People now expect easy, self-service capabilities — be it for banking or applying for a job — on their mobile devices. Content management professionals within digital-first organizations are the ones who fulfill this need. They create opportunities for users to safely carry out daily routines, such as filling out forms, without having to wait for help from administrative or customer service staff.

To make this process convenient, self-service sites typically draw on a repository to supply answers to people’s questions or to collect their input. This means self-service, like collaboration and other centers of activity, depends on a well-managed and accessible storehouse of information.

Self-service, along with process automation, is a priority for many companies, not only for the convenience it delivers in the remote user experience but also the potential cost savings resulting from the automation of routines and reduction to the administrative burden. People often prefer a self-service experience over personal support, and therefore expect it to be a standard part of any organization’s website experience. Millennial and Generation X users have grown up with self-service models. And the recent move to more remote workers and non-traditional staff means companies need a more effective and digital way for their workforce to connect. But not all companies are doing self-service effectively.

What Self-Service Technologies Deliver for Employees and Customers

Self-service portals provide information and resources to help users — customers and employees — find answers and resolve issues. While they cannot entirely replace personal support, self-service portals can handle many straightforward requests, freeing up support staff for more complex situations.

The content which the portals draw on should be organized, labelled and regularly maintained so that users feel confident they are accessing current and accurate information. Content may come in the form of video tutorials, knowledge base, frequently asked questions (FAQs), user forums, procedure guides and more.

Portal technology could be integrated within systems such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems or content management service suites, or they could be standalone technology, with ties to multiple repositories across the organization. Setting up and maintaining the portal takes time and effort. Self-service systems should allow users a range of functions including:

  • Easy-to-use search.
  • Mobile-friendly access.
  • Log-ins to secure areas containing their own private information.
  • Request submissions, such as employees requesting vacation time.
  • Managing profile data, for example, customers updating their own account and billing information.
  • Finding the right customer support resources.
  • Chat and participating in community forums.
  • Finding troubleshooting information, for example, watching a video to instruct them in assembling a product.
  • Browsing the range of services and information available.
  • Chatbots which can use recorded templates to answer common questions. Ideally, AI-based chatbots should be able to discern when they cannot answer the queries and re-route the call to a live agent.

Related Article: How a Unified IT Service Management Strategy Improves Employee Retention

Learning Opportunities

The Importance of Content Management in a Self-Service World

Getting the content side right is key to a successful self-service portal. Managing documents for self-service should include the following features:

  • Web forms: Users should be able to fill in forms on any device without having to print them off or attach to email. Non-technical users should have the ability to create online forms and integrate data with back-end systems;
  • Electronic signature (e-signature): Users should also have the ability to add their signature to electronic forms and documents while complying with legal requirements for authenticating identity;
  • Data ‘room’ or inbox: Provide users with a secure place to exchange documents,  even if they don't have a company email address;
  • Security: Portals require user authentication, access controls and more to ensure all interactions are secure and auditable;
  • Integration: Self-service portals may draw on and feed several repositories, such as CRMs and document management systems. Updates entered through the portal should automatically sync up  with the content repository so no one has to manually update information.

Saving time for users is the most valued thing a company can do to build trust and loyalty. The next generation of self-service expands beyond sharing knowledge and product FAQs to meet this need. By combining self-service with process automation, users can more quickly submit, update and access documents or perform operations like resetting their password.

Related Article: Is Microsoft Teams the Portal We've Been Looking For?

Getting Self-Service Right

Organizations need to prioritize self-service and invest in a strategic, customer-focused approach: understanding users’ needs, setting clear goals for self-service and automation, designing for an intuitive self-service experience, monitoring for opportunities to improve the service and helping users adopt the self-service technology.

Applying sound content management practices can help deliver clear, concise information via the self-service experience. Such practices include:

  • User-friendly, not technical, language.
  • Uncluttered, easy-to-scan sites and documents.
  • Findable, organized information, for example, the titles on procedures should anticipate and match the questions entered into the portal.
  • User-centric site layout.
  • Tags (metadata) on information and sites to produce good search results.
  • Up-to-date content, that satisfies customers’ information needs and that grabs the attention of new visitors and search engines.
  • Consistent messages and functionality, for example, keep page appearance and features similar across the site.
Use analytics and feedback mechanisms to continuously monitor and improve the self-service portal's experience and content. People often turn to portals at a time when they need help. By quickly providing solutions, user-focused self-service and clear content, your portal will not only provide cost-savings but also grow performance results and build brand loyalty.

fa-solid fa-hand-paper Learn how you can join our contributor community.