What is Community Support?

Jun 23, 2016
Stefaan Vanassche

Vice President, Account Management

Community Support

 

As those in product and software development know: it’s all about innovation.

When you’re in the field of service desk support, though, and the client asks you to be innovative, it’s not always as easy.  Traditional tactics like finding shift-left opportunities, bringing remote control applications, and introducing self-service to end-users are great ways to optimize performance.  But we’ve been seeing these for years and can no longer consider them “innovative.”

There is one trend we’ve seen lately, however, that is innovative: Community Support.

The theory behind Community Support is simple. These days, if you have an issue or a question, you can go right to the internet and find high-quality, user-generated knowledge to solve your problem. Or you can reach out to your own network of friends and colleagues. So why not adapt to these habits in a technical support environment?

With a traditional help desk you typically have limited hours of support, can only reach out to help desk technicians instead of also colleagues, and — in most of the cases — have no online trail of previous communications. Community Support addresses these challenges.

 

How Does Community Support Work?

  • Step 1 – Search it: The user searches an answer or solution for their request in the same way they would on Google.
  • Step 2 – Connect with Colleagues: If the user can’t find relevant content, they can ask a question to their peers in the community, much like one would on a social network. If their peers cannot help, there are also power users who monitor these discussions and can step in.
  • Step 3 – Help Desk: If the issue isn’t solved by the community within a certain period of time, the request automatically gets escalated to the help desk.

All interactions happen through the same platform, the user is able to go directly to the next step, all within the platform.

 

What Are The Benefits of Community Support?

  • While conversations are going on within the community, a knowledge base is developed and available to all users.
  • Self-service functionality allows 24/7 access to support, not limited to service hours.
  • Reduced volume of support requests to the help desk could lead to cost savings.

 

What About the Challenges?

Rolling out this type of support model is not something that happens overnight. It requires a change in mindset of the end-users, and changes in the organization to make it work. To avoid “Shadow IT”, roles and responsibilities need to be defined in a consistent way throughout the organization.

Also, community support is not successful if no one in the community can answer. It must be complemented with a team of experts (power users) and a support provider to resolve more complex questions, incidents and service requests.

 

Are There Best Practices to Consider?

A user-friendly platform to request support from the community is critical for adoption.  Removing other channels in favor of community support may decrease user satisfaction. So it may be best to consider multi-channel support. Finally, ensure your end-users are aware of the change. Communicate the new support model multiple times, and in multiple ways (i.e. videos, PPTs, flyers, posters, newsletters).

 

Have you had success with Community Support? Let us know in the comments.

 

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