Part 2: Resolve more cases with self service portal – support strategy and goals as fundamental control instruments

A new service or tool, like a self-service portal, won’t automatically perform miracles if you don’t do anything useful with it. You must decide on a strategy and get people to follow it if you’re to be successful. In this blog, I describe the most important elements of a support strategy the importance of setting goals using a self-service portal.

The support strategy is is an important part of the puzzle

Select the support strategy for your self-service portal

It’s not enough simply to launch a self-service portal and hope that users will stop calling the staffed support function and solve their problems themselves instead. If you want to achieve different results, you have to do something different. You need a strategy to help you. The support strategy should cover the entire support process and the delivery, of which web-based self service is one element and for which the Service Desk can also receive appreciation. If the Service Desk succeeds in integrating the self-service solution into the overall support offering, you have created good conditions for saving time for the staffed support function, enhancing service levels and also being able to achieve real financial benefits.

The most important areas in this respect that your support strategy for self service should provide answers for are:

  • What proportion of cases should be resolved via a self-service portal (goals and expectations)?

One key question that the support strategy should answer is how important the self-service solution is for your support delivery. How high are your expectations that self-service will resolve users’ questions, i.e. what proportion of all cases should be handled by self service, the so-called Self Service Use? You can get a rough idea by checking how many simple, recurring questions are currently received by the staffed support function.

Model: Self Service Rate – the proportion of cases handled by web-based self service

Model: Self Service Use – the proportion of cases handled by web-based self service

It is extremely important to set quantitative goals and to monitor key indicators in order to be able to provide evidence of the benefits of introducing a self-service solution. When self service is introduced, in the first instance simpler cases are transferred to self service and the staffed support function primarily takes care of complex cases. As a rule, this results in the resolution rate falling for staffed support, as well as the length of calls increasing. If you then continue to measure staffed support only, it will look as though the department is delivering poorer results. You should therefore consider the self-service goals with due reference to the department’s other goals such as resolution rate and cost per case. This will make it easier for you to estimate the overall support delivery, including those cases that are resolved via web-based self service.

  • Which areas should the self-service portal support? (content)

Self service can support all areas in an organisation, from areas such as software- and system-related questions to business- and personnel-related questions. But a self-service solution does not have to provide answers to all questions within one area, but should primarily answer simple, recurring questions. A good guideline is to have 10-20 guides for each area, adding more as required.

  • Which channel is users’ first point of contact for the Service Desk (SPOC)?
Model: Zero Level Support – the stage before the first level at the Service Desk

Model: Zero Level Support – the stage before the first level at the Service Desk

The staffed support function is traditionally viewed as users’ first point of contact with the Service Desk, for example by phone, email or chat, known as the Single Point of Contact (SPOC). To reduce the cost per case resolved and to relieve the staffed support function, self service should be the “new” SPOC. An effective support strategy is based on the introduction of rules on how users themselves must first seek help via the self-service solution before they are able to contact the staffed support function as the first level. Web-based self service then becomes the stage before the first level, and is therefore known as 0 level, or Zero Level Support.

ComAround’s survey from 2013 revealed that only 35 per cent of Sweden’s Service Desks that use web-based self service have chosen a support strategy in which users are forced to search in the self-service solution before they contact staffed support.

To create a natural contact flow, the Service Desk should integrate all of its contact paths, such as phone number, email address, chat and case registration, in the self-service solution.

  • Who is responsible for and who manages the self-service portal (organisational structure)?

Build an organisation for the self-service solution in order to make sure that it is managed and developed. Designate a system owner to assume responsibility for technical matters, a reference group to make general decisions on content and appearance, editors to write, publish and update guides, and specify who markets, follows up on and manages the self-service solution.

  • How will users gain access to the self-service portal (accessibility)?

Designate places in the user environment where the self-service solution is integrated for quick access to support, for example the mobile phone, the intranet, the case management system, the operating system, the web browser or other programs. The more places that are linked to the self-service solution, the greater the likelihood that the user will view it as a natural, self-evident option to use. To help speed up the launch, choose one or two of the easiest, most important places from which to set up the link. Add more places if necessary.

  • How and where do we market the self-service portal (marketing)?

Be proactive and market the self-service solution and relevant guides in selected channels. Draw up an annual plan for future support requirements, and make sure you update it during the year. The annual plan includes seasonal questions, such as “forgot my password” following holidays and planned changes in the IT environment. Staffed support should always refer the user to a guide in the self-service solution, regardless of whether contact has already been made by phone or email.

  • How should the self-service portal be followed up and updated (follow-up and administration)?

Set up procedures defining how to improve the content of the self-service solution in order to meet users’ requirements. Define a time interval for measurement and analysis. Update the self-service solution with reference to an analysis of, for example, search terms and phrases specified by users without a guide, guides with poor ratings and negative comments. If an answer is being looked for but is not available in the self-service solution, make it a procedure to create a new guide while at the same time the question is answered manually by the staffed support function.

  • Should we launch on a large or a small scale (launch)?

It can sometimes be awkward to launch web-based self service on a large scale. Many people have to give their approval, which makes it difficult to finish the job. If this is the case, start on a small scale, for example by choosing a small number of support areas, launching in a small part of the organisation in the form of a pilot group and/or making the service available from a small number of places. This means that fewer people are involved and you can launch much more quickly. You can also perform tests and make adjustments more quickly, and provide evidence of benefits. You can then add on extra support areas, users and integrations.

Thanks for reading my article. If you whant to read more in this area, read the whitepaper Resolve more support cases with a clear self-service strategy.

Therese Walve, Marketing Manager, ComAround

About ComAround

ComAround is a global software company that specializes in Knowledge Management and Self-Service. ComAround enable Customer Service and Support organizations to create excellent agent and customer experience by building and sharing knowledge across channels, using ComAround Knowledge Management software and expertise.

Read about ComAround Knowledge Management and self-service software.

Related articles:

Whitepaper: Using self service and KCS to reduce support costs

Part 3: Resolve more cases with self-service – Tool for understanding and changing user behavior

Part 4: Resolve more cases with self-service – the importance of support from management

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