Making the Case for Self-Help

HDI (formerly Help Desk Institute) recently released its 2009 Practices and Salary survey and reports that an incident resolved via the telephone costs $22, while an incident resolved via self-help costs $12. Furthermore, 11 percent of the organizations surveyed report that self-help tools are prompting a decrease in the number of incidents reported to the Service Desk. Having said that, these organizations also report that only three percent of incidents are resolved via self-help.

With the Baby Boomers retiring and technically savvy Gen Y joining the workforce – and, oh yeah, the economy – the time has come to get serious about self-help as a support channel.

Many think the solution lies in finding and installing the right technology; however, new technology projects often fail from a lack of preparation and management. Here’s where the four Ps come in to play. Introduced in the ITIL Service Design publication, the four Ps – in the context of self-help – include:

People – How can you incent people to capture and share their knowledge and to use self-help and Knowledge Management Systems?

Processes – How can you take a more formal approach to processes such as Request Fulfillment, Problem Management, and Knowledge Management?

Products – What tools can you use and how can you integrate those tools with existing technologies such as Incident Management Systems and web-based systems?

Partners – How can you convert partners’ knowledge and expertise into a capability?

In our busy society, people have become accustomed to using self-help and self-services. Our customers appreciate services that enhance their self-sufficiency and enable them to accomplish tasks at their own pace. Self-help can be as simple as a list of FAQs. Or, self-help services can provide customers the ability to search an online knowledge base, reset a password, or download approved software.

To make the most effective use of the four Ps when deploying self-help, you should first determine the roles of processes such as Request Fulfillment and Incident, Problem, and Knowledge Management. Then, determine the roles of the people who are stakeholders in those processes, including your customers. You can then determine your requirements, evaluate and implement the products required to automate those processes and enable people to fulfill their roles. Be sure you make the best possible use of partner (vendor, consultant, and contractor) resources along the way, whether by utilizing their self-help resources, or by adopting and adapting the experience and best practices offered by their staff.

Will all of your customers use self-help? No, and not always. You still need a great Service Desk on the front line. However, a well-trained Service Desk can encourage the use of self-help in a positive way, and promote its benefits. Benefits that go not only to your customers, but to your entire support organization as well.

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