There has already been much written about the rise of artificial intelligence (AI); and machine learning and chatbots in particular. Some of this media attention is in awe of the technology itself – and yes, it is super smart. But some of it talks to “the machines” taking our jobs, which might be a concern for those currently working in IT support.
The talk of job replacement is undoubtedly true, but it’s more likely to affect our children than us – with a global survey of experts in machine learning, compiled by the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford, suggesting that it will be 120 years before all human jobs are automated. And 45 years until half of the jobs currently filled by humans are taken over by AI systems.
We've previously discussed how AI will improve the customer experience, so let’s concentrate on the near future and how AI is going to help IT support professionals. Where the new technology will work in tandem with IT support people, with it undertaking activities that range from the simple and monotonous, to things that are beyond the scope of an average person’s capabilities.
AI Is Already in Our Lives
It’s no longer a Star Trek thing. We know AI adoption is only growing within the enteprise, but one of the most visible areas of this proliferation of its footprints is in business-to-consumer (B2C) customer service/support scenarios, where the technology is very real and being “used in anger.” For instance, you’ve probably already experienced online chatbots, that are overly keen to answer your questions, while you navigate B2C websites.
And it’s these B2C customer support scenarios that will help to drive the application of AI on IT service desks. If you stop to think about, there’s a lot of overlap between customers requesting help, information, and services, and end users doing the same thing within the organization.
So, looking to customer services AI use cases for inspiration, here are five ways in which AI will soon be used on the IT service desk.
Five Use Cases for AI on The IT Service Desk
- Making the most of existing people resource – this can range from resource planning, through deflecting work from the service desk, to using AI to make service desk agents smarter. For instance, the technology can predict future workloads and patterns and the required mix of people and AI capabilities. Then routine IT support tasks can be taken over by bots, supplementing – not replacing – service desk agents. And, as a third example, AI can better power knowledge management than existing systems. Offering better quality results when relevant knowledge is requested or even offering up contextual knowledge when the service desk agent doesn’t even know that they need the knowledge.
- Improving IT support decision making – this could be something as “low level” as the automated routing and workflow of new issues, based on the AI understanding the meaning and context of the issue, past successes (with similar issues), and the availability of different support resources. At the other end of the complexity spectrum, there’s predicting future IT service trends. Which could be predicting the demand for new/existing IT services, or the future levels of IT support personnel needed. Predictive analytics can also be used to predict future levels of customer satisfaction based on the past impact of various contributory variables.
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- Supercharging IT self-service – there are many AI use cases here. Starting with more obvious elements such as intelligent search, where the meaning and context, plus the learning from previous search successes, can be employed to offer more accurate search results. Then self-service can be taken to the end user, rather than the end user needing to visit a self-service portal. This could be the use of virtual personal assistants, such as Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, in the workplace. Or intelligent email autoresponders, where end-user emails and the resulting tickets are responded to (with the most likely solutions) and closed, when appropriate, by the technology without human involvement. Or the use of chatbots, which provide a more engaging interface to IT support knowledge and automated solutions.
- Proactively improving services – this could either be the improvement of the services end users consume or the services offered by the IT service desk. For instance, predictive analytics can identify common IT issues or future high-impact issues that have yet to be felt. Where AI can also offer up the most-likely resolutions for identified issues. Plus, the learning capabilities can also be used to allow the technology to improve upon its own activities, getting better over time.
- Improving the customer experience – much of the previous four bullets will help to deliver a better end-user, or customer, experience. From quicker and better solutions delivered via the service desk, better self-help capabilities (including chatbots and intelligent autoresponders), to the service desk leveraging AI for sentiment analysis – understanding “in the moment,” or over time, how end users are feeling about the support they are receiving. AI will play an important role in upping IT support’s customer experience delivery.
There will, of course, be many other opportunities for AI to help with IT support, some of which are still to be understood and defined. The most important thing is to understand that the technology is already here and roadworthy, so be ready to follow the external customer support successes in bringing AI into your IT service desk.