ITSM Best Practices: What to Look for in an End-User Portal

Did you know that, according to HDI, a support call costs $22 compared to self-service which costs just $2 per incident?

As companies look for ways to save on costs, it’s clear that there needs to be a push toward including self-service in all IT Service Management (ITSM) initiatives.

To drive the adoption of self-service, it’s important to have an easy-to-use, searchable portal. If your portals are complex and hard to use, then your efforts to save money will be fruitless as no one will use the portal for service and your call volumes will skyrocket. Here are a few best practices you can follow to create robust end-user portals that will save you time and resources while keeping your customers happy.

Make Sure Your Portal is Easy to Use, Own and Operate

If you want people to use your portal it should look and feel welcoming.

Your portal needs to be easy to navigate, include graphical elements (i.e., branding, images, etc.) that your users will recognize, and you should use jargon-free language to get your message across. For example, a button that says “Get Help” will likely perform better than a button that says “Submit Ticket.” Be clear and direct with all of your calls to action and messaging.

In terms of creating self-service portals, they should be easy to build and easy to maintain. This means no specialized technical skills like coding or scripting should be needed to get your portal up and running, and you shouldn’t need dedicated resources to manage it either. Anyone in your organization should be able to log in with their credentials and make changes, as needed, to better serve the users of your portal.

With a highly configurable portal, you can be strategic in your efforts as well—first focusing on frequently asked questions and those issues that contribute to a high volume of incoming help desk tickets.

Over time, you’ll be able to grow and evolve your end-user portal into a valuable resource that people will learn to turn to first, freeing up your IT staff to focus on higher-priority tasks and projects.

All-in-all, an engaging portal enables you to deliver on the promise of high-quality ITSM for your customers and employees.

Did you know a support call costs an organization an average of $22?

Build Your Knowledge Base

Along with being easy to navigate and written in clear, direct language, stellar portals also leverage a knowledge base (KB) within the portal that is highly indexed, provides quick links to the most accessed content, makes it easy to enhance content and is accessible on mobile devices.

But since a knowledge base is only as good as the content it contains, it’s good to follow industry best practices for creating and curating knowledge content in your end-user portal.

Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS®) relies on the notion that content is generated as problems arise. While KCS started in ITSM, it’s now being adopted across the enterprise.

KB articles are living assets that can be leveraged by both the users and technicians. Using a portal with a KB usually translates into a dramatic increase in first contact resolution (30-50%).

Focus on Accessibility

When creating an end-user portal, it is important to be as accessible as possible, meaning it should be WCAG 2.0/508 compliant.

Not only should the site be easy to navigate, but it should be made available to everyone. By not focusing on accessibility, you are likely alienating a portion of your customers or employees – making it more difficult for them to resolve the issues they may be having. You can read more about the accessibility features offered by TeamDynamix here.

If you want to see a collection of stellar self-service portals, including portals that are WCAG 2.0/508 compliant, here are some examples from actual TeamDynamix customers.

In addition to WCAG 2.0 compliance, you’ll want to make sure your portal design makes sense for your users. A great way to do this is to practice human-centered design. 

Human-centered design is a creative approach to problem-solving that focuses on users’ needs and requirements by researching and observing how people use certain services, and identifying how their experience can be improved.

Human-centered design has a few fundamental principles that are applicable to the implementation of an IT service portal within an organization, like the following:

  • Users are involved in the design process from the very beginning. Critical design decisions are evaluated based on how they work for end-users.
  • Importance of requirement clarification. The team always tries to align business requirements with users’ needs.
  • Introducing user feedback loop in the product life cycle. The team collects and analyzes feedback from users regularly. This information helps the team to make more user-focused decisions.
  • Iterative design process. The team constantly works on improving the user experience; it introduces changes gradually as it gains more understanding of its target audience.

Designing a Successful Service Portal

At Grand Rapids Community College Kelley Webber, a support desk coordinator, saw the value in implementing a human-centered design approach to the college’s ITSM strategy.

Establishing an IT service portal was supposed to make life easier for tech support staff because they wouldn’t have to spend as much time on the phone trying to understand the nature of users’ issues. However, Webber and her team found that fewer than 5 percent of support tickets were being initiated through the service portal, while 60 percent still originated through phone calls.

They set out to redesign the service portal and service catalog to make it more user-centric so that more stakeholders would engage with it. 

To do this, they worked with focus groups. “We had users sit down at a computer, and we watched them interact with our IT service catalog to see their reactions,” Webber says. “We realized many users didn’t understand the verbiage or icons we were using.” 

For instance, the service portal had a category for “Telephony Services,” but most students didn’t understand this term. “They thought it was a made-up word,” Webber says. The newly redesigned portal will use the service catalog category “Campus Phones and Conferencing Services” instead. 

What’s more, end-users didn’t know they should choose the service category “Software Requests” if they had a problem with their mobile campus app, because they didn’t realize apps and software were the same things. “We had an old-school mentality that it was all just software,” Webber says. The redesigned portal will change the name of this service category to “Apps and Software” to make this clearer to users. 

But the biggest lesson to come out of the focus groups was a reminder of why it’s important not to make assumptions. Webber and her team thought that simply redesigning the service portal would lead to greater use — yet they learned many students weren’t aware of its existence. “We never stopped to think whether students even knew how to get to it,” she acknowledges.

To read more about Grand Rapids Community College’s experience, check out: Human-Centered Design Helps Grand Rapids Community College Engage with IT Users More Effectively.

KCS® is a service mark of the Consortium for Service Innovation™.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in July 2019 and has been updated with new information.

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