A growing trend to seek information and guidance through social collaboration has clear implications for the Service Desk. Chris Rixon, principal solutions manager at BMC Software considers how the IT Service Desk, together with social media, can optimise the customer experience of IT and support.
Studies show that an increasing number of people are turning to social media as a source of information. If they are looking for opinions about restaurants, solving a medical issue, or just trying to figure out how to solve a technical problem with their mobile device or PC, they’ll often seek answers from social media.
Like it or not, this growing preference to seek information and guidance through social collaboration has clear implications for the Service Desk. With this perspective in mind, let’s consider how the IT service desk, together with social media, can optimise the customer experience of IT and support.
As organisations look to achieve the greatest alignment with the growing service expectations of their users, they are increasingly focusing their attention on the Service Desk. They are providing interfaces that are accessible and intuitive – just like every other service interaction end users have come to expect in their daily lives. These resources include an interactive support portal, service request management capabilities, mobility, and social collaboration.
Service support tools have also been more widely integrated with other IT Service Management tools, including configuration management (CMDB or discovery repository), asset management, service catalogue, and event management, with a view to maximising end-user productivity. When these tools are combined with social media, they can help to improve the IT support experience by facilitating a rapid, efficient and customer-centric service.
Social media and the Service Desk – A powerful combination
Social media tools used within an organisation allow more support specialists to be alerted to a problem, to contribute to the solution, and to be educated about the solution for future use.
For example, with BMC’s Remedyforce, help desk agents working on a trouble ticket can turn to Chatter, a collaboration tool created by SalesForce.com, to see if others are currently working on similar issues. Chatter is an integrated social media platform for proactive team collaboration and is embedded within the help desk tool. The agent can look for posts by other agents who are dealing with similar problems. The agent can then recognise related incidents and assign similar incidents to a single agent or group of agents who are already working on the problem, thereby improving efficiency.
Related incidents can be tied together, and the agent can then do a root cause analysis of these related incidents. Moreover, the agent can create broadcasts within the social media tool that communicate messages to both IT staff and employees companywide regarding service outages or other IT events. As with other social media applications, you can ‘follow’ certain topics — other people, incidents, changes, and even critical business services and assets. This allows you to be instantly alerted to any change in status for each topic followed.
Bridging the control gap
Social media promises to be a powerful tool for IT support teams and end users in the coordination of efforts and the sharing of information. But how do you bridge the control gap? In other words, how can you leverage the undoubted benefits offered through social collaboration in a way that allows you to preserve an appropriate level of stability, control, and measurement?
This is an emerging area of interest and research and the answer lies in the interface between process design, collaboration, and communication. This requires identifying appropriate points in your standard support processes — whether or not they are aligned with ITIL – where social collaboration and the sharing of information will enrich the quality and efficiency of the outcome, eg, in the planning, coordination, and notification phases of change management.
Metrics for gauging the effectiveness of social media for the Help Desk
New service delivery models for IT Service Management, such as software as a service (SaaS), as well as emerging communications channels for support that include social media, will require changes in the way you traditionally measure the effectiveness of your services. That’s why you should re-examine your service metrics as you begin to rely more heavily on SaaS, social media, and a more services-oriented approach to IT delivery.
If social media are to be used as a corporate support tool, it may be useful to monitor how employees are using them to solve problems and how social media impacts staff and end-user satisfaction. Some of the metrics to consider include the average speed to resolve problems, the reduction in email volume related to problem solving, and the increase in collaboration among agents and teams. In some cases, organisations might wish to measure the use and effectiveness of social media in addition to measuring its overall effect on IT Service Management performance.
Indications from early adopters of social collaboration technology in the context of the IT Service Desk are revealing some real and tangible benefits to the approach. When used as part of a larger help-desk solution, social media can increase first-call resolution, reduce the mean time to resolution, significantly lower unplanned downtime, and increase call deflection.
If the saying is true that ‘two heads are better than one’, imagine harnessing the collective brain power of your entire IT help desk staff. Therein lies the power of social media. As part of your help desk solution, social media has the potential to greatly lower costs and increase productivity and efficiency and most important, improve end-user satisfaction.
Like everything else in the business environment, the measurements and evaluations of IT services and IT service support are changing. Organisations need to ask themselves whether they are measuring for the sake of measuring, measuring the usual metrics out of habit, or measuring the new metrics – such as those related to social media – that correspond most closely to the technologies and business models that will determine success in the future.