7 ways to implement social IT in your service desk

And no, it’s not just integrating social media apps to your solution.

Ah, good ol’ social IT. The names Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn must come to mind – NOT. Just because you’re using social networking tools in your company to interact with users doesn’t mean you’re doing social IT. And if that’s what you’ve been doing all this while, well, you’ve been doing it wrong. A lot of theories have been floating around about what Social IT really is and why you should be adopting it. The most common reason your organization’s ITSM strategy should involve social is simply because end users are more used to a certain kind of experience. Say you like someone’s picture, you’re more likely to “like” or “favorite” that picture than go up to them to compliment it. Your new age users no longer like using the phone or computer for what it was originally intended for – to call and email – which means your traditional service desk is probably exasperating for majority of the smartphone users. They are too busy getting on popular social networks like Twitter and Facebook or the equivalent – that’s where the crowd is. It’s just that easy to reach out and call for attention in a space like that. Now this doesn’t mean your ITSM strategy needs to involve using said big name social networks. Social networking, here, can range from anywhere between letting your users voice their opinion on a channel of their choice and respond to that, or using a tool/ process similar to the like of Facebook, Twitter, etc. For instance, most people love “liking,” “sharing,” or even “favoriting.” Now, the service desk can take a leaf out of it and use it as part of interacting with the customer, which is the key area here – connecting with the customer and making them feel extra special simply because they are able to access support the familiar way. The idea is to apply ideas and processes from existing social media tools in your service desk instead of merely using the tool itself. Here are seven ways you could apply its dynamics in your own IT service desk.

1. Be there when your customers need you being-there

There are approximately 6000 tweets published every second. That’s a whopping 500 million tweets every day. Not to mention the 55 million status updates that go up on Facebook everyday. The introduction of the mobile app was the catalyst that led to this adoption. Gone are the days when you can just open a store, put an ad out in the local daily, and expect customers to walk in. While you’re busy counting the number of letters for the ad, the store next door that opened after you has already gotten on Twitter and is welcoming throngs of people (your potential customers too) at its door. Going social IT is all about meeting your customers’ expectations, to be available where they are, whenever they are. That’s how brands are forced to get on the social bandwagon.

Social IT lesson #1 Figure out the one place where your users frequent. A quick internal survey would help in taking the decision. Don’t go blindly by what the tool offers and expect immediate adoption (it does work in certain cases). Instead decide on the tool based on the adoption that is already prevalent in the enterprise. Mobile apps are one way to achieve ITSM adoption using techniques from social media considering the legion of smartphone users – not including people living under rocks or the like, of course. Give users an easy way to connect with each other.

2. People love to solve problems on their own love-puzzles

When was the last time someone asked a friend what Ailurophile meant? Nobody does that anymore. We like to Google things. It’s so much easier to ask Google than people at the risk of seeming inept or birdbrained. People don’t like being talked down to even if it’s to educate them. This is what the entire premise of the $5.1 billion (2022) intelligent virtual assistant market – Siri and the likes for the uninitiated – is based on.

Social IT lesson #2 Let people solve their own issues before coming to you. It’d be prudent to invest time in building a good repository of knowledge base articles. Having a well designed self-service portal also goes a long way. Quick tip: Invest in technology that suggests useful solutions from the knowledge base as the user types out an incident in the self-service portal – something like the auto-suggest feature on your phone. By the way, Ailurophile means cat lover. And I had to google that.

3. People like to help each other help-each-other

We see it happen in forums all the time – a helpless gamer puts up a heartbreaking post about how his console died on him and super-users converge to help a fellow geek, sorry “gamer.” Brands have successfully crowdsourced support by way of user forums. A typical scenario would be something like this – the user with the problem goes online to look for answers and trusts the solutions on the company’s forum before trying anything else. Unless the brand’s community forum isn’t really that helpful after all. Then, the user would just switch to another generic forum where others have faced a similar problem.

Social IT lesson #3 Super-users and communities are key here along with providing the right environment for peer support. It doesn’t hurt to train your users in basic issues as well. According to ITIL v3, a user who helps other users, and assists in communication with the service desk or other parts of the IT service provider is a superuser. They are often experts in the business processes supported by an IT service and will provide support for minor incidents and training. Once you identify and train your users, give super-users a platform to help others. Incentivizing super-users is a great way to ensure crowdsourcing works. You could look at gamification for this part of the service desk and hand out goodies periodically to ensure consistent superuser support.

4. Brands update followers brand-updates

A good brand keeps its followers updated about everything related to the product and I do mean everything from downtime to upgrades. Here’s something that a popular messaging app used to do when they first started out. The only way they’d communicate about service issues, downtime, upgrades, events, etc. would be on Twitter. And the only way a user could reach out to them was either through Twitter or email. Guess which got the faster response? Point is, it’s easier to cover the majority of the users, if not everyone, on social media. Again, social media needn’t necessarily mean only the big names, it could also be an internal community forum or a group of sorts.

Social IT lesson #4 Figure out a way to keep your users notified about any updates or announcements about your product. Call it an internal social network or something of the ilk. Integrate a feature into your own service desk that automatically alerts all users about everything – beginning with product updates to the status of their tickets. You could even look into integrating external tools to your service desk if that would work better for you.

5. People love timelines



So much so that Facebook was forced to introduce timelines. The premise is that brands on social media want to keep their followers updated through routine updates about their product, PR news, promote content, why, even engage in harmless banter with competitors. It’s just easier to keep tab of whatever’s happening around when there’s a chronological structure to it.

Social IT lesson #5 This could be particularly useful if your users need to follow a certain issue that the change team is working on. From reversing the change to finding out how to get the latest version of something, and even request changes for a feature – this would be the ideal way to track every bit of development made in a product.

6. Communicate



A vital reason why social media exploded, users and brands found a way to communicate with each other irrespective of topic, place, or time. We have seen product updates, customer support, and some really angry customers battle it out on social media in the open. It’s quicker to get the attention – whether it calls for an explosive reaction or not is a whole other thing. Why not email you might say. Well, how do I put this, email is dead. There you go. Everyone knows that emails get lost all the time and there’s only a 50-50 chance of you getting a non-automated response let alone a solution to your problem. Thus, social IT. Not to mention the wider reach you get on social and the diverse people you meet as well. Everyone gets a voice and connects better through social – it’s a win-win for all.

Social IT lesson #6 Building relationships with users is paramount to any brand. How do you do that? You make sure you’re in good talking terms with them. Even if it’s bad news, your users deserve to know. At least, you’ll walk away with your rep intact, look more reliable, and have stronger followers.

7. Talk human


The old timers among us do remember what being social originally meant. And this is something brands on social media have taken seriously. Talk plain English. Keeping it simple goes a long way especially in a space like the service desk. A crucial point mentioned by Stephen Mann: everyone in IT needs to stop seeing people using their services as just end users. These are the people creating work and they deserve to be treated the way they are expected – to know that they matter and to be responded without seeming like they’re being dismissed. ITSM delivery is all about helping people and that’s why it’s important to maintain human-to-human and face-to-face contact. Once you acknowledge that the users you’re helping are people too, talking human becomes a lot easier.

Social IT lesson #7 The basic assumption should be that your users do not know anything technical – like where the command prompt is. One benchmark while replying to non-technical users would be would you reply the same way if you were helping your grandma? No offense to grandmas.

The takeaway Social IT has been around for a bit now and for good reason. It adds value to business, helps maintain good relations between the brands and customers, and not to forget, incredibly easy to implement in the service desk. It addresses the most common and vital issues, and in my opinion, you can trust that the majority of your customers will find it easier to access support than through traditional means. What do you think would be the right way to implement social IT in your service desk?