A better era for IT service desks

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For several decades, there has been a relentless increase in the complexity of running an information technology organization. IT teams have worked diligently to keep pace. One of the first ideas was the creation of service desks providing telephone support. From the beginning, however, providing assistance by phone had scale issues—the growing volume of requests and issues required a large body of support agents.

As email and web access became more widely used, IT teams created systems that could be used to assist people in accessing support in more of a self-service model to augment their phone support mechanisms. People looking for help could send in their requests via email or go to a website and fill in forms or select items from a “catalog.” These approaches, still very much in use today, provide value, but have limitations.

As you might expect, all email-based and web form requests require direct interaction from an agent—and the vast majority of these require back-and-forth interactions with the end user—either by email or by phone. A significant number of these items end up being reassigned or escalated due to the need to reclassify them after the initial agent review.

The largest portion of form-based items do not result in the desired “zero touch” goal. And the level of agent follow-up needed for catalog-driven items is much higher than expected. All of these mechanisms miss the mark on two specific points: They do not provide assistance in a conversational manner that people looking for help would prefer, and they require folks to leave the communication channels where they spend the most of their time.

Agent of change

It’s well understood that a key reason that people avoid interacting with IT organizations is that they feel that if they start an interaction with the support team it will result in a draw on their schedule that they have no control over.

Moreover, when the end user does contact the support team, the fact that experts tend to use technical lingo results in these interactions frequently not translating into an acceptable experience for the person trying to get help. Or for the agent doing the helping.

Innovative technologies are now available to address these challenges. Virtual agents that leverage artificial intelligence, natural language processing and machine learning enable conversational approaches to issue resolution—and create more satisfying and productive support experiences for users and analysts. The nature of this virtual agent technology is inherently scalable and improving over time.

Adoption of virtual agents is drastically reducing the burden on support organizations while improving the quality, classification, and completeness of tickets and requests. The best virtual agents expand self-service adoption by allowing users to communicate through the messaging applications they already use, such as Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts Skype, for Business, Slack, Microsoft Teams and so on. This enables end users to report issues anywhere and at any time, in a conversational manner.

A brighter era

For too long, IT service desk teams have struggled with tools which are inadequate for maintaining complex organizational infrastructures. The future doesn’t have to be a repetition of the past and there is a better era in service management ahead—an era that leverages artificial intelligence to improve customer service experiences and increase support team productivity and job satisfaction. It’s about time.

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