A step-by-step process for how to make this self-service revolution more than just a theory. It starts with knowing your customers and your workforce.

by Nancy Van Elsacker Louisnord
January 6, 2022

Shift-left, in theory, can help reduce costs by shifting Level-1 tickets to self-service, thereby freeing up agents to handle the higher-level tickets. Unfortunately, without the right strategy, this idea can fall short. Despite all of the uses for self-service support, only 9% of customers report resolving their issues via self-service, according to a survey from Gartner. Further, only 12% of self-service initiatives have delivered the anticipated ROI, mainly due to lack of user adoption, according to Service Desk Institute. This low adoption and use could indicate that shift-left, too often, is a theory and not a practice.

But with a few key improvements that will increase self-service adoption, you can better facilitate the shift-left movement.

The Benefits of Shift-Left

Before we can discuss the how when we think about shift-left, it’s important to understand the why. Beyond simply freeing up your agents to handle higher-level tickets, shift-left has benefits that can ripple out into the organization as a whole.

These benefits include:

  • Better employee confidence – both for the support agent and the customer seeking to remedy an issue
  • Higher levels of employee satisfaction because of the feeling of empowerment to resolve their own problems without micromanaging
  • Increased employee engagement and adoption, which enhances the user experience to prevent employee churn and attract talent
  • Streamlined processes and more uniform procedures
  • Resolution and prevention of repeated errors
  • Guided navigation to resources and knowledge articles that go beyond simple coworker to coworker communication

In short: when you equip employees to solve their own problems, the ones who are willing to do so will feel a better sense of ownership over their issues and tasks.

Of course, there are business benefits as well.

Research shows that the average cost-per-ticket for Level-1 support is $25. According to the Global IT Experience Benchmark by HappySignals, Ltd., end users say they wait an average of 2 hours and 50 minutes for a resolution. On top of that, it takes more than 20 minutes on average for employees to refocus after an interruption or distraction - a hidden cost of IT incidents. Using the Interrupted User Minutes (IUM) measurement (obtained by multiplying the number of minutes of interruption by the number of affected users), an organization with 5,000 employees loses 14,167 hours of productivity per month on average, statistically speaking. Annually, that’s 170,004 hours.

All that amounts to major savings when shift-left is implemented properly, and tickets can be resolved quickly through self-service.

How to Improve Your Self-Service Portal

Self-service has to become ingrained in both your customers and agents to successfully shift left. So where do you start? It all begins with three simple steps: Knowing your customer, knowing your team, and knowing your content.

Step One: Know Your Customer

The most important improvement comes in understanding your customer. Everything, from providing the right content to providing the right channels to consume that content, should be centered on the customer and their journey.

Support desk customers are not one-size-fits-all, so you can start by defining customer personas. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who are you supporting?
  • What are their pain points?
  • What are their main goals and motivators?
  • What is every possible touchpoint between the customer and your team?

Then work backward in everything you consider, from creating the self-service portal to adding knowledge articles and marketing self-service to the customer. For example, is one of your customers a field technician who frequently runs into issues with connectivity? Their persona profile will tell you that your self-service portal should address those needs, and when you communicate what the self-service portal can do, you should directly address these frequent issues.

If customers feel that their needs are understood, they’re more likely to utilize the self-service portal, and therefore more likely to resolve their own issues when possible, propelling your shift-left initiative forward. If, however, they sense that it wasn’t created with them in mind, it won’t be their go-to resource and they will continue to use traditional methods to communicate with the service desk and open tickets.

Step 2: Know Your Team and Dial In the Right Self-Service Content for the Right Type of Problem Solver

Part of shift-left that seems to be left unspoken in the greater conversation is the impact on agents. Of course the shift of lower-level tickets to self-service frees up agents to handle more high-level tickets, but that means that some agents who may only have experience handling Level-1 tickets will now be expected to help with Level-2 or higher. This may be not a problem for seasoned veterans of the service desk, but for newer agents it may be a higher stress level than they can handle.

That’s where utilizing self-service for agents comes in. This doesn’t mean they will use the same portal a customer would use, but would instead have access to a self-service, guided, and contextualized knowledge base where they can see insights from seasoned agents and articles with helpful tips to resolve the issue, all mapped out in a clear process on the next steps if they aren’t able to find a resolution.

Just as you identified the customer journey in step one, you can identify which type of problem solvers are on your service desk team to create the right type of content for them. Do you have a majority of “try-ers” on your service desk who prefer to try something before consulting a knowledge article? Or, is your team staffed with more “watch-and-learners” who find more value in watching video tutorials or reading short, snackable content to understand how to solve the issue? No matter what type of problem solvers are on your team, you’ll want to make sure there is content tailored for them specifically.

Then, just as you market the self-service portal to end-users, you can market it to the service desk, as well. Then, as customers shift left and the service desk shifts left, there is better preparation.

Step 3: Know Your Content and Make Sure it is Crawlable and Comprehensive

The foundation of any shift-left initiative is a knowledge management strategy. This strategy can, and should be an ongoing process. It is important to keep knowledge articles as living documents that are constantly under revision. No matter how easy to use or state-of-the-art your self-service portal, if the information being accessed is out-of-date, it is worthless.

Combat this by creating a task force to update knowledge articles. Enlist the help of stakeholders, managers, customers, and agents to refine information on the fly. This means that the documents can be updated and reviewed as changes occur, rather than periodically spending hours poring through articles to update them. This should be done for articles to help both customers and agents.

Remember: support content does not need to be lengthy. In fact, smaller, snack-sized articles are best. Reading long knowledge articles can become overwhelming, which is why the how is just as important as the what in content delivery.

Your knowledge base should be crawlable, as well, for best results. Search engines have bots called crawlers, which find the knowledge articles, crawl their content, follow any links, and then create an index of the sites they’ve crawled. The index is a database of URLs that a search engine puts through its algorithm to rank. This is how your search engine finds what your users need.

So how do you make sure your content is crawlable and indexable? For starters, stay away from obscure wording and trying to keep articles as simple and searchable as possible. For example, if you want an AI software or chatbot to find support for ordering a new laptop, you will probably type something like “Need new laptop” or “laptop help”. You likely wouldn’t search a wordier term.

It All Comes Down to Knowledge

When it comes down to it, your shift-left approach is only as good as your knowledge – in the sense that you cannot build on the tower of self-help without first laying the foundation of a solid knowledge base using what you know about your customers and staff. Once you’ve addressed the three steps above, you can start seeing shift-left success.

Nancy Louisnord is the Global Chief Marketing Officer of EasyVista, responsible for the company’s global and regional marketing programs and product marketing strategy. With more than 14 years of global leadership experience in the ITSM software industry, she is a sought-after presenter at conferences and contributor to several leading industry publications. Follow Nancy on Twitter @NancyVElsacker.

Tag(s): best practice, self-service, self-service tools

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