IT self service holds a lot of promise, but only if it meets the needs of your end user. Here are some tips for how to make that happen.

by Sami Kallio
Date Published March 15, 2022 - Last Updated January 20, 2023

IT self service is an interesting beast. For nearly a decade, people have touted it as the savior of overworked IT service desks and other IT teams – with the vision that employees or end users would help themselves and benefit from automated capabilities rather than needing to contact the IT service desk with their issue or service request.

Self-service promises all three of “better, faster, cheaper,” but how have organizations fared and what have successful organizations done that differentiates them from those which still struggle to make self-service an IT capability that end users want to use?

The Service Desk Institute (SDI) in the UK found that “the increase in the adoption of self-service tools is undoubtedly due to the range of associated benefits that comes with the implementation of such a solution, most commonly reduced support costs, increased customer satisfaction, and a round-the-clock support channel. However, the number of organizations that have realized these benefits and have achieved the anticipated return on investment (ROI) are few, less than 12% according to recent SDI research.”

More recently, self-service success data show that there has been an improvement as organizations take onboard the self-service advice that’s readily available, but it’s still not a great position: “…only one in five organizations (21%) reported that the expected ROI for their IT self-service investment was achieved. It’s a better level than 2017 but still nowhere near where it should be. However, 30% reported a ‘just good enough’ success, and another 19% stated that it’s ‘not a success but still workable.’ 10% of organizations need to revisit their self-service capabilities and another 2% gave up on them. Interestingly, 13% of organizations still don’t offer an IT self-service portal capability to employees.”

It’s not just surveys that show the problem. HappySignals user data – based on 393,425 pieces of end-user feedback over six months – highlights that the self-service portal has the:

Lowest level of end-user happiness (73) – although, as with all “remote” channels, this has risen significantly with the increase in remote working

Highest level of end-user lost productivity at 3 hours and 51 minutes – which is 78% more than what’s lost when end-users go via the telephone channel

So that’s where many organizations are still, but what can they do to improve the shift-left process? The short answer is to learn from the many successes and mistakes of other organizations.

There are some actions that organizations need to take to increase their chances of self-service success. These include:

Focusing on improving the employee experience, not on cost savings

This approach is a key tenet of self service success. If it’s easier and quicker to call up the IT service desk, why would anyone want to waste time using subpar self service capabilities? Importantly, the cost savings will come if an organization builds their fit-for-purpose self service capability around end user needs and expectations.

Taking a people-change approach

This perspective is needed because the introduction of self service is a change to traditional ways of working, not just to a technology project. Hence, there’s a need for organizational change management (OCM) tools and techniques.

Ensure regular communication of the self service process’s “what, why, and how”. Work to ensure the removal of change obstacles that might cause resistance to change, and provide suitable education and training related to the new ways of working.

Being careful with adoption-based assumptions

Just because end users are happy to use self service in their personal lives doesn’t mean they will automatically adopt a corporate self service capability.

Selling the new self-service capability and the “what’s in it for me (WIIFM)?”

Think carefully about how to position the associated messaging relative to benefits such as improving speed, reducing employee lost productivity, and, potentially, the increased availability of support. Remember that it’s the “what’s in it for ME?”, so steer clear of talking about corporate cost savings with end users. They probably don’t care and might see it as a sub-par support resource as a result.

Leveraging automation, including intelligent automation

A self-service capability needs to be more than a flashy front-end that replicates an issue or service request submitted via email to the IT service desk. Instead, end users want and expect immediacy of resolution or service provisioning – with this achieved through automation. Intelligent automation, which employs machine learning and natural language understanding (NLU), adds to this – from the accuracy of knowledge searches for self-help to understanding the root cause of an end user issue based on data from various sources.

Measuring performance and course-correcting as needed.

There are a variety of suggested metrics associated with self service. Still, the one that really matters is the end-user experience – how the end user feels about their self-service use and how it has impacted their ability to work.

All of the above actions will help your organization’s people to shift left to self service, but it’s critical to have a suitable feedback mechanism in place to continually assess the successes and potential issues as the self-service rollout and use continues.

Sami Kallio is CEO of HappySignals. 

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


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