The Pitfalls of Self Service Portals: How to Avoid Implementing an Ineffective Self Service IT Portal

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An IT self-service portal can offer a wealth of versatility and efficiency to businesses looking to reduce IT overhead. Not only do these platforms reduce the workload on IT staff, but they can also help empower end-users to be more proficient with their technology. Once relegated to simple knowledge bases or service manuals, self-service IT platforms have blossomed into fully functional IT hubs, providing multiple options for IT staff to service the end-user.

These self-service portals can include their own extensive and intuitive knowledge bases. With the emergence of sophisticated support algorithms, and with even more powerful support AI on the horizon, these support repositories can help end-users find their solutions to both common and uncommon IT issues. Advanced software can even help confused or frustrated users define their problem and extrapolate an answer from similar solutions. These powerful self-help knowledge bases are only getting more advanced and will find even more useful in the near future.

Comprehensive ticketing systems can help support staff organize and attend to critical issues in a timely manner. End-users can be assisted in properly documenting their support issue, allowing a more educated and comprehensive response from support staff. Ticketing software has reached the point of being an almost required member of a business’ IT staff.

Many companies find success when implementing a self-service portal platform, with reductions in the number of tickets pushed to support staff and a more efficient IT infrastructure. Some estimates showed the introduction of a well-managed and maintained troubleshooting knowledge base could cut the number of support calls or tickets by more than 50%. These tools provide a powerful way for businesses to manage support on a company-wide level.

Conversely, poorly implemented or managed service portals can be ineffectual or even detrimental to support staff. Knowledge bases with insufficient information or lackluster interfaces can dissuade end-users from seeking answers there, and even discourage their fellow users from doing the same. Once one user has a bad experience with a sub-par knowledge base, word of mouth can quickly turn others users off from its use. This makes the proper introduction of these systems paramount to their success.

Put Yourself in the End-Users Shoes

Often, the best way to create a functioning and inviting support repository is to think of the end-user. Consider your own experiences with self-service portals through devices or software you use. Which features made it easy to find an answer? What did you find helpful, and what was confusing or extraneous? What would you have liked to have access to but were unable to use? What went right, and what went wrong? Asking these questions will go a long way towards creating a more user-friendly front-end for the end-user to take advantage of.

Consider the type of information that will be present in the self-help portal. Decide what pieces of information will need to be included within the portal, and support that information with an easy to use format. Detailed instructions, FAQs, guides, and examples can all provide the end-user with a clear picture of how to solve the issue at hand. Pull common support ticket issues currently being addressed and include their solutions in easy to locate places. If a low-level support ticket needs to be submitted, ensure that the forms for quickly answered tickets are simple and clear. This will expedite both the submission and turn-around time on easily answered questions.

Make It Look Good!

Pay close attention to the front-end user interface. Clearly defined and consistent formatting, fonts, and layouts will let users familiarize themselves with common themes within the portal, allowing for easier navigation and faster ticket resolutions. A little care goes a long way when addressing the aesthetics of a self-service portal! Disorganized or inconsistent layouts will quickly confuse users and dissuade them from continuing to use the portal. We place a lot of value in design, sometimes subconsciously, and a welcoming interface will encourage end-users to continue its use.

Put It to the Test

Put the repository to the test before an official roll-out. Use both technology savvy personnel and individuals who are less familiar with computers. Get feedback on how well the information is presented and how easy it is to access. Most importantly, be sure the information provided is complete and thorough. Manufacturer testing scenarios that involve real support issues found within the repository and put the answers to the test. Allow users to test the interface to work through these issues independently and pay close attention to how easily they resolve their issues. When the system eventually is presented in a live environment, these initial testing impressions will go a long way towards further use of the system. First impressions for the end-user matter for self-service portals, too!

Promote the Portal!

After the portal goes live, promote its use and advertise its implementation. Be sure that users are aware of its existence and place a heavy focus on its use in day-to-day service needs. A well-managed repository will allow users to solve their problems much faster than submitting a full-service ticket that requires additional attention. Once your users see how useful the database can be, they’ll want to solve as many issues as they can using the portal!

Early Success Leads to Continued Use

Being methodical and attentive when introducing a self-service portal to your company will go a long way towards maximizing its effectiveness within your business. Carefully planned roll-outs will often result in a huge reduction in support tickets and calls and empower the end-user to solve their issues. This can have a huge impact on overall efficiency that will continue for as long as the portal is in use.