Darren Williams

Putting the 'self' in service: How to empower customers to do it themselves

October 07, 2013 9:35 AM EDT

Customer satisfaction is the key objective when delivering any sort of service, with most organizations focused on constantly improving their results (as I wrote about previously).

Today’s customer represents a unique profile. With the proliferation of smartphones and other mobile devices, most people can interact with service providers and conduct business from the palm of their hand. This breeds an environment of immediacy where instant gratification has become the norm. It has also produced an end user who is much more technically advanced.

When taken together, these two attributes create the perfect environment for IT self-service, a service option designed to meet the needs of tech-savvy users who seek greater autonomy and immediate results.

The right IT Service Management (ITSM) solution can provide the infrastructure needed to support this model. The challenge is selecting a product that will scale with your organization and provide the levels of service your customers will expect.

Here are three important tips you should consider when implementing self-service IT:

Know your user:  The easiest way to narrow the field is to take a close look at the people you need to support. The best technology in the world will provide little value if no one uses it. I recommend surveying your users about the different service scenarios they encounter. Determine the types of requests they would prefer to satisfy themselves -- you may be surprised.  Many users today are very familiar with installing and removing applications, conducting knowledge-based searches, and other actions. And often they would prefer to do these actions themselves rather than wait for an IT person to catch the ticket.

If you already have an ITSM solution in place, you can pull user reports to see what information clients are accessing the most and then identify how to evolve these processes into self-service options. ITSM Gamification is a hot trend highlighted by Gartner analysts, but it may not be appropriate for all of your users. Ask questions and implement solutions based on the actions and input of the people you support.

A single workflow may not meet the needs of all users, so tailoring infrastructure to subgroups within your audience is critical. For example, choosing a web platform that allows a group of users to make changes and add content themselves is a great way to streamline web updates. This isn’t something you would want to open to the entire organization, but for a selected group of users this self-service option works well.

Don’t recreate the wheel: If you feel like you’re scrambling to come up with creative ideas to market and encourage end user self-sufficiency, take a look around. Someone else’s big idea may be the perfect fit for your organization. A great example is the extremely popular Apple Genius Bar. Customers visit Genius Bars with their devices, they arrive with an issue or question and leave with answers and a solution. No need to call IT support. These types of self-service centers are appearing in private organizations. Employees take their mobile devices -- ultra books, tablets or smartphones -- and can access the resources they need to find the answers in an informal environment.

Another consideration is to leverage user behavior. Today most people are social media-savvy, updating their networks by the hour and living a life where they are constantly plugged in. IT can embrace this familiarity by allowing users to log into ITSM solutions using their social media credentials, eliminating an additional password and reducing the number of password reset requests.

Service anywhere: Users today are mobile, accessing personal and corporate systems from their ultrabooks, tablets, and smartphones. So making it easy for users to access help and resources on-the-go is crucial. With the right ITSM solution in place, users can log in, access knowledge resources, create incidents and download important updates without having to return to the office. This saves time and money for the organization, while increasing end-user productivity.

To leverage all these gains, the necessary backend workflows and systems are an absolute requirement. With an integrated ITSM solution providing the backbone, users can obtain the information and support they want in the way that works best for them.  And IT can process incidents and service requests quickly. It’s a win-win.