Reduce your costs by increasing self-service

The cost savings of increasing self-service

Chris Hodder shares his tips on how you can reduce your ITSM costs by increasing self-service.

Speak to anyone involved in customer service management at a retail bank and they’ll have plenty to say on the topic of shifting account-holders towards self-service.

The banks discovered long ago that encouraging customers to self-serve can bring considerable cost savings, either by reducing headcount in branches and call centres, or shifting employees onto higher value activities rather than having them handle a constant stream of simple enquiries.

What’s more, the banks quickly found that many of their customers actively prefer to self-serve when it comes to simple requests and transactions, as long as it’s quick and easy for them. This creates a win-win: the business saves money, and customers are happier.

In the world of ITSM, the same principles hold true.

Learning to shift left

Doing this effectively boils down to good knowledge management: having a clear understanding of what knowledge you’re ‘shifting left’, and then being able to execute on it (without having silos of technical people who are in a groupthink mentality and not sharing their knowledge). To find out more about how good knowledge management can help control costs and manage risk, see our white paper on the topic.

One of the best ways to achieve this is to have a good self-service portal with appropriate information that is gathered consistently and easy for users to find.

However, a common trap that many businesses fall into is getting too concerned about having a beautiful-looking portal in the correct corporate colours, while forgetting about the quality of the information on the portal and the need to regularly update it.

For one client, we recently carried out an audit of their portal and discovered it had more than 450 live articles referencing systems they no longer had. None of them had been reviewed or decommissioned. In other words, they were about to do a big global relaunch of the portal with lots of articles that were wrong.

In this kind of situation, the best scenario is that your customers say, “I’m not using the portal anymore, it’s rubbish.” But the worst case is them saying, “I’m not using it anymore, it’s rubbish. And I’ll email the support staff to tell them: ‘Did you know this is out of date? What should I do?’”

If that happens on a large scale, there’s likely to be a huge cost associated with it.

Something similar happened with another of our clients. We relaunched their self-service portal for them after usage had dwindled to just 2%.

That was caused by them increasingly dealing with everything via email, so that’s what their users became used to. As a result, they didn’t handle their knowledge management effectively. And that meant there was no up-to-date information available on the portal. So the customers emailed instead of using the portal – a vicious circle.

Because of this, all the work and investment they’d put into shifting everyone left towards self-service was gradually eroded as usage declined over a period of two or three years to minuscule amounts. In fact, the company was looking to hire people to manage emails on the service desk, when they already had a good self-service tool that was no longer being used or maintained.

Saving time, saving money

The way to avoid this is to ensure you have well-structured catalogues that are constantly reviewed and updated. That way you’ll have the right information and user experience on the portal, meaning your employees actively want to use it – in a similar way to how checking your bank balance on an app is a far more satisfactory experience, for most people, than having to phone a call centre.

And there is undeniably a huge potential cost-saving in doing this, when you consider the incremental value of the time saved.

For example, let’s say it takes eight hours to create a knowledge article to explain to a user how to reset their own password. If that saves 10 minutes of service desk time per password reset and you get 100 of those queries in a week – that’s more than 100 working days saved per year. Now work out the ROI of that eight hours invested up front in the context of your own business.

Another example is where we helped a client to save 30 seconds per ticket by putting an extra form in their portal. They were processing so many tickets a day that these 30-second savings added up to half a day per week – or 26 working days per year. For them, this saving was immense.

The value of virtual agents

Virtual agents(VAs) are another great way of rolling out and improving self-service.

Here, it’s important to establish that we mean AI-powered assistants that are able to understand what users are telling them and respond accordingly – as opposed to pre-programmed chatbots that can only respond in a limited way to a list of standard requests and commands.

The former are growing in sophistication and people are becoming increasingly comfortable using them, as they experience them more frequently in their daily lives – for example, when interacting with an online retailer. In the best cases they often can’t tell if they’re communicating with a human or a robot. The latter can frequently lead to huge amounts of frustration as they are unable to understand nuances in language or requests that are in any way out of the ordinary.

And when good VAs are used in the right ways, the associated cost savings can be huge.

Our own, kia, can handle 2,000 chats a month, 24 hours a day and in 16 different languages – all for £1,000 a month. What’s more, it doesn’t need holiday or sick leave, and won’t waste time every morning talking to colleagues about last night’s TV.

Plus, it will interact in precisely the same way with every person on the system, so the quality of service won’t be dependent on how someone is feeling that day or how much sleep they got the night before.

I think most of us would be hard pushed to find a human who would work those hours to that standard for a salary of £12,000 a year – not to mention the legality of employing someone on that basis!

If you’d like to find out more about how self-service can contribute to bottom-line savings in your organisation, get in touch with us now for a free initial consultation.

Related Services