How AI is redefining the service desk...and the rest of IT
by Markos Symeonides, on 22-May-2020 16:36:58
AI is redefining the service desk agent role. Virtual agent chatbots can interact directly with employees to handle low level tasks like password resets, issues which have clear algorithmic fixes, and digital service requests. They can do so more quickly, more consistently, and more sustainably, 24x7, without sleep or vacations.
Inside the service desk, virtual agent assistants (intelligent bots built that help service desk agents diagnose and solve mid-level issues) mine all sorts of data in the extended CMDB (infrastructure data, status information, tickets, trends, etc) in real time. These virtual agents find the insights an agent needs—without having to spend time manually hunting that information down. By doing so, a virtual agent assistant augments the capabilities of a human agent; putting the right information in front of them at the right time—drastically shrinking the time it takes to diagnose and solve a ticket.
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AI has changed the “profile” of the work that service desk agents do. No more mundane and repetitive tasks. No more password resets. Fewer calls to take. More time to handle each IT customer calmly and effectively—to make sure every issue is solved properly and decisively. More satisfaction for IT customers. More satisfaction for agents. They get to make a real difference to the organization.
AI helps solve the service desk recruitment problem
It’s no secret that IT service desks—like other customer service divisions—tend to struggle to recruit and retain staff. According to the Help Desk Institute, the average service desk team suffers a turnover of 40% of its people every year. Stress, boredom, and no visible end to the firefighting are all contributing factors.
But when much of the monotonous work is handled by bots, service desk agents can use their time to handle more complex issues, changing the role of the service desk analyst from a stressful, high-churn job to an in-demand, creative role.
Less time is spent answering calls and handling monotonous tasks. Agents spend more time engaging in interesting challenges that require creativity—the sort of work which attracted them to IT in the first place. As a result, agents get to contribute more and make a difference. They get more job satisfaction, they're more engaged, give more discretionary effort, and are more likely to stay in your organization.
For technology graduates entering the workforce, the service desk becomes an appealing route into a career in IT. Experienced service desk professionals looking for a new workplace will leave a poor performing service desk in search of an organizations where they have the opportunity to make a real difference.
AI allows the value-focused culture of the service desk to spread across IT
IT professionals starting in the service desk naturally assimilate a value-focused and customer-focused attitude and culture—a mindset which they will then carry with them as they move deeper into (and further up) the IT organization as their careers progress.
As they move into 2nd and 3rd line support, onto IT projects, or even up to service desk team lead or manager, they take with them an understanding of the challenges that the service desk faces, as well as some of the “soft skills” that are often in short supply within the IT department. I call them “soft skills” here purely because this is how listening, communicating, building relationships, teamwork, networking, creative thinking and conflict resolution are commonly known—but there is nothing “soft” about them; they are essential to the success of the IT mission.
Having “been there”, alumni of the service desk are acutely aware of the need to shift left (empower end users and first line support versus escalating everything) and are motivated to push knowledge to the service desk so that IT customer issues can be diagnosed and solved quickly and easily by agents. They are also more open to collaboration with the service desk, as this is something they would themselves have valued greatly when they were on the front line looking for solutions.
When ex-agents move further into IT, crossing from operations into development, they carry with them an understanding that when dev teams cut corners, it’s often the service desk that picks up the pieces. That makes them natural ambassadors and champions for a new DevOps culture—a more productive IT culture which balances rapid innovation with operational stability. Less rework and less stress for everyone.
There are so many benefits when service desk analysts grow and take on new roles across IT—and they are all enabled by the transformation that is enabled by bringing AI into the service desk.
AI gives you the capacity to make progress
There is always something to do in the service desk. Like all operational areas of the business, the work never stops.
Wouldn’t it be great if the phone stopped ringing all the time?
Wouldn’t it be great to have a couple of people dedicated to populating and curating the knowledge base, to help agents and end users alike?
How about moving a few agents from the Incident team to the Problem team, so you can finally fix those infrastructure issues which keep throwing up tickets, again and again and again?
Some agents could spend their time creating detect-and-correct automations to give you a more stable and resilient infrastructure. Wouldn’t it be great if your infrastructure was self-healing?
And it’s amazing how quickly you can drive an uptick in adoption of your service catalog when you have time to do a bit of “tuning” on the user interface—to remove friction and make it easier to use.
These are all opportunities for service desk analysts to drastically improve the performance of the service desk and the quality of the IT customer experience—if they can just free up the time to do so.
But what if they can’t? What if AI isn’t harnessed to automate the mundane and shift the profile of work that agents handle? What happens when your service desk analysts get stuck taking the same calls again and again?
We all know how this story ends. Nothing changes. The firefighting continues. They get bored. They become disengaged. They burn out. They leave the organization, taking their support knowledge with them.
The recruitment cycle starts again. Time and money are spent on training new agents. It’s Groundhog Day for many service desks. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
AI is an opportunity for your service desk to finally break the Groundhog Day cycle. This is how AI can transform your service desk; with benefits that spread out across the whole of the IT department.
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