Does My Self-Service Portal Provide Self-Service?

By Pat Calhoun • July 8, 2020

Many customers have told me that they deployed an IT service management (ITSM) portal with the goal to shift left. Most of those deployments were driven by a claim by the ITSM vendor that a “self-service portal” is a necessity – just like water, electricity, and change management.

“Just create your portal and good things will come.”

What these same customers experienced once they deployed their portals was less than 10% employee adoption while inbound ticket count remained constant. When a self-service portal achieves less than 10% employee adoption and doesn’t deflect a measurable amount of tickets, can you really call that an employee self-service tool? I don’t think so.

Is My Portal Providing Self-Service or Self-Ticketing?

Self-service portals were designed to enable employees to use a search bar to locate knowledge articles that could answer their questions and resolve their issues without the assistance of a help desk agent. If they were unable to find a helpful response, they would go to the appropriate page on the portal and submit an incident or service request.

In practice, most employees that leverage the service portal go directly to submit a ticket – ignoring the search function. Why is that? The search experience leaves a lot to be desired. When employees types in phrases, they are presented with a lengthy list of potential articles that may, or may not, resolve their problems. The expectation is that they read through them until one is found that includes a solution to their issues. Very few employees have the time, patience, or technical prowess to do that.

I recently met a prospect who was experiencing the highest service portal adoption I have ever seen – somewhere north of 70%. Now, this was truly an outlier, but to their defense, they had gone through significant pain to educate their customers on the use of the portal. However, when we dug in, we found that their employees were simply being good corporate citizens by submitting their tickets through the portal. They were not leveraging the search capability and attempting to resolve their issues themselves. 

Employees using the portal to submit help desk tickets does not equal ticket deflection. However, ticket deflection is one of the top goals of implementing employee self-service tools.

Is My Portal Investment Saving IT Resources? 

Well, yes, kind of.

Certainly, one could argue that eliminating the need for the service desk to manually create tickets on behalf of employees does reduce the load on the team. However, in practice, what we have seen is that tickets submitted by employees are frequently not created correctly, which requires service desk resources to rectify (e.g., change the categories, severity, business service).

Further, in the above example of the prospect with high service portal adoption, nearly 15% of all incidents submitted were in fact service requests. This means employees did not take the time to identify the correct service request in the catalog, and likely went to the first link provided to open a ticket. Not only do these service requests skew the incident statistics, but these require a human to either close/reopen the ticket correctly or reassign the ticket to a different team for resolution.

What Is the Definition of Self-Service?

The definition of self-service is that employees receive answers to their questions, so they do not require the assistance of service desk agents. When that happens, the shift-left goal is achieved as tickets are deflected from the service desk. To properly understand whether an employee’s issue was truly deflected requires a very purposeful design that is capable of understanding every employee’s individual actions. Only by looking at every action holistically can one determine if self-service was effective (for that employee).

At Espressive, we recognized that the original “shift left” thesis was to empower employees to automatically resolve their own problems without any service desk intervention, and that is what we designed our virtual support agent, Espressive Barista, to do. Does it work? Well data speaks volumes, so I encourage you to take a look at the Solar Turbines case study to see how Barista was able to handle 99 agent days worth of tickets during the month of March alone.

Does this mean you should be throwing away your portal? Absolutely not. We believe that an effective automation strategy requires an omni-channel approach, and that includes AI having a presence on your service portal.

I’d love to hear from you on your experiences with self-service portals and automation solutions, so please send me your comments at

Redefine How Your Employees Get Help

Are you ready to increase employee satisfaction and productivity while you lower costs? We’d love to show you how.

request a demo