Will self-service make the service desk obsolete?

Consumers are rejecting call centres and helpdesks, preferring to search online for answers via self-service.  Is the end nigh for your service desk?

According to research from Nuance Enterprise, 75% of consumers say that self-service is a convenient way to address their support issues.  67% would opt for self-service rather than speaking to a company representative. 

Both figures are cause for concern for service desks, but it is the latter stat which should pique interest.  Two facts can be gleaned from the fact that people prefer self-service over a call.  Firstly, self-service has clearly become a viable option.  Secondly, traditional support is losing its appeal.

Research by Coleman Parks seems even more definitive, saying that 91% of those seeking technical assistance would gladly use an online FAQ.  However, there is a caveat and it’s a very important one for the future of the service desk.  Respondents to this survey said they would use an FAQ if it was usable and was populated with the latest information. 

The survey doesn’t explore this further, but it’s fair to assume that a large percentage of the 91% willing to use the FAQ would never do so again if it failed to solve their problem.  And this is why service desks are not doomed to disappear.  An FAQ or self-service portal is difficult to build, deploy and support.  A portal must be developed and maintained by people who understand the issues and the pitfalls.  In essence, the only department in the business that can build an effective self-service facility is the service desk.

Changing habits
Customers are not abandoning phone calls because they don’t like people.  They are abandoning the phone because as a support option, it is intrusive and slow.  Dialling a call centre or helpdesk means finding a number, navigating a call menu system, waiting on hold, and explaining the issue to the agent who logs it.  Only then, can the support process begin.  Phone support means you have to stop what you’re doing and engage with an often lengthy process.

Or alternatively, you stay on your computer and search online an answer.  Yes, this approach doesn’t guarantee a resolution, but it’s perfectly clear why it’s a preferable first option.  Rather than trying to fight this fact, service desks must embrace it and create a self-service portal that acts as the first point of contact.  This way, they can pour their knowledge and expertise into making the portal as effective as possible. 

As previously stated, this isn’t easy.  Building a successful self-service portal is time-consuming and challenging.   Your people won’t be redundant, they will simply be redeployed to the facility best placed to instigate the support process: self-service.

The right tools
There are no shortcuts for adding self-service articles that work, and there is no way of avoiding the manual task of maintaining and altering the content over time.  However, there is one massive variable: the tool itself.  The speed of building workflows, adding and altering knowledge varies greatly depending on the service desk system employed.

This encouraged us to invest heavily in our service desk software.  Initially, this meant rebuilding our self-service portal and more recently, adding the Customer Service Workflow functionality.  The Workflow facility means adding knowledge and support ‘routes’ which guide customers to resolution is now a drag and drop affair, with no coding required.

The difference this makes cannot be overstated.  Our customers are now able to build dedicated online self-help facilities and edit them in minutes as changes are required.

If you want to add self-service that works to your service desk, please arrange a demo – we know you’ll be impressed when you see how easy it is within Richmond ServiceDesk.

Service desks: going nowhere
Service desks must adapt to the habits of the customers they serve.  Self-service isn’t a threat, it is simply the logical first point of call for IT help.  Those who embrace its potential will be beautifully positioned to deliver exactly what the business needs from its service desk.

Eric Wright