4 Strategies For Motivating Your Customers To Use the Self-Service Portal

Everybody seems to be talking about getting their customers using the portal rather than calling the service desk. Getting them to actually use the portal without making them feel like you are pushing them away can be a challenge. The benefits of increasing the ratio of portal submitted vs. call submitted incidents are plenty but include:

  • Lower cost – Having the customer submit an incident puts incident classification into their hands, it does not take them any longer to submit the incident than it would if they had called, but you are cutting the labor cost in half by having only one employee involved in submitting the incident or request rather than two.
  • Level one availability – Getting your level one technicians off the phone for common everyday incidents and requests increases their availability for the high urgency, high impact phone calls. Got hold music?
  • Simplified follow up – By getting your users accustomed to submitting incidents via the portal, you can be confident that they will also begin to check the status of incidents or requests via the portal.
  • More efficient service timeframes – Often, a service desk has a blurred line between level one and level two technicians, getting some folks off of the phone (or on the phone less) may free them up for troubleshooting. You’ve got a talented staff, and they’d rather be doing what they went to school for than talking on the phone.

With so many clear benefits, why is it that customers continue to call the service desk phone, rather than going to the portal? Are they just resistant to change? Are they bored and need a phone conversation to spice the day up? Do they need to vent frustration to a human being? Do they have a favorite service desk technician who provides such excellent service that they feel loyal to that person? It could be any of these things or none of these things. Whatever the reason it is tied to a WIIFM (what’s in it for me?). For them to keep a behavior, there has to be some motivating factor that stands in your way.

How do we conquer a WIIFM? (With a better WIIFM)

Here are four strategies for motivating your customers to use the portal; each strategy has the goal of creating a more compelling WIIFM than whatever is motivating them now. I call this “creating a carrot.”

  1. Create competition – Never underestimate the competitive human spirit. One way you can harness it here would be to report on workgroups or departments use of the portal for submitting low-impact, low-urgency incidents via the portal. Reward the “winning” group with a pizza party or some other WIIFM. It is not a difficult argument that the long-term behavior change you are attempting to create will pay for the pizza many times over.
  2. Report on value – The business intelligence aspects of Cherwell Service Management® make data reporting a breeze. Build a dashboard that shows how your time to resolution has been affected by increased technician availability. Put the dashboard on electronic signage visible to the whole organization.
  3. Make the service they receive from portal seem better – With this, we don’t mean that you should provide lesser service to your call in customers. The idea here is that you would make the interaction so painless, so perfect, so fast and efficient that they cannot help but prefer it.
  4. Become part of the team – Get permission to have three minutes at the beginning of team meetings. Demonstrate how simple it is to submit incidents via the portal, answer questions they ask, and explain how much this simple change to the way they are used to doing work can impact the business and its bottom line.

You may be in an industry where none of these ideas will change behavior. Maybe you have another idea that would create a carrot for your customers—drawing them to the portal. The bottom line is that you have got to keep it fun. Everybody likes to have fun and everybody likes to win.

By Matt Nimeth

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