What is a Self-Service Portal? 

What is a Self-Service Portal? 

Self-service is transforming the way organizations handle IT service management (ITSM) issues in a way that increases both efficiency and satisfaction. The main purpose of a self-service portal is to be an interface between the customer and the service provider. It’s filled with information and tools that will provide customers with the ability to solve issues on their own, likely leading to a reduction in ticket volume for already busy IT help desks. 

Easy-To-Use Portals are Essential

It’s important that your portal is easy to use because if it’s not, users won’t feel empowered to answer their own questions. They’ll go straight to the service desk to help them, doing anything they can to avoid using the portal, because what they want is for their problem to be solved quickly.

In a situation where a customer uses an easy-to-use self-service portal, the time spent resolving their issue will be less than if they put in a ticket to have an IT employee help them. However, if the portal is confusing and difficult to use, getting human intervention will be seen as the faster way to fix the problem.  

Challenges of a Self-Service Portal

A self-service portal can only positively impact your organization if it is developed correctly, and certain challenges lie in making a self-service portal that is effective.

When you are creating a portal, you’re tasked with explaining technical services to a population that is, in most cases, non-technical. One way to get around this difficult task is to use plain and clear language. Steer clear of technical jargon or strings of letters that have no meaning outside of the world of programming. This will help the customer comprehend the solution you are providing them with while also making them comfortable enough to know they do not need to contact the helpdesk.

Another thing you can do is test your portal before making it available organization-wide. This will give you the opportunity to see if non-technical employees understand the language you use, to gain feedback on how easy it is to use, and allow you to see where users run into dead-ends. 

Another challenge is that you need to gain buy-in from users. This entails convincing people who have always gone straight to the helpdesk the moment they have an issue to change their course of action.

In reality, people want to solve issues on their own especially if they know how quick and easy it can be. However, they might be skeptical of a self-service portal until they use it for the first time. So, creating and testing the portal is only half of the process- getting your organization and customers on board is the other half. You can do this by advertising the benefits and showing people how simple the concept really is.

It is also crucial to be sure that there is trust within your organization. No one will take the time to try out something new if there is no trust that those who developed this portal did it in a way that will actually yield results and provide people with the help it is intended to.  

Benefits of a Self-Service Portal

Self-service holds major significance in organizations because it can dramatically reduce the number of tickets that are submitted to IT. And reduced ticket volume can do two things.

First, it decreases the per-incident cost incurred by IT as fewer resources are used on each issue. The cost of a support call, on average, costs an organization $22, while a self-service incident costs $2.

Second, it saves time because help desk employees don’t need to waste time addressing smaller issues that they get a call for. Rather, they can spend their time resolving more complex issues that a self-service portal is unable to fix.

Another benefit of self-service portals is higher satisfaction throughout the organization. Users like the independence and favor a ‘do it yourself’ system over one where they need intervention by someone else.

Lastly, self-service portals lead to an enhanced overall user experience, because less of users’ time is consumed by IT issues. Self-service doesn’t decrease the number of issues that arise for any single person, but it does greatly decrease the amount of their time that is allotted to dealing with those issues.  

The Role of KCS and Knowledge Bases in Self-Service Portals

Knowledge-Centered Service® (KCS) is a methodology established by the Consortium for Service Innovation that is all about making knowledge abundant and available. It is often used as part of self-service strategies through the use of a knowledge base, which is a collection of articles that are created to guide users through solving their own problems.

KCS and knowledge bases are two core pillars of a successful self-service portal, as they contribute to many of the major benefits that come with self-service (lower ticket volume, higher satisfaction, etc.). 

Just like a self-service portal, a knowledge base is only beneficial if it is executed correctly. Unless the content within the knowledge base is constantly updated to include the most relevant information, users will either be misled or not find what they’re looking for.

A recent report shows that 81% of organizations have a knowledge base, but only 5% of them report that it is fully maximized with updated, crowdsourced and relevant information. This means that if you make your knowledge base and self-service portal a priority, your organization will be ahead of most others. 

Human-Centered Design

Incorporating human-centered design is one way to design your self-service portal in a way that will help drive adoption. In short, it is a creative approach to problem-solving that focuses on the users’ needs, and is based on a number of fundamental principles: 

  • Involve users in the design process from the very beginning: critical design decisions are evaluated based on how they work for end-users. 
  • Requirement clarification is important: the team always tries to align business requirements with users’ needs. 
  • Introduce a 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 user experience; it introduces changes gradually as it gains more understanding about its target audience. 

There are three phases to implementing human-centered design: 

  • The Inspiration Phase – learn directly from the people you are designing for by immersing yourself in their departments and gaining a deep understanding of their needs. 
  • The Ideation Phase – take what you learned and identify the opportunities for design and come up with possible solutions. 
  • The Implementation Phase – bring your solution to life. 

This kind of design ensures that your portal will be beneficial to those that use it. Instead of guessing the ways in which users need it, you go straight to the user and see it for yourself. This will also help instill trust because employees will be able to see that effort is being put into truly understanding their needs. 

If you’re looking for examples of stellar portal designs, check these out. 

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