A Brighter Era for IT Service Desks

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 experts.

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 forms requests require direct interaction from an analyst—and the vast majority of these require back-and-forth interactions with the user—either via email or (frequently) by phone. A significant number of these items end up being reassigned or escalated due to the need to reclassify them after the initial analyst review. The largest portion of form-based items do not result in the desired “zero-touch” goal. And the level of analyst 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 a 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 analyst doing the helping.

Innovative technologies are now available to address these challenges. Virtual support 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 support agents expand self-service adoption by allowing users to communicate through the messaging applications they already use, such as Slack, Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, and Facebook Messenger. This enables issues to be reported anywhere and at any time, in an intuitive manner.

A Brighter Era

For too long IT service desk teams struggled with tools which are inadequate for maintaining complex organizational infrastructures. Thankfully virtual agents are ushering in a better and brighter era in service management. It’s about time.

Thanks for reading. Do you agree with my comments? Do you disagree? Leave me a comment and tell me what you think.

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