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Consortium for Service Innovation

Build Proficiency

When we have strong adoption indicators with positive momentum and confidence from our adoption activities, we expand our focus to the Build Proficiency phase. While we continue to improve knowledge worker competence and the Solve and Evolve Loop processes, we begin to leverage the knowledge we have captured.

The Build Proficiency phase includes expanding the audience that has access to the knowledge base (typically to customers) and promoting self-service. In this phase, we also focus on the Evolve Loop processes to identify potential product, service, and process improvements.

As a result, we must expand the scope of our measurement model. The value we create in leveraging the knowledge base can not be measured inside the support organization. As we progress through the proficiency phase with the increasing success of self-service, our traditional transaction-based measures will not reflect the value we are creating. In fact, if we are successful with these initiatives, the traditional transaction-based measures will all go in the wrong direction even though we are creating more value for our organization and our customers!

Delivering Value Through Self-Service

With effective self-service, many customers will resolve their own issues, and they will also resolve issues they would not have bothered to call about. Overall activity through the self-service mechanisms are likely to be 10 times higher than the incident volume in the baseline. This activity is indicative of the pent-up demand for support information. We are improving customers’ access to information, and, therefore, improving their success with our products and services, at nearly zero incremental cost (from a content-generation standpoint).

There are numerous and compelling benefits in getting the customers or requestors to start their resolution process in the self-service mechanism.  The benefits are realized by the requestors as well as the support organization.   A well-designed self-service mechanism should be the path of least resistance and best results for the requestor, reducing their effort in finding resolutions to their issues.  And in environments where the requestor is known (sign-in or authentication), there is a huge opportunity to tailor the requestor's experience based on what we know about their environment and their past engagements.  The benefits for the organization include improved loyalty and renewal rates, reduced churn, and an increase in the total lifetime value of the customer.      

We emphasize web-based self-service rather than other emerging self-service mechanisms, such as the integration of self-service functions and automation into the user interface for the offerings, because web-based self-service (a portal) continues to be the most common approach.

Most of the myths about “why my customers won’t use self-service” have been proven wrong. However, there are a few environments (very few) where self-service does not make sense. For those rare situations, the organization has to find other creative ways to enable self-service. The goal is to enable requestors to resolve known issues with less effort than it takes to open an incident.

There are five critical elements to customer success with self-service:

  1. Findability - The content must be in the context of those who are using self-service (KCS addresses this)
  2. Completeness - Most of what we have learned internally must be available to self-service quickly; 90/0 (KCS addresses this)
  3. Access - Making it easy to access self-service for the users (integration of self-service into the offering interface)
  4. Navigation - Support browsing and searching, and offer easy transition from self-service to assisted (no dead ends)
  5. Marketing - A plan to rasise awareness and encourage use of self-service


For details on these key enablers please see the KCS v6 Practices Guide.

Consistent and effective customer use of our self-service mechanisms takes time to develop. Customer behaviors don't change overnight. While promoting self-service is an activity in this phase, the growth of self-service use and the resulting impact on the nature of the work in the assisted model will continue into the Optimize and Innovate phase. An increase in the ratio of new to known issues being handled in the assisted model is a powerful indicator of a successful self-service model. But it takes patience and persistence to achieve a change in the new vs known ratio.

Self-Service Measures

Measuring the customer experience and success with self-service is an art as much as it is a science. This is an area of continued focus and work by the Consortium Members.  (See Understanding Success by Channel for more on this topic.)

We want to understand the customer experience and the value customers are realizing from the use of self-service.  Additionally, we want to assess the effectiveness and health of our self-service mechanisms as well as the benefit it is creating for our organization. As we have mentioned, there is no single indicator that reflects self-service success. We have to look at a number of different indicators in order to have confidence in assessing the self-service experience. The following are examples of self-service indicators.

Indicators of value realized by the customer

  • Self-service use - the percentage of customers who use the web before opening an incident
  • Self-service success - the percentage of time customers find what they need in self-service
  • Customer effort scores - did we make it easy for the customer to find a resolution (survey)

Indicators for the health of the self-service mechanism

  • Time to publish - how long it takes new articles to be available through self-service
  • Percentage of articles available through self-service - of all the customer actionable articles in our internal knowledge base, what percentage are available through self-service?
  • Number of unique visitors/month (trend)
  • Number of visits or sessions/month
  • Number of article page views/session, views/month (trends)
  • Number of downloads/session, downloads/month (trends)
  • Number of searches/sessions, searches/month (trends)
  • Percentage of searches with results
  • Percentage of sessions that resulted in an incident being opened (or incident opened within 24 hours of a self-service session)

Indicators of value to the support organization

  • Cost savings - the value of resolving issues through self-service for which the requestor would have opened an incident. This represents a small subset of the total customer success with self-service. Sadly, this is often referred to as incident deflection or avoidance. These are not customer-friendly terms or concepts and have no place in our customer service vocabulary. Self-service is a customer engagement strategy, not an avoidance or deflection strategy.
  • Correlation of self-service use to customer loyalty
  • Cost per resolution offered (particularly interesting to compare cost of resolution offer via self-service vs via the assisted model)


While we believe the value of offering effective self-service mechanisms is far greater than the cost savings of enabling customers to solve issues that they would have created a case for, we also realize that we often have to respond to the "show me the money" request from executives.

To assess cost savings we have to use the triangulation concept. The three perspectives:

  1. Assessing Self Service Success: TriangulationVariations in incident volume – a ratio
    1. Change in the incident volume in the support center
    2. Shift in the ratio of known to new (70/30 to 30/70)
  2. Self-service success – surveys
    1. User survey to determine “success rate” and “would have escalated” factor
  3. Self-service success – clickstream analysis
    1. Observed behavior in self-service
    2. Click stream patterns and probabilities

Each of the three indicators on their own have ambiguity… But, together we can use them to triangulate on an incident avoidance that we have confidence in.

Customer Journey Mapping is another very helpful tool that enables us to visualize and assess the customer experience. 

Delivering Value Through Broad Organizational Improvements

Now that we have captured most of what we know in the knowledge base, the analysis of the use of the knowledge can provide valuable insights about our products, services, processes, and policies. We refer to these collectively as opportunities for organizational improvement.

External to the support organization but internal to the organization at large, we can identify improvement opportunities for the respective owners of the products, services, processes and policies. It is the Knowledge Domain Analysis that the Knowledge Domain Experts (KDEs) facilitate that identifies these opportunities. The KDEs identify high-value content, content gaps, and optimal diagnostic or procedural information.

Through the Knowledge Domain Analysis activities, article reuse patterns and trends enable the KDEs to identify the issues that are the most disruptive to the customers. These improvement opportunities along with quantifiable data is a powerful new way to influence organizational learning and improvement based on the customers' experience. Access to this data provides an opportunity to develop new cross-functional, customer-based measures. Our broader impact on organizational learning and improvement is a primary benefit of the KCS Evolve Loop processes.

For more information on Knowledge Domain Analysis and the role of the KDE see the KCS v6 Knowledge Domain Analysis Reference Guide.

The value that support creates cannot be measured inside the support organization.

Once upon a time, the support transaction (the incident or case) was everything; it was the primary unit of work as well as the basis for a measure of success for support organizations. As we expand our focus from the Proficiency phase to the Optimize and Innovate phase, the transaction is still interesting, but its value is relatively small in comparison with the value we create by leveraging the knowledge base through self-service and identifying organizational improvements based on article reuse patterns. The Proficiency phase introduces an expanded scope and new measures for the value support creates.

Proficiency Indicators

See Proficiency Indicators in the Indicators of Transformation table.

When all the KCS Solve and Evolve Loop processes are in place and functioning and we have captured most of what we know in the knowledge base for a given domain....we are ready to expand our focus to the Optimize and Innovate phase.

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