What is a Self-Service Portal?

A self-service portal is the 24/7 point of contact between the IT department and users, significantly enhancing the customer experience while accelerating and optimizing IT service delivery.

What is Self-Service Portal hero

Self-service portals are the interface between the IT organization and its clients—the company’s employees or customers. The primary purpose of self-service portals is to make IT services provision faster and enhance their quality while empowering end-users “to help themselves”. A properly managed self-service portal reduces the workload of the IT team, improves customer experience, shortens ticket resolution times, and ensures that quality support is provided anytime, anywhere. In this article, we’ll explain how the concept of a self-service portal has developed to its current form and cover the principles of building self-service portals.

Girl holding a lifebuoy - a self-service portal connecting users and technicians

Focus on End-Users

Let us first define some of the terms we will be using.
The main objective of an IT department is to provide IT services and ensure the smooth functioning of IT infrastructure. From this standpoint, all IT service recipients are their end-users – internal users (employees) or external ones (clients, contractors, partners). For example, in a dental clinic, both patients that use the branded app to look through the latest test results and doctors that keep medical records via specialized software are end-users of IT services. Self-service portals for employees and external users are built with the same principles.
To sum this up, a self-service portal is a web interface or a mobile app that helps end-users solve everyday IT needs efficiently and without outside help.

An Example of Self-Service Approach

Highly widespread practices that illustrate the self-service approach are knowledge bases and help centers. Users facing difficulties with a product or service usually go through the following steps:

1. Visit the provider’s website in search of a solution;
2. Search for relevant knowledge base articles;
3. Follow the recommendations from the article, which solves the problem (in an ideal world).

A brief history of Self-Service Portals

In the early days of corporate IT departments, employees and customers used phone or email to submit their requests. The requests were then taken care of by an assigned service desk technician. There was no unified approach to registering the requests and keeping track of their resolution progress. Often this was done manually, using sticky notes, Excel, or other tools that had their limitations. As a result, IT teams were easily getting overloaded and couldn’t achieve good turnaround times.

From Phone and Email to a Web Platform

In the next few years, web interfaces appeared to request help from the IT team. Two critical elements of emerging web self-service portals were a form to create tickets and a knowledge base. The former helped users describe the problem and create a help or service request without involving a service desk employee. And the latter – to find solutions to most common problems in a written form or as a video tutorial. It was a significant step forward in terms of having a more streamlined approach to registering and maintaining reported issues and sharing with end-users solutions for frequent problems. To this day, an overwhelming majority of self-service portals implement a combination of a knowledge base and a ticket submission page in one form or another.

Service catalog infographics

Service Catalog for More Automation

With a growing dependence on IT services within the organization, end-users needed ways to interact more actively with the IT department. Moreover, the services users requested turned out to be typical, and their delivery was easy to automate. At this stage, service catalogs were introduced. Before, the service desk agent determined which service the end-user needs, whom to involve in its delivery, and which critical steps are necessary to fulfill it. With a service catalog, there’s no need to do this job manually. Instead, the user chooses the needed service from the popular ones listed in the catalog as in a storefront. A service catalog is an excellent solution for multi-stage services, for which decision-making at each stage is easily automated. We will explain it in more detail below.

Users go Mobile—so does Self-Service

With mobile communication platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Telegram becoming hugely popular for daily communication, customers now expect IT departments to interact with them through the same channels. Influenced by the mobile revolution, self-service portals have grown into hubs with multichannel input. For example, unifying multiple direct message inboxes into one is now standard practice for self-service portals. Moreover, self-service teams release portal versions adaptive to mobile – in a browser or as a mobile app.

Request Resolution with AI Language Processing

Another thing that drives and shapes the self-service portals of today is the ever-refining natural language processing technologies. Artificial intelligence-based chatbots can process more and more requests written in human language. Depending on the request message’s content, the bot redirects the user to a knowledge base article, the service catalog, or the ticket creation form if the problem is new.

Enterprise Service Management: Self-Service beyond IT

The self-service portal is one of ITSM concepts that went beyond IT departments. For example, HR teams use self-service portals to automate routine workflows, such as onboarding a new team member, employee termination, and vacation requests. The self-service approach also proved highly effective in managing processes like equipment and room reservation, bulk company COVID-19 testing, and vaccination.

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The Components of Self-Service Portals

To demonstrate the self-service approach’s effect on the work processes within IT departments, let’s break down the key components of modern self-service portals.

Service Catalog—Divide and Automate services

The service catalog is part of a self-service portal that enables access to the services delivered by the IT team. For lots of these services, their delivery follows a standard process regardless of the case details, and this process can be automated. Granting logins and passwords to corporate subscriptions is an example of such a service. The system will give credentials to the new user according to their corporate grade, department, and level of security of their device. This service might require human help, but people involved won’t need to make decisions because critical input, like grade and department, can be obtained automatically. Service catalogs are best suited for such services.

Knowledge Base against Overload

The knowledge base in the self-service portal is a library of articles that describe ways to solve the most common user problems. A knowledge base may also contain important information for employees on internal procedures, like promotion system and learning opportunities. The most primitive form of a knowledge base is the FAQ page on a website.

Knowledge bases reduce the burden on IT staff and fasten the time from problem to resolution. The results of implementing a knowledge base are best visible when it works together with a chatbot or another means of AI text request processing. The chatbot suggests solutions to the user’s problem sourced from the knowledge base by analyzing their text request based on the previously collected data.

Help Request Remains the Core

While self-service portals add more sophisticated components, the form to request help from an agent remains at its core. The standard form requires the user to describe the problem and urgency level. It allows them to add more people to the ticket to keep them updated on the resolution process.

Benefits of Self-Service Portals

From the business perspective, implementing self-service portals brings the following benefits:

Saving costs by reducing workload in the IT team;

The main goal behind self-service portals is to improve customer experience. And they do so by granting ways for users to get IT services and support without immediate contact with the IT team. As a result, in the spare time, your IT staff may focus on more complex tasks instead of solving primitive, repetitive problems.

Improving end-users’ efficiency by providing more ways to solve their problems;

Self-service portals become a resource to educate users about IT services. Eventually, when your employee knows what services they are entitled to and that there is a place to ask for them, they will use it more often. With better IT support, they’ll be better at their everyday tasks.

Getting insights into the performance of the IT team;

Automating service delivery lets you gather more data, such as ticket resolution times, customer feedback, and all that, categorized by the type of service or the assigned employee.

Self-Service Portal in Alloy Software Products

We’ve been working hard to keep self-service functionality within Alloy Navigator up to the highest industry standards. As a result, we are proud to say that our Self-Service Portal implementation is available to your end-users in 8 languages: English, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

We pay great attention to the accessibility of the portal on every device. Customers can now enjoy all the features of the original portal via mobile, in the Self-Service Mobile App, or use Self-Service Assistant for Microsoft Teams to navigate some of the features in their work messenger.

There are much more possibilities within our Self-Service Portal. Book a demo with Alloy Software to learn more, or keep reading our Articles section.

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