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Design for an effortless self-service experience

Service consumers expect an easy, intuitive solution to their requests. Design your self‑service experience to minimize effort first, delight your consumers second.

Key insights

  • Instead of focusing on consumer delight, focus on making self‑service effortless.
  • Take a mobile‑first approach when designing the user interface.
  • Build advanced search capabilities to help users find what they need faster.
  • Use in‑context personalization to highlight relevant needs.

Self‑service is a choice for users. A satisfactory user experience—often misinterpreted too narrowly as providing pleasing aesthetics or graphic design—isn’t sufficient to drive lasting self‑service adoption. To get your service consumers on board with your solution, you need to deliver an effortless experience, one that lets users achieve their desired outcomes with minimal effort using an intuitive, easy‑to‑use interface. To reach this goal, you need to measure the effort your consumers put toward accomplishing tasks.

Measure consumer effort

Step 1: Design an intuitive, easy‑to‑navigate user experience

When service consumers go to service reps for help, they’re typically not asked to choose from a long menu. But when they try to self‑serve, they’re often handed a long taxonomy to navigate, or they’re asked to run through multiple, confusing forms to get to their desired outcome. Effective self‑service solutions provide an intuitive user interface that minimizes both the effort of navigation and the mental effort required to understand jargon‑heavy forms.

Make self‑service easy to find and access

Consumers often are required go to through different platforms to access individual self‑service applications like HR, IT support, or finance. Or they have to browse through multiple solutions that may include the Knowledge Base, videos, communities, and Service Catalog. Effective approaches create a single portal, like the ServiceNow Service Portal, that houses all the self‑service solutions and content across the organization.

The self‑service experience must be smooth—not just in terms of look and feel but also in terms of access. We encourage our customers to configure their Service Portal based on corporate branding and to incorporate single sign‑on (SSO) so users don’t have to remember multiple passwords or enter a password multiple times.

Here are two great examples from ServiceNow customers.

Measure consumer effort

Based on research from CEB, now a Gartner firm, reducing the work that consumers must do to get their problem solved is a much better indicator of customer loyalty than customer satisfaction or net promoter score. The customer effort score is measured by asking a single question: “How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request?” It’s scored on a scale from 1 (very low effort) to 5 (very high effort).

To identify the areas you need to improve, conduct an in-depth effort audit by analyzing the customer effort score alongside measures such as repeat calls, transfers, and channel switching.

Measure consumer effort

Based on research from CEB, now a Gartner firm, reducing the work that consumers must do to get their problem solved is a much better indicator of customer loyalty than customer satisfaction or net promoter score. The customer effort score is measured by asking a single question: “How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request?” It’s scored on a scale from 1 (very low effort) to 5 (very high effort).

To identify the areas you need to improve, conduct an in-depth effort audit by analyzing the customer effort score alongside measures such as repeat calls, transfers, and channel switching.

Figure 7: A configured ServiceNow Service Portal that provides unified access

 

Figure 8: A service portal design with unified access

 

Incorporate design principles that provide a human‑centered experience

Instead of focusing only on aesthetics, ensure users can easily find and act upon what they’re looking for.

  1. Less is more – Instead of trying to provide all possible options, declutter the page to highlight the most relevant solutions and information.
  2. Speak in the consumer’s language – Avoid all jargon and use simple, nontechnical language to name and explain services.
  3. Clearly signal users’ next steps – Highlight each anticipated next step for the user.
  4. Make switching between pages and applications easy – Use menu tabs so users can switch between pages with one click instead of having to press a back button multiple times.
  5. Include interactive filter navigation – Instead of making users go through a taxonomy, allow them to filter and search for relevant choices.

Make self‑service mobile‑ready

Because people expect to access everything using a smartphone, it’s paramount to design for a good mobile experience. Instead of optimizing for a web experience and then trying to replicate it on mobile devices, design for mobile first and then apply the same principles to your web platforms.

The ServiceNow Service Portal uses a widget‑based page design that enables responsive mobile optimization and allows customers to organize content to design meaningful Service Portal experiences.

Service Portal

The ServiceNow Service Portal is an alternative to content management systems and a simple way to create a mobile-friendly self-service experience for end users. It provides a unified, intuitive way to access all applications, including the service catalog, knowledge base, communities, and chatbots.

Figure 9: ServiceNow Service portal page layout (Kingston release, out‑of‑the‑box)

 

Figure 10: Mobile experience on the ServiceNow Service Portal (custom design)

 

While the mobile‑first approach is extremely powerful in creating a good omni‑channel experience, not all service use cases are best suited for mobile. For example, use cases that require users to fill long forms are not well suited for mobile. Before offering self‑service use cases on mobile, carefully evaluate what the mobile experience will be like.

Step 2: Configure advanced search capabilities

With many different solutions put together, a service portal can get very busy and cluttered with technical taxonomy. A good search functionality goes a long way in helping people get what they need fast.

Figure 11: Advanced search feature on the Now Platform (custom design)

 

The advanced Zing text indexing and search engine from ServiceNow allows customers to configure contextual search to refine type‑ahead suggestions and provide “Did you mean?” suggestions so users have a more Google‑like search experience. While these functionalities are very valuable, for a good search experience you also need:

  • Resource titles and descriptions that match your users’ language  Users don’t always know the technical terms or industry jargon of what they’re looking for. For a seamless search experience, title and describe resources in terms of how users address them. Make good use of the meta tags in knowledge articles to add additional terms that users don’t necessarily see in the descriptions but that are commonly used as search terms.
  • Good knowledge management practices  If the knowledge base is cluttered with unmanaged, duplicate, and redundant information, good search technology is of limited help. (See Stage 3 for disciplined knowledge management practices.)
  • User access rights defined based on relevance  Often, search results include links to resources that aren’t applicable to the user. Instead, carefully define user rights for all your resources based on relevance, and only display records that users can access.

For more details on what to consider when building a good, searchable knowledge base, check out our Harness the power of Knowledge Search blog.

Step 3: Use personalization to solve for relevant needs

Personalization shouldn’t be superficial, but it should eliminate irrelevant information, offerings, and catalog items to reduce the effort of browsing through your Service Portal. An effective solution will anticipate user needs and focus on providing in‑context services proactively.

Use the personas and user journey analyses from Stage 1 to design tailored user experiences. The Now Platform lets customers configure user criteria for the Service Portal so they can provide a customized service page, widgets, and search results.

Knowledge Management

The ServiceNow Knowledge Management application lets you share information in knowledge bases. It helps you create, categorize, review, and approve articles. Users can search and browse articles as well as provide feedback.

Figure 12: A personalized ServiceNow Service Catalog experience (Kingston release, out‑of‑the box)

 

Figure 13: An advanced personalization experience on the Now Platform

 

Many support calls are made for known issues. Instead of waiting for the user to ask, use push notifications and Service Portal announcements to proactively alert users of relevant events and issues (see Figure 14 for an example). Allow users to also configure personalized notifications to organize their views based on their preferences.

The next wave of self-service: Chatbots

Chatbots are artificial intelligence systems that interact with users via messaging, text, or speech using sophisticated natural language processing algorithms to simulate human conversations. According to a recent report by Grand View Research, 45% of users prefer chatbots as the primary mode of communication for customer service activities. In fact, based on a survey conducted by ServiceNow, 92% HR teams think that, in the future, chatbots will be the natural way for employees to find the information they need. Most chatbot customers want to enjoy the benefits of always-on customer service, easy or effortless communication, and getting instant responses to their requests.

Consider deploying chatbots for:

  • Requests with a well-known or predicted solution – Chatbots perform well with solutions that follow a defined decision tree. For example, your benefits FAQs might start with this question: “Which health plan is more suitable for my needs?”
  • Requests with multiple steps – Browsing through long online forms or websites can be daunting. However, with natural language processing, a chatbot can handle instructions with multiple data points as one step. For example, a user might ask, “Can you reschedule my flight to Santa Clara to next Wednesday for 3 pm and get me an aisle seat?”
  • Reminders and alerts with a follow-up action required – Chatbots eliminate the need for the user to log in to an app or website to complete follow-up steps, reducing the customer response rate. For example, when a user asks about a purchase request, the chatbot could answer, “The laptop configuration you requested is no longer available. Would you consider getting an alternate configuration?”

In our Kingston release, the Now Platform offers pre-built IBM Watson Conversation Integration with preconfigured catalog item and knowledge base search capabilities. In our upcoming London release, the Now Platform will have a native IT virtual agent (chatbot) with a guided user experience that incorporates interactive inputs beyond text.

The next wave of self-service: Chatbots

Chatbots are artificial intelligence systems that interact with users via messaging, text, or speech using sophisticated natural language processing algorithms to simulate human conversations. According to a recent report by Grand View Research, 45% of users prefer chatbots as the primary mode of communication for customer service activities. In fact, based on a survey conducted by ServiceNow, 92% HR teams think that, in the future, chatbots will be the natural way for employees to find the information they need. Most chatbot customers want to enjoy the benefits of always-on customer service, easy or effortless communication, and getting instant responses to their requests.

Consider deploying chatbots for:

  • Requests with a well-known or predicted solution – Chatbots perform well with solutions that follow a defined decision tree. For example, your benefits FAQs might start with this question: “Which health plan is more suitable for my needs?”
  • Requests with multiple steps – Browsing through long online forms or websites can be daunting. However, with natural language processing, a chatbot can handle instructions with multiple data points as one step. For example, a user might ask, “Can you reschedule my flight to Santa Clara to next Wednesday for 3 pm and get me an aisle seat?”
  • Reminders and alerts with a follow-up action required – Chatbots eliminate the need for the user to log in to an app or website to complete follow-up steps, reducing the customer response rate. For example, when a user asks about a purchase request, the chatbot could answer, “The laptop configuration you requested is no longer available. Would you consider getting an alternate configuration?”

In our Kingston release, the Now Platform offers pre-built IBM Watson Conversation Integration with preconfigured catalog item and knowledge base search capabilities. In our upcoming London release, the Now Platform will have a native IT virtual agent (chatbot) with a guided user experience that incorporates interactive inputs beyond text.

Figure 14: Service portal announcements and notifications (Kingston release, out‑of‑the‑box)

 

The next wave of self‑service: Chatbots

 

The next wave of self-service: Chatbots

Chatbots are artificial intelligence systems that interact with users via messaging, text, or speech using sophisticated natural language processing algorithms to simulate human conversations. According to a recent report by Grand View Research, 45% of users prefer chatbots as the primary mode of communication for customer service activities. In fact, based on a survey conducted by ServiceNow, 92% HR teams think that, in the future, chatbots will be the natural way for employees to find the information they need. Most chatbot customers want to enjoy the benefits of always-on customer service, easy or effortless communication, and getting instant responses to their requests.

Consider deploying chatbots for:

  • Requests with a well-known or predicted solution – Chatbots perform well with solutions that follow a defined decision tree. For example, your benefits FAQs might start with this question: “Which health plan is more suitable for my needs?”
  • Requests with multiple steps – Browsing through long online forms or websites can be daunting. However, with natural language processing, a chatbot can handle instructions with multiple data points as one step. For example, a user might ask, “Can you reschedule my flight to Santa Clara to next Wednesday for 3 pm and get me an aisle seat?”
  • Reminders and alerts with a follow-up action required – Chatbots eliminate the need for the user to log in to an app or website to complete follow-up steps, reducing the customer response rate. For example, when a user asks about a purchase request, the chatbot could answer, “The laptop configuration you requested is no longer available. Would you consider getting an alternate configuration?”

In our Kingston release, the Now Platform offers pre-built IBM Watson Conversation Integration with preconfigured catalog item and knowledge base search capabilities. In our upcoming London release, the Now Platform will have a native IT virtual agent (chatbot) with a guided user experience that incorporates interactive inputs beyond text.

The next wave of self-service: Chatbots

Chatbots are artificial intelligence systems that interact with users via messaging, text, or speech using sophisticated natural language processing algorithms to simulate human conversations. According to a recent report by Grand View Research, 45% of users prefer chatbots as the primary mode of communication for customer service activities. In fact, based on a survey conducted by ServiceNow, 92% HR teams think that, in the future, chatbots will be the natural way for employees to find the information they need. Most chatbot customers want to enjoy the benefits of always-on customer service, easy or effortless communication, and getting instant responses to their requests.

Consider deploying chatbots for:

  • Requests with a well-known or predicted solution – Chatbots perform well with solutions that follow a defined decision tree. For example, your benefits FAQs might start with this question: “Which health plan is more suitable for my needs?”
  • Requests with multiple steps – Browsing through long online forms or websites can be daunting. However, with natural language processing, a chatbot can handle instructions with multiple data points as one step. For example, a user might ask, “Can you reschedule my flight to Santa Clara to next Wednesday for 3 pm and get me an aisle seat?”
  • Reminders and alerts with a follow-up action required – Chatbots eliminate the need for the user to log in to an app or website to complete follow-up steps, reducing the customer response rate. For example, when a user asks about a purchase request, the chatbot could answer, “The laptop configuration you requested is no longer available. Would you consider getting an alternate configuration?”

In our Kingston release, the Now Platform offers pre-built IBM Watson Conversation Integration with preconfigured catalog item and knowledge base search capabilities. In our upcoming London release, the Now Platform will have a native IT virtual agent (chatbot) with a guided user experience that incorporates interactive inputs beyond text.

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