celebrated its fifth anniversary on December 9, 2014. He holds a master’s certificate in advanced management strategy from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business, and he is a certified HDI Support Center Manager. Follow him on Twitter @HDI_Analyst and @RoyAtkinson.


Tag(s): customer experience, supportworld, self-service, service desk, service management

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