“When your customers live in social media, it is no longer consumer technology. It is a business reality.”
Sure, it is easy to write off social media as an unnecessary evil when your customers are primarily employees of your company. Until recently most companies had strict rules against accessing applications like these from the workplace. Today senior management wants to embrace social media, even if they don’t fully understand it.
Social media is truly a polarizing term in the help desk world. In my experience most IT managers cringe at the thought of it. Why? Why does internal IT still have such an issue with tools that can add so much value?
1. It works and it is free. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ are free software applications that make the sharing of information very, very easy. They are, at their heart, collaboration tools. Use Twitter to distribute system-wide messages of critical importance; even if your internal systems are down, I bet your employees are still getting tweets on their phones.
2. It has been adopted by multiple generations. It was easier to write off social media when only the 18-25 age group was using it, unless of course you support a college campus like many of our customers do. But today the fastest growing segment of users is older. I always say that if my parents (in their 80s) are asking me about it, I better not be ignoring it. In fact it is so popular with older generations that the youngest don’t think it’s cool anymore and that might be the best argument – it is truly mainstream now.
3. It is available anywhere, at any time. Most help desk tools are available behind your firewall or through a secure VPN connection, and that is fine most of the time. But as time and location are compressed by these very tools, why not be able to let your users know what is going on while they are on a beach in Florida or an airport in New York? People demand information, and the more you can provide the happier they will be.
4. They already know how to use it and they do use it. Anything you don’t have to train your users on is going to save on training costs…and if they already use it, why not let them? We have all been forced to use software we don’t like. Imagine being able to tell your users that they can use whatever they are the most comfortable with? What value does that add to your help desk?
5. It is here to stay. It was easier to write it off as a fad a few years ago, but there is no question that social media is here to stay. And companies like Facebook and Twitter have such commanding leads that they are not going to disappear any time soon. Look no further than how a social media mistake at a major American airline dominated the national news cycle. Like it or not, it is not just a passing fad.
6. It is not email. Email is just not as effective for communication as it once was. How many emails do you receive a day? How many do you read from start to finish? Now imagine your support updates populating your user’s Facebook feed. Seems a little more personal, doesn’t it? We should all be trying to create an environment where the end customer feels cared for and valued. Their time is valuable and if they want to use social media, let them.
7. You can create a truly global support gateway. There is simply no better way to provide your customers, internal or external, a single place where they can request or receive support.
8. It is a great way to deploy a mobile support strategy. These apps are developed for mobile devices. Many support portals contains lots of support tools, and it is hard to scale them to a smaller screen and still have the impact you get in a full browser. Using Twitter and Facebook on your mobile device feels comfortable, and if your users are already living in those apps it just makes sense to leverage them if you can.
None of these arguments are revolutionary – they have been made for years. So why has the internal help desk industry been so slow to embrace social media? We do not have to accept the solutions of the past any more than we have to only embrace the solutions of the future. It is possible to create an environment where the customer really does have a choice between phone, email, chat, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or whatever the future brings next. You need your existing channels just as much as you need the new social media channels. What is the worst thing that could happen by embracing a social media strategy for your help desk? Providing as many channels as possible for your clients to talk to you has no real down side. If people don’t use it you have wasted very little (remember these are mostly free tools). If they use it en masse, you look like a hero for recognizing the need and meeting it. Either way you have done something to let your customers know you are serious about connecting with them and helping to solve their problems.
When your customers live in social media, it is no longer consumer technology. It is a business reality.