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Top 3 signs you helpdesk is ready to enable self-serve support

Your company has a very busy support helpdesk. Tickets volumes are high. Support agents are backlogged. Your team budget feels stretched. Are these signs telling you something? Maybe it’s time to open a self-service channel for your employees. It’s hard to know when the right time is to launch such a strategy. Well, there are three fairly strong indicators that you’re ready. Here they are.

Your support agents are unhappy

Look, we understand. Working on an IT helpdesk is a tough job. But when the change in mood is palpable and you can feel daggers coming out of your team’s eyes, something has got to change.

Frequently asked questions, as simple it sounds, can be a tremendous source of frustration for support agents, especially when support seekers fail to follow protocols for resolution. They’ll submit requests through Slack (in the wrong channel, no less). They’ll email requests when they’re not supposed to. These things add up and people get unhappy.

Providing a self-serve support channel can help alleviate at least some of this stress. It’s not going to resolve every ticket, but the ones that qualify for this tier of service will be routed to a better place.

The metrics don’t lie

Not all the helpdesk metrics point to the opportunity to enable a self-serve support channel, but some do. Here is a fairly comprehensive list of many of the typical ITSM metrics that team leaders likely keep an eye on.

  • Support agent performance rating
  • Customer satisfaction rating
  • Ticket backlog
  • First contact resolution ratio
  • Time to resolution
  • Response time
  • Ticket distribution
  • Opened tickets vs. solved
  • Ticket volume

Of these, its important to keep track of the trend in ticket backlog to see if it is ticking up. Volume can be cross referenced with metrics related to first contact resolution and time to resolution to confirm whether there are an abundance of issues that might qualify for a self-serve support channel. If you are seeing data that the same FAQs are generating tickets, and these things are qualified for self-service, its time to start exploring this channel.

The variable costs associated with running a IT support helpdesk are tied to support agent headcount and ticket volume. You might hire more agents to deal with increased ticket volume, but that doesn’t work forever. It becomes undesirably costly for a non-revenue generating function to continue to add headcount without a self-service plan in place.

With this in mind, its important to review these metrics and dive deeper than just the top-line number to understand the drivers of the metrics in order to uncover opportunities to streamline and reduce costs.

You’ve got the data… and the documentation to back it up

Establishing a self-serve support channel isn’t something that can be turned on overnight without planning. You need to spend time tracking which issues arise, and build a knowledge base that supports self-serve resolution of these repeated issues. Even if you wanted to proactively start a self-serve channel, it would be impossible without making careful choices (that will have longer term implications). Take these considerations for example:

  • Where will you store you knowledge (Google Drive, Sharepoint, Confluence, Dropbox, etc)?
  • Who will maintain it so that it is verified, up-to-date and accurate?
  • How will it be accessed (via browser, Slack, mobile device)?
  • What are the security considerations (can support seekers access it remotely or do they have to be on-premises)?
  • How can new knowledge be captured, searched and shared?

This is just a few of the common considerations one might need to plan for to build the documentation channel infrastructure required to launch a self-serve portal.

In conclusion, launching a self-serve support strategy requires a holistic audit of the state of affairs with a company with respect to its support operations. That generally starts with understanding support agent’s workload and job satisfaction, a deep understanding of the statistical and financial metrics of the cost center, and finally, a plan for deploying documentation.