Five tips to make IT self-service more selfless and customer-centric

Employee self-service for IT has long been touted as the saviour of the modern corporate IT department. In the 2014 annual HDI 'Support Centre Practices & Salary' report, 23% of all organisations planned to add self-service technology for the first time.

However, 24% of companies that have invested in self-service technology are planning to change or replace their platform. The reason for this is often low end-user adoption.

For those that have made investment in self-service, the technology deployment side might have been seen as a success, the self-service capability itself is sadly anything but. Lower adoption and usage can only lead to a lower, or even a negative, ROI versus the projected benefits of self-service.

For those changing, what has gone wrong with their IT self-service initiatives? For those keen to make the shift, what lessons can they learn ahead of time?

Dissecting the failed self-service-initiative

There are many possible contributory factors to a failed self-service initiative. For instance, the purpose, scope, and desired outcomes of self-service might be misjudged. This often comes when there is too much focus on the mechanics of the project over the outcomes.

Alternatively the project team might fail to sufficiently address the people issues involved. This can include under-delivering on organisational change management aspects such as communication, involvement, buy-in, and ongoing education.

However, behind these factors is one overarching problem that is worth drilling down into. What often causes these issues is when self-service is designed, created, and delivered in the image of IT. More specifically, it’s where the delivered self-service capability is what IT staff would want to use rather than what the end user community wants and needs.

> See also: Technology and the customer journey: how far can self-service go?

This situation can be compounded if the self-service initiative was viewed solely as a cost-saving exercise – in other words, a direct replacement for more costly telephone access channels.

For end users, the self-service capability needs to be a better and easier experience than using the telephone channel. If it is not, then users will stick to what they know will deliver a better result.

At the same time, end users now have very different expectations around their IT services, driven by the consumer sites and experiences that the likes of Amazon and Google can deliver.

If corporate IT self-service projects don’t have similar access and communication channels for both services and support, then user adoption will be poor.

When these two factors combine, IT ends up delivering a 'selfish' solution rather than a self-service approach that benefits everyone.

However, these previous failures aren’t a barrier to continued self-service adoption

The HDI report demonstrates that the potential for self-service is there, and that more company IT teams are looking at this approach to help them deliver what their business organisations require. Indeed, many of these teams have to make these shifts in order to keep pace with business demands around service and support.

In order for more self-service projects to avoid the issues that lead to low adoption, it’s important to understand what those that have gone before have seen and to learn from them. Technology is shouldering much of the blame for low self-service adoption levels, but the real reasons for poor self-service deployments can lay a little deeper.

Yes, the wrong self-service tools might hinder more than they help, but the real responsibility here has to lie at the door of those responsible for agreeing on the requirements involved, selecting the technology, and making it ready for employee consumption.

This also means that IT teams have to look at the wider picture that exists around IT today – the rise of digital transformation programmes and more online services means that IT service has to change in line. Not recognising these trends can lead to future problems.

So what can IT departments do to become less selfish and more selfless when it comes to providing self-service capabilities?

Here are five tips to make IT self-service more selfless and customer-centric:

Think of self-service as a capability, not a technology.

One of the reasons for implementing self-service is that it helps people to meet their challenges faster and more efficiently than using a traditional channel. However, this often puts the emphasis on the technology deployed, rather than the service being delivered.

It’s important to think about the end-goal – better service capability – rather than the technology side. Much like apps and smartphones, self-service has to 'just work' without drawing attention to the technology underpinning it.

Judge self-service success on the difference it makes to business operations.

The oft-touted measure of 'end user adoption' is useful, but it’s not enough for a project to be successful. End users might start out with the new self-service capability, but this doesn’t mean that the self-service capability is actually a success in terms of delivering tangible benefit.

Instead, it’s important to think about other metrics like time saved for end users compared to waiting for service responses and fixes. By looking at the wider efficiency picture, it should soon become clear that there are more important results possible on top of any IT cost savings.

Learn from the mistakes of failed self-service initiatives.

It’s important to make self-service a success from the beginning, so that users continue to adopt the channel. This may mean starting out small and scaling up what the service can provide, rather than looking to deliver everything in one go and making mistakes.

Lessons from past self-service failures can also be learnt from industry peers or previous internal attempts.

Either way, ensure that those involved with the self-service initiative consult with peers in other organisations and seek out other industry best practices to better understand what to do and how to succeed in future.

Aim for maximum end-user involvement and understanding.

Don’t keep end users away from what should be a business and people-change project. A big part of why technology-driven self-service projects fail is the lack of end user and customer involvement – either projects do not meet actual end user requirements or end up too difficult for them to use.

> See also: Why the app-based approach is the key to efficient self-service BI

It’s the unfortunate result of not understanding end user wants and needs, and how they think and work.

Do more to encourage adoption beyond the initial launch.

A self-service capability should be treated like a living thing – it will flourish or die based on continued nurturing. Even if the initial launch goes well, it’s essential that IT departments continue to involve end users and customers, actively seek feedback, and stay open to criticism.

Over time, it’s important to monitor usage levels, improve knowledge base articles, and offer additional end-user coaching and training where needed.

Sourced from Simon Johnson, director of operations, Freshdesk

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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