Simplifying Self Service Is the Secret to Success

GettyImages-611788978Say that three times fast! Unlike this tongue twister, self service use is infrequent and likely not memorable for the user in the course of an average workweek.

For adoption to succeed, self service must be simple to use without instructions. Business users don’t want to re-learn how to use your self service site every time they access it.

You can gain significant immediate and short-term benefits by following a few best practices that empower your business users to gain the most from self service. Get it right and user adoption will increase. You’ll also benefit from enhanced user loyalty, less Shadow IT, and word-of-mouth endorsements for the self service portal.

Consider these best practices:

  • Focus on design simplicity

Simplicity doesn’t equal usability, but simple designs are typically easier to use. The 80/20 rule often applies to self service.

Eighty percent of visitors are seeking only about 20 percent of the content. Remove what isn’t used or doesn’t add anything meaningful. Once deployed, go back and track what is used. Move things used less frequently to an “out-of-the-way place,” but make them easy to find when needed. It may sound counterintuitive, but, rather than risk the whole experience being abandoned, provide fewer options to improve the chance that any one option will be chosen. Each additional option adds complexity to your business user’s decision-making process.

  • Engaging content

Ensure content is written plainly without jargon, especially knowledge articles intended for business users and your ITSM team. This also makes it easier to translate content if you’re serving a multilingual customer base. The more complex the language in your content, the more likely it will be poorly translated or misinterpreted.

  • Group-displayed items

Place things into logical groups—like all hardware or all software available for a Mac—so they’re easier to find. In the service catalog, highlight featured services or recommended services so they stand out.

  • Guide users

Enriching your content with product images or icons a user will recognize, videos, and bolded text can increase user engagement and help them select an option quickly.

  • Think white space

Too much information will overwhelm users and they’ll abandon self service. Create plenty of white space around items, and then use techniques to expand items so more information is revealed if required.

  • Offer optimal viewing

Craft your self service for optimal viewing and interaction across a range of devices (from desktop computers to mobile phones). Check each device view to ensure the reading, navigation, and interaction can be accomplished with minimal resizing, panning, and scrolling. Make sure the user experience is consistent no matter the device that’s used.

Those companies that achieve the best self service success rates are the ones that make their business users feel self-confident, self-reliant, and empowered. Every self service experience, every interaction opportunity, every process, and every technology chosen for deployment must reflect the requirements of the users it serves.

Help I’ve Forgotten My Password…again!

Reset my password!

I’m writing this blog while waiting for a response from whom I shall refer to as “Your Company IT Failed Me” to my email – “Help I’ve Forgotten My Password”. Yes, once again I’ve forgotten my password and “Your Company IT Failed Me” doesn’t have any way of recovering or resetting passwords, so I’m twiddling my thumbs waiting for someone to email me and get me back into the system.

Woolley Headed End Users

Meanwhile it got me thinking. How many times has that email or phone call hit that company’s call queue in the last month and how much time have they wasted responding in person? For many of you in service desk land I guess it’s a pretty typical daily occurrence that takes up valuable time of analysts. Analysts, who at the same time are getting frustrated and annoyed with woolley headed end users like myself, because we are stopping them from doing real IT work.

The Productive Power of Communication

Regular readers may know I tend to have a fairly eventful and at times rather entertaining business-travel experiences.  I’m not sure what I’ve done to offend the Travel-Gods, – perhaps I’m somewhat behind in my sacrificial offerings – but generally when I travel if things can go wrong, for me they frequently do.

To be fair, it’s never my fault. I’m always on time, always leave plenty of time. Never forget my passport or laptop (although there was once an unfortunate forgotten-underwear incident, although that’s a story for another time). However, I do seem to get more than my fair share of travel changes, holdups and unexpected reschedules. I’m also intimately familiar with the maintainenance routines, de-icing and now also electrical fuse-boxes on airplanes.

I’ve learnt a thing or two about being at the customer-end of a service interruption, and it has got me thinking about how in the world of IT Service Management, communicating the right information makes a huge impact on the productivity of the enduser/customer.

Let me illustrate with a real example. A week or two back I found myself at London Waterloo train station about 10 p.m. ready to jump on the train to take me back home. When I arrived at the station to get my return train it quickly became apparent that all was not well. The departure boards – and there are many at Waterloo – were all flashing DELAYED. Crowds of people were standing in front of the display boards, staring up at the boards. Of course I joined them and quickly spotted the train I had hoped to be catching listed up there – alongside the words DELAYED.  Now, each train did have a departure time listed – but it quickly became apparent as time passed that this was theTrain Timetable original listed time and that soon passed into history and irrelevance.

Two hours passed. No trains arrived or left.

What did I do?  I did the same as everyone else. I stood gazing slack-jawed up the announcement boards, looking at the word DELAYED flash next to the train that I was waiting for.

The problem was that although I had STATUS information, I had nothing else. STATUS alone doesn’t let you decide the right course of action.

Occaisonally there was an announcement over the tannoy, and a largely distorted alien voice mumbled something with the word ‘…power failure… all trains temporarily halted… as soon as we know… apologise…’

So I knew INFORMATION on the fault – not that I cared greatly – and I knew the status. But I didn’t know any TIMESCALE or ALTERNATIVE, and that was why I had no choice but to stand there getting cold along with everyone else. In the absence of ‘how long’ I couldn’t risk going elsewhere in case my train suddenly arrived. In the absence of an alternative travel option I could only wait until I knew when my train would be ready.

The point I’m making here is one of communication and the effect of good and bad communication on the customer.

Let’s look at it from an IT perspective. If corporate IT is to be User Oriented, we must not only provide the right services, but also the right information to encourage choice and productivity. Even in a situation where a service is impacted or unavailable, the way we communicate can still enable choice and productivity.

So what do you communicate? When your IT services are offline do you proudly communicate through self service and email and other routes? Do you communicate STATUS? Most self service sites show service status don’t they? But thats half the picture. If you miss other vital pieces of communication then you can actually cause the enduser to freeze, just as all the passengers had no choice but to stare at the departure boards for 2-hours. You put the enduser in a bad position where they are hindered even more by our communication than by the service being unavailable.

It’s a little bit like the last blog I wrote where I talked about the concept of always identifying a next-action date. There are a few value items of communication that let you understand and decide and act. In this case these items are :-

STATUS: what is impacted

INFORMATION: what is understood about the impact, including scope and scale.

TIMELINE: how long it will be impacted

OPTIONS (alternatives, workarounds)

Imagine, if the train departure boards had said ‘Ian’s train home: DELAYED. Cause: Power Failure. Timescale: Until at least one hour from now. Options: No alternative routes exist.’ then I’d have been able to go into a coffeeshop or bar, have a warming drink and perhaps work on a document or send some emails. I’d have been productive. Instead I was unproductive and I got very cold toes. (Mind you, I did get this blog out of the experience so perhaps it’s not all bad).

If you are in IT, when you communicate to the business, remember what you communicate should encourage choice and productivity. Just another example of User Oriented IT.

Engage IT – Introducing Service Desk 7.7

Announced to the market January 21, 2013 LANDESK Service Desk 7.7 is the latest release from LANDESK, strengthening our portfolio of User-Oriented IT solutions.

So what’s this new release all about? Well, Service Desk 7.7 is the Engage IT release, which enables end-user customers to engage once again with IT in ways they want to—visually appealing, location-aware, picture driven support, and more. From the service desk standpoint, version 7.7 boosts the service desk’s ability to engage with its end users, other IT teams, and the business through greater service visualization, best practise reporting, project portfolio driving IT Service management improvement and customer satisfaction.

Why is engagement so important? Well in case you missed it, the world has changed. It’s no longer enough for IT to focus on the traditional cost cutting objectives that were once the pervasive mindset. In the age of IT and Service consumerization it’s too easy for end-user customers to find their own IT solutions elsewhere. Whether you call it the Engage IT Service Desk 7.7consumerization of IT, the consumerization of services or just BYOD it’s evident that if you don’t provide the services or IT tools that customers want they will go elsewhere.

Understanding your customers and how they want to work and making sure the service desk operates wherever customers choose to work is all important. Plus building better business relationships means that you will be able to be more aware, respond faster and better to change.

Charles Darwin put it really well. “It is not the strongest of the species that survives,
nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Charles Darwin

User Oriented IT from LANDESK

Service Desk 7.7

  • Superior Mobility Solutions
  • Unique Picture Driven support
  • Best Practice, Certified Reports
  • Improved Language Support
  • Beyond Core IT Processes and Best Practice

Want to find out more about 7.7, watch the video

Self-service: Making It Work

I recently had a great conversation with our LANDesk account management team discussing our work to make self-service a core part of the way we interact with and support our users. Providing online access to the helpdesk is only part of the challenge, and achieving a genuine shift in the way that people access our services needs more than just a website.

While I wouldn’t want to claim that we have all the answers nor that what we’ve done is perfect (it’s not! – yet), we are really pleased with the progress we have made. And more importantly, it now gives us a foundation which we can use to make a real change in the way that we engage with our users – supporting our work to change the traditional customer | supplier relationship between ‘the business’ and IT to one of partnership, where we are working together effectively to support common goals. (see this post for my thoughts on how this can play a key role in making Bring Your Own Device a success)

Since we launched our DIY online helpdesk in the autumn of 2010 we’ve seen a real explosion in uptake. We deliberately started slowly and rolled out in phases over six months. Now, two years after we first launched, over 68% of user requests are submitted online and DIY has become a core tool for the organization. Because people are used to using it, it’s now a platform we can use as part of driving a real change in the way that users interact with IT and other key services.

The ICT homepage on DIY

So, what have we done so far to make this happen?

  • We started by focusing on getting the basics right: we prioritized the stability and performance of the platform as we needed our users to trust it before we extended its use. This took a little time, but was essential to make sure we had people’s confidence.
  • We made it a priority: key resources were allocated to the work, and we complemented their effort with real focus across other teams (particularly the helpdesk team) to make sure that work progressed fast, and that we redesigned processes with self-service in mind.
  • We took a bold approach: after the first six months ‘bedding in’ we switched off email as a way for almost all of our c 4000 users to report requests (making exceptions for a very small group of users with very particular needs). This was the big step which moved us from less than 10% of requests being reported online, to over 40% – and we were surprised at how readily people took to the change.
  • We are thinking holistically about the role of self-service in our overall service delivery: we have baked self-service into our business model, and even ‘internally focused’ work such as managing the process of making changes to our systems is being designed with the impact on self-service in mind (e.g. automating the process of providing users with information about planned work etc).
  • A key part of this success has been thinking wider than just IT: DIY is becoming the place to go for online access to internal services, including facilities management and communications support. This has allowed us to adopt a genuinely user focused approach to service delivery and contributed significantly to the number of people who use self-service. It’s also allowing us to join up processes with the user in mind, for example letting managers request building access for new starters at the same time that they request IT access. This needs to be something that we do more and more of . . .
  • And the most important thing we’ve done is taking an iterative approach: we’ve carefully aligned our work to link in with organizational priorities, and released improvements rapidly over time. This has avoided getting caught in the trap of excessive complexity, which was a real issue for us the first time we tried to deliver self-service four years earlier.

Note: This blog entry was originally posted here. Republished with permission.


There’s a Right Way and a Wrong Way to Implement a Self Service

To implement self service the right way, there needs to be some thought of the customer side of the equation. Ask yourself what’s in it for the customer of IT and what do they actually need?

In a previous blog, Ian Aitchison wrote how self service is essential to the delivery of an effective IT service. LANDesk has many customers that have introduced self service to their organizations and have achieved significant savings. However, in listening to some presentations at industry events, I’ve heard horror stories of organizations that have invested significant resources in setting up a self service portal and suffered from lack of adoption by their customers. There’s a right way and a wrong way to go about implementing a service desk self service portal. Let’s talk about the right way to do it.

To do it correctly, there needs to be some thought of the customer side of the equation. Ask yourself what’s in it for the customer of IT and what do they actually need?  It’s easy to forget that in order for self service to be successful, there needs to be a win-win scenario for the IT organization and those they serve. To put it another way, your plan for design, implementation, and rollout needs to be customer focused in order to be adopted by users. In addition, the overriding culture of the organization will play a key part in the successful adoption of this service and it shouldn’t be ignored in the planning and rollout.

Getting the basics right is important. Customers need to feel that they can trust the performance of the systems that are running your self-service to deliver what they need quickly as well as having a system that is simple and easy to use. Thinking holistically about how self service fits in with the rest of your IT services, processes, and policies is also crucial to ensure that customers don’t feel they are getting a different experience and that the service desk doesn’t end up managing two separate services with two separate sets of processes. The best advice I’ve heard recently from a customer is to take small steps. For example, no matter how tempting, it may not be wise to implement Self Service and Service Catalogue at the same. Doing one at time helps ensure that you can adjust or enhance the service based on customer feedback.

Even if you have done all the right things like working with the business to ensure it meets the needs of your customers, ensuring your platform is performing to a high standard, easy to use, and delivers a good customer experience is just the start of successful adoption. Your customer-facing launch requires the visible backing of senior management so that the business knows it’s a priority. It requires continual communication to remind your customers that it’s there to be used, how to use it, what’s in it for them if they use it, and how the business as a whole is benefiting.

Finally, the thing that has made some of our customers most successful is the fact that they have adopted a continual improvement approach. They invest the time to measure success against objectives and, if necessary, adjust the service as required.

To see how some of LANDesk customers have successfully implemented self service, check out the following success stories.