Conversational AI is often associated with the "chatbot" phenomenon. It started with the consumer-driven chatbot craze in 2016, the year Facebook opened messenger to bot developers. Google's new Duplex can now reach out to a hair salon and make your hair appointment or make travel easier. With all this innovation in the consumer segment, things have not changed much at the office.
It’s still the information technology (IT) dark ages despite portal, help desk toll-free lines and chat support. Resetting your password or requesting more storage still means raising a ticket and waiting for your tickets to be serviced. Troubleshooting a new application or desktop support can take ages, with multiple service calls, wasted mornings on hold to the support desk and angry, frustrated employees.
The IT Service Desk -- Innovation To Expensive Necessity
First, it’s important to look at how we got here. In the 1990s the IT service desk evolved as an innovative service to help employees be productive. New employee provisioning became a part of the orientation ritual -- meeting with a service desk staffer during your first week, setting up email, access, VPN and mobile phones.
At some point, when service desks became embedded in the workplace culture, it transformed from innovation to an expensive distraction. Budget-constrained chief information officers (CIOs) began to believe that IT service desks were an expensive necessity rather than a core service. They began reducing costs using outsourcing, knowledge bases, community support and all the little nips and tucks to shave costs and streamline this expensive necessity.
This recent report found that service desks and costs are actually climbing despite all these cost savings maneuvers. A typical help desk department is underfunded and overloaded and the statistics bear mute testimony to the problem.
Staffing: an average of 15 agents for every 1,500 employees
• Efficiency: 10 hours to resolve a ticket
• Volumes: 120:1 ratio of tickets to technicians.
Conversational AI And The Service desk -- What Gives?
CIOs over the years have thrown money at optimizing the value chain -- better ticketing software, expansive call routing processes, outsourcing to lower costs, geographies and process-centric metrics -- with mixed results.
Conversational AI promises a trifecta of possibilities to disrupt and transform the modern help desk.
1. Automate the mundane
2. Take the human out of judgment-intensive tasks
3. Transform the user experience
The Easy Part -- Automate The Mundane
According to Gartner, 40!% of all service desk requests are password resets for various devices, applications and IT services. Desktop support workers feel like robots when they repeatedly respond to the same requests. Sure, there is the occasional head-scratcher, but much of the day is spent dealing with similar issues. Even when the issue varies from the standard ticket, the first troubleshooting steps are similar.
AI-driven virtual assistants can be built to handle repetitive service requests: unlocking accounts, resetting passwords, even complex tasks like troubleshooting email or increasing storage. This frees service agents to higher-level tasks. The virtual assistant does not need overtime and works Sundays. Scaling to higher volumes does not require bringing new headcount on board but just adding more servers!! The last two years have seen a massive recognition among CIOs that level one support automation using virtual assistants is viable leading to an explosion in interest in the technology and many large enterprises are quietly deploying virtual assistants globally in multiple languages and configurations.
The Next Step -- Judgement Intensive Tasks
A typical service order takes 10 hours to resolve. This includes multiple conversations with a desktop support analyst, sometimes rerouting to a subject matter expert in your incident area. Second generation conversational AI solutions can now use the abundant history available from existing enterprise interactions, including chat, voice transcripts, transactions and other preexisting enterprise data in your IT service management systems to learn. It can converse and discover using disambiguation technology to suggest, recommend and engage based on these learnings. More complex tasks like troubleshooting your Skype and upgrading your software become easier and are quickly becoming the new frontier of the modern help desk transformation initiatives.
Transform The User Experience -- Just Talk To Me
The information technology service maintenance industry spends hundreds of millions trying to make employee self- service easier. There is a veritable cottage industry around software, consultants and integrators offering knowledge bases, live chat software and portals, all to house the institutional knowledge around your help desk. This information can be logged into, searched, queried and posted, again with mixed results.
Now with advances in AI technology, a user can talk, text or type a query and a virtual assistant using conversational AI technology can initiate and engage in a multiturn meaningful conversation to solve the problem. Conversational AI technologies have initiated a new turn in human-computer interaction and this is best seen in deployments on the humble service desk.
The Future -- Enterprises Are 'Hiring' More Virtual Assistants
Despite the consumer-oriented voice and assistants revolution grabbing all the ink, from switching your house lights to ordering room service, very large enterprises (VLE) are navigating this paradigm very differently internally.
Conversational AI interfaces and technology is rapidly gaining tremendous support because of its applicability to practical problems like help desk quickly deliver on the promise of improving the user experience and saving money.