Build a Winning Self-Service Portal


by Kelly Doherty
August 31, 2017

Don’t miss Kelly’s session, 5 Essential Tips for Building and Maintaining a Winning Self-Service Portal, at FUSION 17.

Building a self-service portal can be easy if you keep the five Ms in mind during the design and deployment stages. Build portals that matter to your business, create a plan to market the portal, measure results, budget to maintain the portal, and finally, do the money dance!

Make It Matter

Build a portal that will matter to your business customers. First, keep in mind that a self-service portal is not a technology project. It is a business project that needs IT assistance to get it done. Focus on the development of the business case first, the “why” of the portal initiative. The business case is integral in getting management on board, defining the success factors, and setting a road map for the lifecycle of the portal (year two and beyond). You will refer back to this many times as you develop your portal and make decisions on what to include/exclude from your project in future phases. You can find a great business case template online.

A self-service portal is not a technology project. It is a business project.
Tweet: A self-service portal is not a technology project. It is a business project. @ThinkHDI

Design is a key success factor in building portals that matter. Bring your marketing team on-board early in the process. Design the portal with the corporate branding in mind. Follow your branding in font style, color schemes, and logos.   Keep the design easy to use and simple. Focus on the language of your users. If you don’t speak the language, find good business resources that do and entice them to join your project. Begin by putting items on your portal that are easy and routine—routine meaning they occur frequently and have a defined process. Start the process by researching your ITSM data looking at calls and email content. Your goals are to streamline processes, remove steps, automate, and find touch-less transactions.

What are touch-less transactions? The criteria of touch-less transactions are requests or issues entered from the portal that cannot be resolved by tier 1. Move these transactions from the portal to the appropriate team or department without any intervention from tier 1. A key component for these tickets is that they must contain all the information tier 2 teams need to resolve or move forward on the issue. If your business users cannot easily obtain the information to enter the ticket on the portal, the issue is not a candidate for a touch-less transaction. This is one of the most important cost-saving aspects of our portal and the biggest cost savings. At my company, 28–35% of our tickets each month are touch-less, and the percentage is growing. We have developed interfaces in our portal that send tickets to outside vendors to handle service requests using this touch-less concept.

Market the Portal

Get the word out. Once you have the content figured out, the next key step is to market the portal. Not to state the obvious, but IT specialists and call center analysts are NOT marketers. Task your marketing team to develop a marketing plan, and then follow it as you deploy the portal. At the same time, appoint a portal champion and have them join your team. The champion should be someone who is passionate about service and support, understands the business, and has credibility with senior management. The champion will be your portal cheerleader and collaborator. They can also assist with the “language of the business” and review your content and language.

Measure Results

What do you measure and why?  Why do I care about measurement before the portal launch?  Make sure to include the measurement criteria in the design of your portal. Do not make data capture an afterthought. Use the data to improve design, demonstrate value/savings, and market the website by telling the success story. Key measurements are:

  • Self-Service Rate
  • Portal Marketing Effectiveness
  • Customer Satisfaction  

Self-Service Rate. This measures the percentage of visits to the site that do not result in the creation of an incident. This measurement is one of the key indicators of portal effectiveness. It is important to measure and track this metric over time and as the portal evolves. Your goal should be to increase the percentage. Start with a baseline measurement, and don’t be discouraged with a low percentage in the early stages of your portal. As content is added to the portal, the self-service rate percentage should increase.  Key point in design: the ability to track and report on the number of hits on the portal each month.

Calculation: 
Divide the # of on-line incidents by the total # of visits to the site (# of on-line incidents/# of page visits)

Example:
100 chats and 100 on-line incidents, 500 site hits:

(100% - (200/500)) = 60%

Portal Marketing Effectiveness. This measures the effectiveness of the portal in reaching new users. The value in this metric is that you measure over time and see an increase that corresponds with your marketing campaign and portal enhancements. Key point in design:  needs user authentication and the ability to capture the number of new users registered to the site.

Calculation: 
Divide the number of new users coming to the site by existing users.

Example: 
500 total site hits, 300 new user site hits (total hits – total new hits)/new users hits = %:  

(500-300)/300 = 66%

Customer Satisfaction. Develop a simple survey to send to users after a portal transaction. Survey deployment can be done by a pop-up box on the web page, a survey link on the portal, or a survey sent via email after a ticket or chat is submitted. Incent users to take the survey with a gift card raffle or contest. Spend time on development of the survey questions. Structure questions to include ease of using the portal and content on the portal, and ask for any ideas on what they would like to see added. 

Maintain the Portal

Make sure to develop a plan to maintain the portal before the pilot launches. Maintenance is not an afterthought. Don’t call it maintenance either; that’s boring, and this is exciting stuff. Call it “increasing the wow factor.” Service portals must evolve and adapt to business changes and new learning. How do you keep the wow factor?  Seek input from your users and business partners, read customer surveys, and copy what other companies are doing. Be sure to fix what is not working quickly and plan for more work than you have resources to complete. Develop a work prioritization plan.

Follow the Money

Now for the fun stuff…show me the money!  Plan for all your hard work to pay off. Determine and document key baseline metrics before portal implementation so you can demonstrate savings.  Some key cost savings metrics include the following:

  • Average cost of incidents by support channel
  • Number of requests by support channel
  • Productivity of analysts by work units
  • Number of call backs on tickets by tier 1
  • Number of touches per ticket  

Once the portal is launched, be sure to measure and report at consistent intervals—monthly or quarterly depending on portal volume. 

If you have streamlined, removed steps, automated processes, and created touch-less tickets, you can show the money! Something as simple as reduction in call back results will result in faster ticket resolution, higher agent productivity, and reduction in unit cost of transactions. Now that is savings!

Adding up the monthly savings is easy, as these examples show:

Knowledge article hits translates into users resolving their own issues. For example, let’s say you have 300 knowledge base article hits and assume 10% of these users resolved their issue:

30 tickets deflected * average cost per ticket = savings

Touch-less tickets save agent time, and tickets are routed to tier 2 teams faster:

1,200 touch-less tickets per month * average cost per ticket = savings

Reduced call backs or emails asking for additional information increase agent productivity and lowers resolution time. For example, let’s say agents are able to handle 15 additional transactions a day:

15 * cost per transaction =savings

Follow the Steps

Keeping the five Ms in mind when building your portal will result in a portal that is a significant enhancement to your business operations and a cost savings platform to build upon. Design portals that matter to your business users, market the portal to bring users to the portal, do your research and gather baseline metrics before the launch to measure results, plan for maintenance, and show the money using cost savings baseline metrics and periodic measurement.


Kelly Doherty has more than 20 years of experience in customer service management. She has worked in the healthcare and financial services industries, where she’s led multiple customer support, data center, and engineering teams, and she has managed and consulted on the implementation of ITSM systems, support portals, and process improvement initiatives. Kelly is a certified PMP with her ITIL Foundations certification, and she speaks at local and national events. Follow Kelly on Twitter @kellydoherty20 and connect with her on LinkedIn.


Tag(s): supportworld, service management, self-service, support center

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