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Supercharge your internal support with social collaboration

By Angela Ashenden posted 05-27-2016 10:22


The benefits of providing self-service, community-oriented support to customers and partners in an externally-facing context are broadly recognised - helping to improve the level and speed of service that people have access to, while reducing calls to the helpdesk and lowering organisational costs as a result. However, it's not just your customers and partners that can benefit from this type of approach; there are major advantages to be had from applying the same thinking to your internal support environment too, using social collaboration technologies.


One of the key challenges that organisations have when implementing these types of tools - and even before that, at the business case stage - is that it can be very difficult to articulate where the real value can come from. The benefits are often promised in very nebulous, intangible terms, around having a more "connected" organisation, when really people want the specifics - how will it improve things, and how can we measure that. I often talk about the value of identifying key use cases where social collaboration can deliver tangible value to specific groups of people or to support specific business goals, and it’s something I seek to draw out in my case study discussions. One example that pops up very regularly in successful social collaboration deployments is the internal self-service support community, not least because the benefits it brings are quickly apparent to both the employees using the service and the teams providing the service, and better still, there are operational benefits too.


Here are a couple of great examples from my case study library:

  • Education company Pearson used its social collaboration platform (based on Jive) to create self-service support communities for two major new global technology deployment projects, enabling it to support 40,000 employees with just a handful of resources;
  • Research and manufacturing firm Philips has implemented several successful helpdesk communities on its Socialcast-based platform, including the IT Service Desk, an Apple Service Desk, and its Mobile Enterprise Services. 

Fundamentally, the support community provides a single, central place where people can look for an answer to their questions, either by posing it directly to the community as a whole, or searching through the knowledge base of previous questions, discussions and shared information, FAQs etc. Because questions can be answered not just by the support team but by other members of the community as well, they can be answered more quickly, and the answer then becomes part of the broader knowledge base, meaning it’s now available for subsequent people with the same question to find.


This has huge benefits for the support team, who are no longer trapped answering the same question over and over, and frees them up to provide more time-critical support, or to work on other priorities. For the organisation as a whole, it means being able to do more with less, and - as in the case of Pearson - that new initiatives are not necessarily cost prohibitive due to the associated support requirements.


Of course, as with any social collaboration deployment, it will take time to get people to use your new community; you'll need to persistently redirect people to the community in the early days, and make sure you answer questions promptly to demonstrate that the community is not simply a black hole. Over time, as community members start responding to questions, acknowledge their participation to reinforce the behaviour and encourage others to do the same. Some tools provide useful features that can help here, for example allowing you to mark responses as "best answer", or award members badges for their participation/contribution. Remember that the self-service element won't happen overnight - you'll need plenty of community management in the ramp-up period to ensure its success.


So if you are wondering where to start with driving social collaboration adoption in your own organisation, the support use case is a fantastic springboard, and one which will help people to quickly get to grips with the technology and learn how it can add value. What’s more, it can help you to win over an area of the business that is often the most dismissive of social collaboration tools - the IT department. 

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