Your clients are not the same clients they were ten years ago. They’ve grown up. The gap between solution and end user has diminished as technology has become more accessible and laymen in turn more tech-savvy. This trend has been eliminating middlemen on its way to making solutions nimbler, quicker, and more cost-efficient. And although the IT industry hasn’t exactly been at the forefront of the self-service wave, it’s certainly making moves to become a significant part of it these days. Already 20% of all organizations are using some type of IT self-service solution.
In this post, we’ll discuss how you as a client management tool vendor can have the best chance to thrive in a market that will only continue to see tremendous growth. In short, your aim is to find the best ways in which to enable your clients (or, the end users who your clients represent) to solve their own IT problems remotely. Our perspective stems from a simple fact highlighted in Gartner’s 2015 report titled “Design IT Self-Service for the Business Consumer” that the majority of IT self-service deployments are not designed with the end-user in mind.
We’ll define first who the end user is, some of the reasons why the end-user has been neglected, and which characteristics solutions need to possess in order to satisfy the end user’s needs.
This end-user whom we speak of could potentially be anyone at all who uses technology in their work or personal lives, and who runs into the occasional hardware or software issue. However, for our purposes here, we’re going to pay special attention to the professional consumer (or, the business consumer), with the computer as his primary tool of interest.
This end user may be slightly more tech savvy than the general public, but he or she should still definitely be regarded as a layman. They primarily rely on their company’s IT department for help resolving issues, or they may seek feedback from online resources. In any case, they are not at all at ease when things go wrong with their technology, and are generally looking for a quick and easy solution to get them back up and running. Time is extremely valuable to the professional consumer after all, as is his or her peace of mind.
Now that we have an end user in mind, what can we consider as currently lacking from his perspective and in regards to IT self-service deployments? In a word: everything. The IT industry is still very much a new player in the self-service wave, and although great strides are being made to participate in the growing trend there are still certain lingering tendencies leftover from the prior era. Mainly, this concerns UI/UX, or what we might also consider user-friendliness. In the past, solutions were designed to make the IT departments of companies happy. Today, however, with self-service solutions, applications must be designed to make the actual end user happy.
The gap between developer and end user is an age-old obstacle. Designers and UX experts exist for a reason, though despite their apparent involvement we still continue to see end-user solutions that are klunky, unintuitive, counter-intuitive, and just plain unattractive. Since 2007, with the advent of the iPhone and the digital revolution, beautiful design and usability is what consumers have come to expect. So what’s the excuse in this day and age for substandard design and usability? Perhaps the answer to that is as simple as: 1) this is a rather difficult problem to solve, 2) those competent enough to solve it are few and far between, stretched thin by demand, and thus expensive. Still, solution creators who continue to gloss over the aspect of UI/UX for their applications will undoubtedly pay the price.
Luckily, the last few years have seen a tremendous shift toward placing greater importance on clean, beautiful, and intuitive user interfaces. Developers are no longer able to ignore the importance of it, especially if they wish to keep up with competitors and the exploding trend of immaculate design and user experience. This is good news for end users, or at least eventually will be, as technology in general will continue to conform to the needs of laymen. This shift is especially important for IT self-service solutions, where an impeccable user interface is crucial for professional consumers to be able to solve their own IT issues while on the road, working from their home offices, the night before an important presentation, etc.
Understanding the importance of everything mentioned above, we knew the key to launching SmartKey – our Self-Service Computer Repair Solution - was to enable a user experience that was on par with the capability of the solution itself. There’s no point in creating the world’s best consumer vehicle if your average consumer isn’t qualified or capable to drive it.
Beyond the usability of the solution itself, something else that should be considered in the effort to enable clients with an effective self-service IT solution, is accessibility. Consider the circumstances that the average professional consumer will be in need of such a solution. We can generally imagine situations where time and money have short fuses, and some level of professional opportunity is on the line. Given that, end users will expect nothing less than a solution they can get their hands on quickly and without a hassle.
This is where we come to understand how much sense a web-based solution makes. The web is everywhere and most companies these days have already at least made the effort to ensure their employees will be able to access the internet no matter where they are. With multiple devices and omnipresent internet access, accessing a solution from the web and downloading it will rarely be an issue. The entire process of accessing such a solution could be accomplished within a very short frame of time.
So we have a solution that is easy and quick to access, intuitive to use (even for a complete layman, thanks to impeccable design + user experience), and is high-performing/proven to solve the most common types of computer problems. The only other variable missing is how long does it take for the solution to work? How long is an end user willing or able to wait to get their PC back in operation? Our research indicates that an IT self-service solution should be able to complete its mission within under 60 minutes. If a solution can achieve this, and respects all of the other requirements above, it’s safe to say you have a great product with which to enable your clients to solve their own IT problems.
To learn more about the subjects addressed in this post, Softthinks is pleased to make its 2015 Gartner survey available to the public.