Traditionally the phone or email were the main ways that users contacted the IT service desk. Administration time was high, capturing the information manually took time and even basic problems, such as resetting passwords, took much longer than they should. The result? All too often, annoyed users, a poor reputation for the service desk, higher costs and disgruntled staff. Technically competent staff spent much of their time on low-level, repetitive tasks, adding to the view that the service desk was a necessary evil, rather than an essential contributor to the business.
Self-service portals can help to overcome this challenge – allowing users to find answers to common or basic problems, log issues themselves and have them automatically routed to the best person to deal with them, and removing complexity for innovative new services such as a new starter, or ordering a replacement phone with a seamless workflow.
Yet, time and again, we hear that ensuring that users actually adopt self-service can be difficult. Used to their ‘traditional’ ways of getting in contact, uptake for portals is often disappointingly low. So how can you drive self-service success? The answer is for your team to shrug off the daytime job and discover its inner marketer!
Forcing users to new channels doesn’t work, and will drive ill-feeling. Switching the phones to voicemail and not responding to email has been tried and believe me, it’s not a great idea! So, the change needs to happen internally, starting within the service desk itself, its culture and how it operates and encompassing the business it supports. This might fill those used to working more traditional helpdesks with horror, but put yourself in your users’ shoes and adopt a customer-centric mindset that borrows from the digital domain and the results can be phenomenal. The workplace evolves and so must the service desk!
If service desks are to remain relevant, increase efficiency and free up time for innovation (that big stepping stone to being a value-add for the business) then they have to encourage self-service. In turn, that means marketing themselves and their services better to their users. NHS Informatics Merseyside is a great example of this. It serves 18,000 users and handles 132,000 incoming requests every year. Drawing on its experience, and other Sunrise customers, I believe that success is shown to come from a focus on five areas:
1. Customer Experience.
We all spend an increasing part of our lives online, and our expectations of the experience we receive is always rising. The same thing applies when a user accesses your self-service portal. They want it to be as easy to use as Amazon – buttons for common services, intuitive interfaces – they don’t want to have to read a user guide to get to where they want. As with ecommerce retailers, you need to constantly collect user feedback and measure satisfaction, not only through reporting on SLAs and the like, but through customer satisfaction surveys too. NHS Informatics Merseyside is achieving 98% customer satisfaction ratings, but is constantly analysing that 2% to see where it can improve.
2. Roadshows and visits.
It might seem counter-intuitive to encourage self-service by going out and visiting users, but once you have a strong relationship, introducing new services is easier and will see a greater take-up. So before you even start to plan, meet the departments you support, collect feedback and understand their specific issues. Once you have a portal to demonstrate, your team can hold educational roadshow events, even in the very same buildings they’ve supported for years, and make off-site visits to explain what is being developed and how it will benefit users. Utilita Energy is a great example of how roadshows and forums helped shape the new services to meet their growing business needs.
Service desks aren’t all located in the basement as in The IT Crowd, but often they can feel distant from users, particularly in multi-site businesses. To create a connection between users and the service desk itself, marketing techniques such as branding can help. In the case of NHS Informatics Merseyside it branded itself “Your IT Service Desk”, and used this across all communication channels and contacts. The result has shown that the service desk is focused on the needs of users, helping to reassure them that they always there to provide support, and are seen as approachable and friendly.
4. Embrace innovation.
If you want users to value the service desk, and to adopt self-service, you need to consider how far the new service can go. The obvious services save time on basic requests, such as resetting passwords, but you can offer far more by introducing new services via self-service and service catalogues. For example, NHS Informatics Merseyside created an ecommerce-style equipment request portal that allows users to select new PCs and phones, along with automatically recommending the supporting software they need, all in one place. Once users understand the positives of self-service, and that it’s breaking down barriers, not dehumanising their world, they are likely to be more enthusiastic adopters.
This is the fun bit. The most successful self-service launches generate some excitement, unashamedly adopting marketing techniques that build excitement and relationships to encourage uptake of services. I’ve seen customers recently running blockbuster style ‘Coming Soon!…’ poster campaigns, desk drops, prize draws and even surprises for employees on launch day. Utilita reported on twitter over 50% uptake of self-service in week one after a well-timed campaign and very large cake!
It isn’t that long ago that marketing and service desks were seen as different as chalk and cheese. But times have changed, and if you want to successfully introduce self-service (and efficiency targets mean most organisations are shifting to adding more value this way), then go ahead and discover your inner marketer!