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Why you need a self-service portal

Self-service portals are some of the most valuable tools in the IT service management (ITSM) toolkit. A well-implemented portal can make complex workflows simpler, faster, and more effective for everyone involved. 

However, you need to get the implementation right. A poorly implemented portal can be a significant drain on corporate resources and your employees’ time. 

So what exactly is a self-service portal, and why would your company want to implement one? We explain all that and more in this article. 

Self-service portals make work easier for everyone 

A self-service portal is a software interface—today, most commonly a web app—that allows internal and external customers to request different services from your company. For example, an employee could request for IT to provision a laptop to a new employee. Or the sales team could request a new company credit from accounting. 

Self-service portals are a core component of IT service management processes. The purpose of implementing a portal instead of relying on human agents to manage all requests is to resolve common problems and answer common questions as efficiently as possible.  

Self-service portals help free up service employees to take on more complicated issues or work on innovations to help the company grow. Once on the portal, customers can help themselves and discover additional content related to their initial inquiry.  

Knowledge base articles, frequently asked questions (FAQs), and how-to content are key components of many self-service systems that help customers help themselves. 

Self-service portal features and requirements vary from company to company, but the benefits of using one are largely the same: faster service at a lower cost, while giving your service reps more time to work on higher-order tasks.  

Self-service portals are more cost-effective than traditional service teams 

Maintaining help desks and conventional customer service teams means investing significant resources into hiring, training, and supporting staff. Those staff may be highly skilled at untangling complex technical problems or calming down irate clients, but if those situations only account for a small fraction of the calls they field every day, are you getting the best agent utilization possible? 

Self-service portals offer a chance to save on staffing costs, improve client satisfaction and redirect human service agents to the calls they’re best equipped to handle.  

Self-service portals put your users first 

Today’s business users don’t want to wait on hold. They’re willing to be self-sufficient if it means faster service. Well-designed portals that provide useful information and expedite service are a valuable tool for keeping internal users productive and external customers happy. 

They’re always available 

Companies are increasingly employing distributed workforces. This trend was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but had been underway for many years prior. This increase in distributed workforces means having a way for users to request IT services around the clock is more valuable now than ever. 

A self-service portal allows remote users to log their requests any time of day, even if it’s the middle of the night for your help desk staff. Then, the portal can guide them through resolving the issue independently or getting their request routed to the proper service team to see it as soon as possible. 

Portals help resolve requests faster 

Creating single points of contact is one of the defining best practices of IT service management. Self-service portals are the most efficient possible single point of contact because they enable your users to potentially resolve a wide range of issues on their own before they even need to reach someone at your service desk. 

Because your portal tracks everything users and agents enter into it, you accumulate valuable information about problem types, assets, users and performance trends. You can use this data to modify your service desk to be even more effective in the future. 

They allow people to solve problems on their own 

Sometimes your users just aren’t interested in talking to a service agent. Instead, they are perfectly happy to resolve problems independently. That can lead to a reduction in service ticket volumes. Reduced volume allows your remaining service agents to focus on truly meaningful issues. 

Tailor your self-service portal to your company’s needs 

A self-service portal isn’t a “set it and forget it” IT product. It’s a living IT service in its own right.  You’ll need to customize the ITSM portal software you choose for your unique business environment, monitor its performance and adjust it according to emerging trends. Fortunately, reliable self-service portals can do much of this heavy lifting for you. 

Here are three specific things you should do to improve how effectively your self-service portal is adopted. 

1. Get the whole organization involved

IT service portals aren’t just for IT. They’re essential tools for meeting business goals across your organization. To determine how you want to meet those goals, you need input from stakeholders throughout your company. Senior leadership may have an excellent high-level perspective on how the company runs. Still, it would help if you had feedback from operational staff who can explain what does and doesn’t matter to users on the ground. 

Get representatives from every department together and solicit input about what problems a self-service portal might solve. For example, does the sales team need mobile equipment provisioned faster? Does the warehouse team need new accounts created within a certain number of hours of submission? Find out what common workflows are holding your company back and figure out which ones you can manage through self-service tools. 

2. Map out the user experience of your self-service portal before building anything

Good, codeless self-service portals are easy to build and modify. However, you should still develop a solid understanding of how users will navigate the portal before you begin building anything. 

You have your business goals sorted at this point. It would be best if you diagrammed the different pathways users will take through your portal—the sequences on menus, selections and text entries they make—when they need to submit a request. Ensure you eliminate any “dead ends” that might trap users with no way to complete their requests effectively. 

3. Determine your metrics 

A core concept in IT service management is continuous improvement. You need good data to improve. Consider what metrics you will want to measure while building your user experience paths. Will the data collected provide meaningful metrics? Will those individual metrics inform your overall ITSM strategy? 

Self-service portals are an essential business tool 

They’re no longer a “nice to have” component of your service program. On the contrary, ITSM self-service portals are fast becoming a crucial requirement for businesses of all sizes.  

As IT converges with other business operations and user expectations shift increasingly towards always-available self-service options, an effective self-service portal is a valuable must-have tool for managing your most important workflows.