The SOCIAL Shift

Observations on how social connectivity is changing the workplace. And the world. Views expressed here are my own.
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Launching and maintaining an internal social network at The McGraw-Hill Companies has been an exciting learning experience. In my “The Life of a Community Manager” series, I will highlight key aspects that have been central in my experience as a community manager.

Customer support plays a key role in adoption and engagement of an internal social network. It ensures that users have the base of knowledge to effectively use the tool. It also sets the tone for how the solution will be perceived by the organization. Great customer support in the commercial space can make someone a customer for life. In the same way, a negative experience can create a vehement, vocal detractor. The stakes are similar for a new initiative inside a company. Be sure to provide memorable customer support experiences that will delight your customers and create people who can be advocates for the solution.

While I’m not an expert in customer support, I have learned a few lessons on the topic that will serve well for other community managers as they seek to drive adoption and engagement within their communities: be responsive, create documentation to aid your efforts and use the community.
  1. Be responsive – You need to answer people’s questions in a timely fashion. That doesn’t mean, however, that you need to monitor question in real-time. Community managers should monitor questions 2-3 times a day. That may increase when you first launch your solution or if you introduce significant new features. If you are still learning the tool in the when you launch (like my team and I were), or if someone asks a really complex question, that’s ok. Just be transparent that you need to look into that aspect of the functionality to answer their question. That way, they will know that you heard them and that you’re working on it.
  2. Create documentation – There will undoubtedly be questions that you will get repeatedly. This may seem annoying, particularly if you are being responsive. You may feel like you’re answering the same question over and over. Moreover, you may feel like you’re wasting time explaining the same process five times a day. To save time and your sanity, create documentation that explains the steps or actions to commonly asked questions. When people ask those questions, just cut and paste the response, or send them the link. You can also use your site to this end. Create a place where people can ask questions on the site so those conversations are archived and available to all users. They can serve as great customer support aids and may even prevent questions all together as people find them via search or by browsing the site. It also allows for other users to answer questions. Which leads us to number three…
  3. Use the community – It’s important to remember that you aren’t alone as a community manager. You have a whole community of people who can help you! And that includes your customer support responsiveness, too. As your early adopters gain aptitude with the site, they will have the knowledge and experience to answer questions from their peers who are still learning. Give them the chance to demonstrate their knowledge if they aren’t doing it naturally themselves. This can save you time on answering some of the more basic questions and spend your time and energy on other higher value activities.

Why Customer Support Matters
There’s a learning curve associated with any new tool. That reality takes on a different life in a professional environment. While some people will experiment, there’s a large portion of the population that won’t for a variety of reasons. Reluctant to look inept in front of the entire company, that segment will seek help. If they get it, they may have the confidence to use the tool. But if they don’t they may opt out very early on, or even become vocal detractors, making it all the more challenging to get them, and others, engaged.

Customer support is critical to a thriving enterprise social community. When we launched our internal social network, we had a variety of questions that ran the gamut from very basic tasks (e.g. updating profile, uploading documents) to more complex usage issues (e.g. content migration from existing sites, strategies to drive membership). Answering these questions, particularly early on, will play a seminal role in determining how much (or how little) employees will use the resource.