• David Tessaro

7 Ways to Increase Portal Adoption (with the portal you already have)

It happens. You planned and perfected an amazing Service Portal in ServiceNow. You followed every best practice and met every requirement that was asked of you, and then some. It’s beautiful. It’s modern. It’s intuitive.

And no one is using it.

The benefits of a well-made Service Portal are HUGE! Enabling your users through self-service saves tons of money. But if adoption is low, that return will never be realized. So, let’s talk about some things you can do to increase your Service Portal adoption and make that investment worth it.

#1 – Articulate the Benefits

Let’s start with the most important step. Users will not adopt a new tool unless you can answer one question for them; “What’s in it for me?”

Portal users will inevitably question whether this is just a tool you want them to use, or this is something that will truly add value to their lives. Can you effectively articulate what that value is? Here are some sample questions you can ask yourself to start visualizing the value your portal can provide:

  1. Why would a user prefer to submit an issue or question through the portal, when they can just call or email us?

  2. How much time do my users spend on the phone requesting more information and providing status updates?

  3. Are users happy to perform basic troubleshooting to resolve their own issues? (Hint: Yes, they are. Fact.)

  4. Do managers and team leads sit in meetings all day without the ability to communicate with the help desk?

  5. How many people still use ineffective equipment or applications just because they don’t know they can request it?

When you know your portal’s value and you’re ready to get the word out, don’t be cheap. You invested in something great, but that investment isn’t over. You still need to maintain it and of course, market it. Check out suggestion #3 for tips on getting the word out. But what is that word?

Try to avoid using clichés like “HR at your fingertips” or “Service at the click of a mouse”. Ugh. Gag me with a portal widget. Instead, give realistic examples of the practical, tangible benefits. If you need some one-liner examples, try:

  1. Get help, answers, and updates wherever you are

  2. Request upgrades and replacements from the road

  3. Live chat support – 24/7 – Anything you need

  4. Looking for some wordier verbiage you can slap on a sign?

Looking for some wordier verbiage you can slap on a sign?

  1. Tired of calling the Help Desk? Order new stuff and get your old stuff fixed any time of day. Visit Cerna Self Service from any company device to get started.

  2. Wouldn’t you rather fix it yourself than wait on the help desk? Find quick solutions to your most common problems by visiting Cerna Self Service.

  3. Get answers faster and track live ticket progress from your desk or your phone using the new Cerna Self Service portal.

If you’re still having trouble determining this yourself, use these next six suggestions for finding value to add.

BOTTOM LINE: If you can’t tell a user what’s in it for them, then you can’t tell them to use your portal.

#2 – Talk to Your Users

We can’t even begin to strategize portal adoption until we talk to stakeholder numero uno; the end-user, your customer. We must have a relationship with them if we expect to provide them value. Relationship means talking – or so my girlfriend wants to believe…

This may sound like a time-consuming activity, but a small sampling is all you need. In fact, you can learn over 60% of what you need to know from just talking to two users.

Getting your sampling is easy. They’re calling the help desk, sending emails, and stopping by all the time. Follow up with these users and find out why they didn’t. Maybe there’s a technical problem, or a usability flaw. But most likely, there is a shared uncertainty among your users of what the portal is capable of.

Be brave. Seek disapproval. Find out what stinks. But learn what they like too. Then you can better articulate an acceptable answer to this elusive WIIFM question.

BOTTOM LINE: You can never know why users don’t adopt your portal if you don’t take the time to chat with them.

#3 – Make it Easier to Get There

You’d think this would be an easy step, but you may be surprised at how many employees are expected to go remember https://www.companyname.service-now.com/sp/terrible_portalsuffix. You can create a custom URL in ServiceNow that is easy enough to remember, such as support.companyname.com, or you can buy a unique domain that redirects to the service portal. This gives you a chance to brand your service and remove all remnants of the name ServiceNow (no offense, Fred).

Even if you don’t use the custom URL feature, you can still name your portal something friendly. Some rules of thumb:

  1. No underscores

  2. All lowercase

  3. Less than 8 characters

  4. Nothing that could be spelled a variety of ways

So, we’ve articulated our message in suggestion #1, and now we’ve got a sharable URL. Where can we post this puppy?

  1. Other intranet sites

  2. Posters

  3. Email campaigns

  4. Email signatures

  5. Bathrooms

  6. Helpdesk

  7. Cafeteria

  8. All hands meeting

  9. You get the idea…

BOTTOM LINE: Don’t underestimate your user’s ability to quickly forget that your awesome portal ever existed.

#4 – Fresh Content

I heard a joke the other day.

“What do you call a service portal with old content? A CMS portal.”

Now I’m pretty sure I’m the only nerd laughing at that (and I admit I made it up), but the truth is real. Old content equals extinction. You’re lucky you get people using it at all.

One of the primary purposes of Service Portal (if you built it correctly) is to provide a simple way to publish current content. Therefore, difficulty of content maintenance and publishing is not an excuse I’ll accept here. It’s got to be fresh, and here are some pointers.

Adding New Content

  1. Make your portal the go-to location for all the latest information relevant to your users. Company announcements, potlucks, holidays, everything.

  2. Add new catalog items constantly. Don’t make stuff up just to add it, because there’s always something that could be more efficient if it had a proper catalog item. Go ahead, get crazy, add a new category to your catalog.

  3. Don’t have a knowledge base? Stop what you’re doing right now and write a list of 5 frequently asked questions and their answers. Now make it a KB article. Do this once a week for eternity. Now you have a knowledge base.

  4. Allow users to suggest new content.

Add Self-Publishing Content

  1. Include some feed in your portal, like your company’s twitter feed, something humorous, or inspirational. Use your imagination.

  2. Consider using the Social Q&A features of the portal to let users chat it up.

Keeping Old Stuff Fresh

  1. Feature new and useful content regularly

  2. Ask users for feedback on existing articles and item forms. Yes, ask for feedback on forms, unless you know they stink and want to ignore it.

  3. Remove old stuff. Purge!

  4. Watch trending incidents and proactively feature a KB article that mitigates the issue. Also consider giving your content personality. Even if it’s just featuring a hello message from members of your help desk, personalized content goes a long way in improving user experience.

BOTTOM LINE: Fresh content is living content, and users will want to eat it. If it’s not fresh, well, you know.

#5 – Put a Tablet at the Desk

Other than nerf ammo whizzing around, the first thing your help desk visitors should see is the service portal on a big tablet. This accomplishes several things:

  1. Gives your visitor another service option while waiting in line.

  2. Can potentially free up your help desk to help people with more serious problems.

  3. Reminds people that you have a portal after all.

  4. Shows people that your portal looks great on mobile devices.

I’m not suggesting you shirk your customers to a faceless portal when there’s a warm body behind the desk. Nothing beats personal service. I am advocating that you encourage self-resolution, streamlined communication, and all-around time saving features through your service portal at every opportunity.

Keep in mind that you’ll either have to provide a guest experience or give visitors an easy way to login, such as via badge. And of course, the walk-up experience in London does a pretty good job at managing a help desk experience. Still, your portal will be a great supplement to it, because walk-up doesn’t do everything your portal does. Walk-up experience or not, it doesn’t hurt to show off your portal around the office with some well-placed (and securely fastened) tablets.

BOTTOM LINE: Never leave your customers without a fallback, and a simple fallback is your portal on a tablet in an easily accessible place.

#6 – Make it an Onboarding Activity

A great way to instill good habits in your team is to get them started early. It’s likely that you already have a short introduction to your service portal as part of onboarding activities. Is that enough to make a lasting impression or demonstrate real value?

Rather than a short demo or explanation, during orientation give your new team members something real to do in the portal. Consider these ideas:

  1. Order first-day services and items themselves.

  2. Instead of printing out new hire packets/books, use the knowledge base to publish instructional documents, policies, FAQs, etc. that will be used.

  3. Submit a “Hello” incident to the help desk. Your help desk responds by welcoming the new hire and introducing themselves personally. P.S. I know you’re worried about creating fake incidents, but there are simple ways to keep these out of your reports.

This is guaranteed to increase adoption among your new hires. You can probably simplify and streamline many of your first-day activities this way too. You have a portal don’t be afraid to use it!

BOTTOM LINE: New-hire orientation is your only chance at first impressions. Make it interactive and valuable, or else it’ll be forgotten.

#7 – Incentivize Them

If you’re struggling to get the attention of your audience, be prepared to offer them something of real value in exchange for their attention. In this case, I’m not talking about the value of the portal itself, like I talked about in our first example. My focus here is on increasing portal visibility through temporary and indefinite perks and rewards.

These ideas are great for initial portal launches, but don’t hesitate to run short campaigns on a regular basis. However, please note my number one caveat: Don’t be cheesy, and don’t give away things nobody wants (and we all know what that stuff is).

Try some of these short-term ideas:

  1. For 20 days, give a $5 gift card to everyone who submits their incident through the portal.

  2. Hide Easter Eggs in knowledge articles that you want people to read, and give prizes to those who find them. Just be sure to switch them up frequently

  3. Give away t-shirts, but the only way to get one is to order it through the portal.

  4. Have a secret help desk pizza party. Put an invitation request in your service catalog but don’t tell anybody about it, just hint about it.

Or consider some more long-term ideas:

  1. Offer priority response time to tickets submitted through the portal.

  2. Offer live chat with no wait.

  3. Allow knowledge base suggestions and reward them for submissions and accepted ideas.

We obviously don’t want to incentivize people to make submissions and requests for things they don’t need. So be careful with submission related incentives. Use forethought with any of these and be prepared to mitigate abuse.

BOTTOM LINE: Don’t underestimate your target’s susceptibility to immediate gratification.

I’ve provided here just a short list of ways you can increase adoption. You know your organization, so you’ll know what will be most effective. Use my ideas as a starting point, then be creative and think of what would really excite, engage, and entrust your customers.

Here are some honorable mentions:

  1. Put your company swag store in your service catalog.

  2. Publish fun stuff in your KB, like a help desk blog written by your team.

  3. Push icon links to your user’s mobile devices.

  4. Get thousands of chocolates or mints with custom wrappers that promote your portal. Put them in bowls everywhere all year long.

You don’t need to employ every trick in the book to increase portal adoption, but you do need to consider a multi-faceted strategy if you want to make a dent. If anything, you’ve got to start with these two:

  1. Know your users.

  2. Know what value your portal can give them.

After that, it’s up to you to get creative, have fun, and watch your portal traffic stats grow.


If you’d like to start a conversation about Service Portal consulting, or other ServiceNow needs, send us a message, and we’ll be happy to connect with you as soon as possible.

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