Perhaps the easiest way to answer the question of whether AI (artificial intelligence) can deliver better IT support than humans, is to ask ‘how good is your human IT support team?’ A great service desk analyst needs to have three important attributes:
- Expertise – up-to-date technical knowledge, skills and experience so they can resolve any IT support ticket that crosses their desk,
- Customer service skills – the ability to listen and understand what the customer’s issues are, to be able to communicate clearly, and empathise,
- Capacity – they need the time and resources to resolve tickets in line with SLAs.
If you can look at your IT support team and agree that they have all these important attributes, hang on to them – you’ve got a great team! But realistically many organisations don’t have this consistent level of support for a number of reasons.
Why Human Service Desk Analysts Don’t Always Meet The Grade
Taking the first attribute – Expertise. Most organisations need generalists in their in-house IT teams. They need employees who have a good understanding of all the IT systems and applications they use, and specialist knowledge of any bespoke solutions that have been implemented. Keeping up-to-date with innovations – whether that’s updates to solutions or new technology – can be a challenge. In-house teams rarely have the time to invest in their professional development, and with solutions constantly being updated it’s very difficult for a generalist to have the in depth knowledge needed to troubleshoot and resolve every problem that occurs. Outsourcing IT support can resolve this issue as it gives organisations access to more specialist service desk analysts.
The next issue is customer service. We’ve all experienced poor customer service at times from people whose job it is to put the customer first. That’s because we’re human! We have off days, we get tired, and some customers are downright unpleasant to deal with. Inevitably there will be times when a service desk analyst struggles to deliver the customer service expected of them.
Humans also add emotions to their decision-making processes. For example, if a user contacts the IT support team for the 4th time that day a service desk analyst’s response may be frustration and annoyance. As a result they may prejudge what the issue is and not listen to and comprehend exactly what the customer is saying.
Finally - Capacity. Realistically a human IT team cannot handle every request immediately 24/7, that’s why we have Service Level Agreements (SLAs). Some customers or employees will have to wait for their ticket to be resolved if demand for IT support is high. Human service desk analysts cannot work on multiple tickets at the same time.
Humans also need breaks, holidays and sometimes get sick. Managing IT support capacity can be a significant challenge when running an in-house team. Outsourcing your service desk to an IT service provider can help meet demand, and also improve customer service and customer satisfaction rates.
Is AI The Solution?
If your in-house IT team is struggling to deliver, AI could be one way to address skills shortages, service levels and capacity. AI technology can ‘learn’ vast amounts of technical information, it doesn’t have ‘off days’ and it can process multiple tickets in seconds. However, the technology is only as good as the humans that use it.
To start with, AI is not a one-size-fits-all solution the technology is not yet at a point where a bot can do everything your IT support team does. So human service desk analysts are still needed. However, AI can help manage workflows by analysing a ticket, where it’s come from (for example a customer, employee, business critical department etc.), capacity and available resources, and the nature of the request. It can then route the ticket based on performance (by calculating which service will deliver the best outcome); e.g. by resolving the ticket itself, pointing users to a self-serve solution or by routing the ticket to an analyst.
AI can drive service desk efficiencies; freeing up the service desk to focus on mission critical work, managing backlogs, handling and resolving higher volumes of requests, and increasing productivity.
What about customer service? One of the concerns expressed about AI and IT support is that people want to speak to a person rather than a machine. As discussed at the beginning of this article, that makes the presumption that your IT team always deliver excellent customer service and can manage the expectations of the user.
Here’s an example where someone might prefer to speak to a machine.
Bob has forgotten his password to log in to an application he needs to do his job. He logs a ticket and waits for IT support to get back to him. But IT support are busy, Bob’s password reset is not a priority and the team already have several other password resets in their workflows. Bob has a couple of choices at this point. He can wait and therefore not get on with his work, impacting his productivity and potentially revenue generation for his employer. Or he can find a workaround so he can get on with what he needs to do, but that workaround is insecure and non-compliant with data protection laws and his employer’s security policies.
In this scenario Bob would happily speak to a machine instead of a human if it means he can get his password reset immediately and get on with work.
Next Gen Service Desk
AI and self-serve all have a part to play. It’s not a question of replacing humans with AI, it’s about using the technology to improve service levels and support your IT team. Most in-house IT teams are overstretched and under-resourced, AI can help elevate these pressures and save money.
Here at UKN Group we’re monitoring the technology options available and adopting next gen service desk tech like AI if we can see clear benefits for our clients. If you would like to discuss this in more detail, please get in touch. Call 0845 643 6060 or email email@example.com