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July 07, 2014

The Yin and Yang of Self-Service Support

By TMCnet Special Guest
Jeff Brandt, Solutions Director of Technology Support Services at Randstad Technologies

About a decade ago, providers of enterprise IT support services were looking to do primarily one thing: cut costs. If that meant offshoring service desk services and call centers, so be it, as long as they could drive costs down. Recently, however, there’s been a shift in perspective. Now everybody wants to drive a better customer experience. Whether it be through speedy resolution of problems, the types of support offered or enhancement of end user productivity, IT support shops now want to produce the best end user experience possible. They’re looking to increase user satisfaction.

As a major provider of IT support services, Randstad Technologies, is in a position to notice these larger trends. And so the question arises, “What’s next?” I can’t say for certain, but I do see the concept of self-service – as part of service desk support – gaining ground.

Users today are more tech-savvy than they used to be, not just in their workplace but in their personal lives. They’re used to downloading apps, paying bills online and ordering anything and everything through their smartphone or tablet. In other words, they’re comfortable performing many IT tasks for themselves. Still, there will always be people who want actual human interaction, so I see enabling customer choice as a trend.

So what’s entailed in self-service service desks, and how do you know if they’re going to work for you or not? First of all, if you’re not prepared to go “all in” and make a gradual transition to self-service rather than a flash cut, you might as well forget about it. Remember how in grocery stores there were a few self-check-out lanes with support staff standing at the end of every one to help customers? Gradually customers needed less assistance, and the support staff would be spread over several aisles. Then eventually there were more lanes dedicated self-service. And still there are some lanes that allow interaction with a person.

You have to be ready, willing and able to facilitate the same type of gradual transition in an IT environment. Guiding people and giving them lots of support is key. This is particularly important for maintaining user satisfaction, because if customers ask a question for which there’s no answer provided, or if it’s too hard to get from one function to the next, they will simply not come back. They’ll get disgusted and abandon the site entirely. And not only that: They’ll relate their experience to friends and co-workers, amplifying the effect of the failure.

First and foremost, you have to focus intently on what’s known as knowledge management – the process of capturing, developing, sharing and effectively using every piece of organizational knowledge. In the case of a service desk, it’s making sure you collect every possible question and answer that you and others can conceive of when you put on your end-user hat. What would you prefer to be able to do yourself rather than relying on service desk personnel for? What’s the easiest, most efficient way to perform those activities? If you’re not prepared to invest in a first-rate effort, you should not waste your money.

Heretofore, I’ve seen more failures than successes in automated self-help desks, but I think that could change.  Here are some tips for a successful self-service rollout:

  • Determine specific knowledge content to be included in the repository, including FAQs, instructions, how tos and demonstrations. Look at the top 25 requests usually resolved at “Level 1.”
  • Design instructions and create processes with the end-user in mind. Be consistent in the conventions you use to communicate instructions (e.g., use of bold typefaces, italics, etc.). Describe issues and write instructions in non-technical language. Use visual aids such as screenshots.
  • Test, test, and then test again. Ambiguous instructions lead to user frustration.
  • Don’t launch self-service programs that lack information. Rolling out a program with incomplete information with the intention to complete it over time is a recipe for failure.
  • Promote the rollout of the portal to end-users. Just because you build it doesn’t mean they’ll come – send out emails, produce videos, put up posters, advertise on social media; use every tool in your communications arsenal to promote the site.
  • Continually encourage use of self-service. Guide users on how they can resolve an issue on their own faster than relying on service desk staff. Train new employees on how to use the self-service site.
  • Establish a formal process for updating and reviewing the knowledge. Assign a manager or team leader to be responsible for ensuring that instructions, FAQs, and solutions remain accurate, especially after system or software upgrades.

Most of all, if you do decide to undertake the process, make sure you have an extremely capable, experienced partner that can help you through all steps of the transition. While many of your users will be savvy about downloading an app, that’s a relatively simple procedure when compared to asking a free form question of a system that has to yield a spot on answer. People might tolerate a couple of missteps downloading an app they really want, but they’re not going to stick around if the system you provide doesn’t give them what they want when they want it – and in the form they want it. So put on your end-user hat, choose the right partner, and go forth into what could be the next tech support trend.




Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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