self service

The Internet Experience: Employee Self Service and Self Help

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Dropping the "IT" from ITSM

I recently attended an ITSM conference where I heard the words “…and when we get to real self help…” OK, almost 20 years since I first heard the term “self help” we’re still trying to get there! It’s true, back then the tools weren’t truly ready for real self help, so it looked like a few knowledge articles, then a password reset, then automated downloads…and so forth. The reality is that today real self help is possible, but often overlooked.

Realise IT’s True Potential

At the same time, today’s Service Catalog tools  are more than just a catalog, providing the ability to develop a web portal that is consistent with an organization’s branding, integrate into an existing web portal or to provide a single point of entry to the services provided by IT, yet not too many organizations are tapping into their true potential. Last time I talked about reinventing your processes when upgrading or implementing a new tool. This time I’ll focus on the area I set aside: Request Management but with a side of self help. If you have not yet achieved either of these or if you’re implementing a new tool with today’s robust capabilities, let’s look at some of the ways in which you can increase customer satisfaction, particularly as the user base becomes younger and far more tech saavy.

Stop and Look at the Process

Whether you already have a Service Catalog in place or not, it’s still good to step back and look at the process once in a while. There are really three areas to cover: 1. Catalog and self help design 2. Automating fulfillment and support 3. Benefits 1. Catalog and Self Help Design One of the major changes in Service Catalog tools is the robust nature of their content management capabilities,       enabling organizations to fully integrate them into existing intra or Internet web sites. There is a benefit to this integration, namely increased adoption if the catalog is well designed and eventually enterprise-wide (otherwise known as a “single pane of glass”). While some providers in the organization may have only a few requests that are linked off of their main landing page to the enterprise portal, IT will likely add or replace an existing landing page. That landing page becomes the portal for requests and self help in many of today’s tools, bundling incident management, request fulfillment and knowledge into the portal. Commonly these landing pages combine news and announcements from IT, things people need to know, a listing of open and critical incidents alongside the ability to log incidents, make requests or search knowledge. In designing this page, aim for an attractive site that offers value through many components:

  •  Easy access to news about changes in IT systems and policies
  •  A listing of open major incidents, with the ability for someone to indicate they are also experiencing the issue
  •  Ability to log an incident, through a generic form but also to log a common incident with just a few clicks (perhaps the company’s top 5-10 most common incidents)
  •  Ability to log common requests
  •  Access to knowledge, including the top 5-10 knowledge articles prominently displayed
  •  Password reset capability

While this doesn’t sound new, combining it with automation begins to vastly change the customer experience. 2. Automating Fulfillment and Support Once you’ve stood up a basic portal with your most common incidents, requests and knowledge articles it’s time to begin aiming for real self service and self help. Any request which can be automatically fulfilled should be. Consider the following requests which can be automatically fulfilled, most of which can be done on the Internet today:

  •  Establishing shared folders and inviting people to them
  •  Automated downloads for globally licensed software, free plug ins, internally developed software
  •  Automated downloads for all other software after approval (where cost is involved)
  •  Adding/removing people from shared calendars, collaborations spaces
  •  Provisioning of virtual desktops and servers
  •  Automated provisioning of access, after approvals have been gathered

Then consider automating self help, beginning with some of the following areas:

  • Password resets (I’ve cut a third of call volumes to a Service Desk with this simple item)
  • Ability to scan a PC for viruses, malware
  • Ability to run simple diagnostics, repairing issues that can be repaired, logging incidents automatically for others
  • Automated connection to a network printer
  • Scripted backups of hard drive data to a network share

Then comes Knowledge

Many organizations I work with feel they need to have an extensive knowledge base available before they can go public with it. Consider the 80/20 rule. It’s possible that 80% of your most common how-to’s and fixes can be resolved with a small number of targeted knowledge articles and scripting. Instead of trying to build an extensive knowledge base before you introduce knowledge, pick the top ten questions or issues called into the Service Desk and build a knowledge article around those. If you can script a solution to a common problem, include a link to the script in the article. Don’t forget to include the ability to log an incident from inside of the article in the event the user cannot resolve the issue. Let’s look at a few examples that combine self help and knowledge: PC Slowness: My PC is running slow and I see an article on PC Slowness on the web portal. As I read it, I see that the number one cause may be a virus or malware, so I select the “Scan my PC” link. When it doesn’t help, I see another cause may be that my drive is full, so I select the “Check My Space” link. It reports that I don’t have sufficient space. Next, I select the displayed option to delete temporary files. This clears enough space so that my performance is improved. Issues with Network Speed: Many of us know this can be perception, but I think it’s taking longer than usual to save files to the network and use some of my company’s apps. So I check this article, which indicates I should see the PC Slowness article first. After doing this, I continue down the article and select a link to check network speed and receive a message that my speed is slower than normal and that an Incident has been logged on my behalf. I want to access email remotely: I access an article containing instructions for configuring my email on my tablet, follow the instructions and learn that I also need to submit a request to register my device. I click on the link, supply information about my device and submit. The registration happens automatically and I receive an email confirmation that I should be all set. I check my device and find everything is working. 3. Benefits A well designed and automated portal will speak for itself in terms of adoption (oh, any by the way, while working on the design remember that a critical component to adoption is customer involvement in catalog and request design) especially as people begin to experience the Internet shopping experience at work. Given the rise in Internet shopping, it’s clear people will use a well designed website for shopping, so it’s true that they will do the same thing at work if the design is good and if they are able to get what they need from it. Automation is key to giving them what they need. The immediacy of having requests fulfilled immediately or automatically and the ability to fix problems themselves will keep them coming back. So what are the benefits?

  • Reduced call volumes
  • Shorter fulfillment and resolution times
  • Less expensive fulfillment
  • Higher customer satisfaction
  • Technicians better able to focus on incidents, problems

As you begin to look at implementing the Service Catalog portion of your tool, think beyond moving requests and knowledge over to the new environment. Consider starting from scratch and building a true Internet experience: one where people can fix their computing problems and get immediate fulfillment of many of their requests. One they will want to use again and again and again.

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Phyllis Drucker is a business process consultant at Linium. ITIL expert certified with over 20 years' experience in the disciplines and frameworks of IT Service Management as both a practitioner and consultant, she has also served the itSMF since 2004 in a variety of capacities including volunteer, board member and operations director of the US Chapter. She is a frequent contributor of knowledge to the ITSM profession, through numerous presentations, whitepapers and articles. Since 1997, her goal has been to advance the profession of ITSM leaders and practitioners worldwide by providing insight from her experiences on a wide variety of Service Management topics.