One of the hardest things about running an IT support team is that everyone wants to get help from the hotshots – those guys and girls they can trust because they know he or she will get to the heart of even the toughest problem and straight onto a solution that works. These gurus have a wealth of knowledge of the product, they can remember past problems and more importantly the changes that solved them; they don’t send customers around in circles trying to diagnose a known problem, and they don’t spend long periods trying to find the answer that may have already been found. The challenge is that the newbies take some time until they are as productive as these hotshots … and there are always less experienced team members in any support team.
IT support faces the problem of any knowledge intensive professional service work: the knowledge of employees provides value to the customer, and yet there are challenges in building this knowledge and even greater challenges in transferring this knowledge to others.
OSISoft, a software vendor servicing automated manufacturing companies, have seen the benefit of using an Enterprise 2.0 platform to solve customers problems faster by making it easier to access the knowledge being built within their support team. Their implementation of the socialtext application allowed engineers to build content through collating resolution information as well as through open discussions about open issues. When an engineer encounters an issue they can search through the tagged content that has been generated from all kinds of areas.
What’s interesting about the way OSISoft have implemented enterprise 2.0 is the way they’ve focussed on a well-defined problem: how to get their large team of support engineers collaborating to solve customers problems quicker without wasting time on non-value adding work. A goal that can be seen to be aligned to business goals with research showing that good customer service leads to more loyal customers who are less likely to cut their spending.
This implementation seems to have addressed the risks that enterprise 2.0 adoption can face: security is maintained with an in-house hosted solution and reputation is protected as information is provided to the customer by an engineer (not from the system directly), and the focussed purpose of the platform doesn’t reduce productivity the way that other social tools might. However the small number of users, when compared to the userbase of something like wikipedia, means they still need to mitigate against the risk of unreliable information being propagated through the organisations … what’s to stop an engineer mistakenly putting the wrong solution into the knowledgebase for everyone else to use?
There are risks and challenges to adopting a more open, more collaborative way of working within corporations. There is a lot to lose and yet there may be even more to gain: the benefits of being able to quickly and easily locate relevant information are evident on web 2.0 platforms like wikipedia and twitter. It’s not going to turn all the support engineers from “computer says no” types of cranky customer service representatives, but it can help passionate, customer-focussed engineers act as knowledgable and trusted support for customers.