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Self Service Strategy for your Service Desk

Making the move towards self-service options for any Service Desk today is a natural choice. IT is becoming so user or customer friendly, and support departments are under increasing pressure to reduce cost of delivery, so letting customers do more for themselves just makes sense. Today, we all find ourselves carrying out tasks as customers that up to five years ago relied upon a physical presence behind a counter, or on the end of a telephone line, so why not apply that same logic to IT support?

The justification for the investment that will be required is relatively straightforward. It is easy to see that an incident that is logged by the customer, rather than the Service Desk will reduce the cost of logging to IT and potentially reduce the resolution cost of the incident by up to 50%.


In an environment with a customer base of 2500 end users, logging an average 3000 incidents or service requests every month, the cost of logging those incidents could be reduced by as much as £5 per call if the customer does it via self-service. A sample swing of 20% in this environment could give a return in the excess of £30,000 a year.

From that perspective the decision to move towards a more self-service centric model becomes a logical one. However, there will be some considerations that need to be addressed to ensure success of this new service model within your working environment, and a number of suggested steps to follow to ensure successful take up…


It is recommended that you engage with your customers to establish what functionality they would be willing to undertake. Ask some open questions to see if they would be willing to consider using this style of self-service. Ask for feedback: “if not, why not?” for example, may give you some clues as to how to overcome any initial obstacles.

Be careful not to scare the customers with a long list, but chose no more than five options to see which they would feel comfortable using. From a Service Desk perspective, look at the highest volume of incident types. Aim to IDENTIFY THREE TASKS or areas that self-service has been identified as a possibility from the customer base, which also will bring some benefit in terms of volume to the Service Desk.

EXAMPLES of the types of request or incident that could potentially be logged are as follows:

  • New Starter Requests
  • Meeting Room set up requests
  • New Equipment ordered from standard list
  • New Software ordered from standard list
  • New Software automatically deployed
  • Low priority Incidents
  • Training Requests
  • “How Do I…?” type questions



For the three chosen self-service options, think through how the customer is going to make the request. Identify the information that you can reasonably expect them to provide and the decisions that you are going to ask them to make. Try to restrict choice, by limiting the amount of free text that needs to be entered. Finally, establish how the customer will know that their self service activity has been a success.



The next step is to design the interface that the customer is going to use to register requests. This step has a lot of areas that will need consideration, including:

  • Browser access
  • User Authentication
  • Look and feel
  • Data help on screen
  • Data field authentication
  • Links to live support if required

The final product should be EASY for the customer to find, EASY to logon to, EASY to use and where possible, present the tasks one step at a time. Make sure there is help on screen to guide the user through the process, and a clear message of thanks when they complete the process successfully. Tell the customer what will happen next and when.



In practice, many self-service systems fall down when the customer’s request disappears into a black hole and is then poorly managed. This takes away the incentive to use the self-service mechanism, enticing the customer to revert back to physical contact with the Service Desk.

Avoid this with a clear support process:



Service reporting is the key to the success of self-service. The number of requests raised via the self-service route will provide continued justification of the process. A specific “self-service” flag should be used when logging the incident to link it to the self-service mechanism. Understanding where self-service is successful will enable you to propose similar activities for the self-service option.

Step 6: REVIEW

Using the Service Reporting process above, review of the success of the whole service becomes easy. Identify strengths and weaknesses, and make changes accordingly to try and increase self service usage.

The final part of the review should be to SURVEY THE CUSTOMERS that used the service, to see what they thought: Ask why they like it, and establish in what ways the service may be increased. It is also worth including questions in your standard monthly CUSTOMER SATISFACTION SURVEY to understand why some customers choose not to use the self-service mechanism.

Self-service is an EXTREMELY EFFECTIVE WEAPON in the support armoury of the IT manager or Service Desk Manager. When implemented effectively, it can reduce incoming activity on the Service Desk whilst maintaining good levels of customer satisfaction and confidence in the support provided.

But BEWARE! If implemented badly, the desire to get the customer to “do it themselves” can have a negative affect on the customers’ perception and be seen as a reduction in the level of provided support.

And REMEMBER: Start with a Small Range, Initiate Control, Test the Success and Increase the Scope.

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