IT Support Chatbots and AI Ticketing - for Future Helpdesk Success
IT Support Chatbots and AI Ticketing - for Future Helpdesk Success
While most verticals adopt chatbots at varying pace, from the high-tempo of travel, banking and healthcare to the slower adoption among more traditional markets, IT drives bot and AI adoption both within its own market and across a wide range of services for other markets, as vendors seek differentiation and to add intelligence to business decision making.
‘Every business is a digital one’ is a common mantra among information technology vendors, as all types of companies increasingly rely on data services and computer power to drive sales analysis while using IT to build new products or services.
Rise of the IT Cloud
As the power of IT moves from traditional servers and data centers to the cloud, vendors are increasingly acting more like companies selling to consumers, with less focus on buzzwords and big numbers, or the ‘buy our brand’ legacy selling techniques that served the likes of IBM and others well for decades.
Now, the focus is more on solving the immediate and strategic needs of a prospective business partner. When it comes to IT, chatbots and AI solutions are at the forefront of a new generation of tools. Regardless of the platform, be it an Intranet, Facebook for Business, Cisco Spark, Slack or Skype, a company app or portal, chatbots can be operated anywhere
As interactions with IT move on from the traditional face-to-face query, and more recently the dashboard-obsessed generation, we are now moving to AI-led ticketing, support and service bots and agents. These AI-powered, deploy-anywhere and highly mobile services will change how businesses interact with IT.
Also, the coming decade will see entire classes of business do their sales and trading with entirely artificial constructs, as IoT devices make orders-on-demand, finance firms trade through AI-powered bots and machine-to-machine transactions remove people from the equation. All of which sees an imperative need for all types of IT to be fast, automated and smart.
All these services and the technology driving them require advanced IT. For buyers, thankfully most of it is available at low cost and subscription services via the cloud. In just a few short years we have moved from expensive IT needs including servers, networking and costly software licenses for every office to people working anywhere on low-cost tablets accessing nothing but cloud services, with amazing reliability.
For larger enterprises, government departments and others with extensive IT infrastructure, on-premises and cloud, their use of IT will evolve and merge into hybrid services. Across any IT client’s business, making provisioning of and access to technology will become a consumer-focused experience, as non-IT departments for growing and startup businesses ramp up their technology to drive processes and decision making without a traditional IT department.
The Move to Bot-Based IT Customer Service
When selling technology and IT services to an IT department or a growing business, the market is seeing huge shifts. What used to be expensive on-site customer support is now lower cost remote support. What were monolithic products and billing has moved to what-you-want ordering with dashboard-based dynamic provisioning with no human needed to upgrade the service.
Also, costly features like customer support are rapidly transitioning from call centers to smart CRM tools with chatbots able to help provision services, provide first-level support and increasingly more advanced tasks. Bots can help triage requests from the generic ‘the printer is broken’ to ‘I need to reset my password’ along with classics like ‘this document is locked’, helping solve the low-level queries and promoting issues that need agent help (‘water is dripping into my PC from the ceiling!’) rapidly.
Chatbots can help both internal and external customers by logging tickets, offering step-by-step support advice and tutorial guides, sell consumables and upsell services. Bots that can’t provide an answer can pass customers directly on to human support to deal with advanced or complicated IT issues, or book appointments for engineers or specialists if required.
With their 24/7 availability, the ease with which they can be upgraded to answer new questions or solve problems for new systems or services, bots provide an appealing solution for all IT businesses. Chatbot helpdesk tools are available from specialist providers, or companies can build their own dedicated bot using a range of bot development tools.
Customer support chatbots are rapidly taking over from traditional help desks and outsourced customer support lines, removing the need for costly services and making the support process a neutral one. Well-trained bots using AI can provide salutations and engagement in the user’s own language, helping avoid manual translation problems and difficulties with dialects and heavy accents. For global businesses, having one support bot across all regions that can address issues with all IT systems could be a major saving.
Bots don’t mean the end of customer service agents for IT support. Instead, they can focus on the higher-tier calls, adding value to the queries they do need to work on. Also, they don’t have to spend as much time wading through tickets that are considered a waste of their time, improving the quality of their work and motivation.
The Power of AI Helpdesk and Ticketing for Large Scale IT
While any business can craft its own chatbot to help manage a simple level or volume of service, the use of AI is helping solutions and services scale both in the depth and knowledge behind responses, and the ability to learn better answers. Bots can quickly be trained to understand your own business or industry’s enterprise language model or jargon dictionary, responding to specific terms.
Through natural language processing (NLP) and natural language understanding (NLU) and other machine learning tools including deep AI learning, bots can help improve their own quality of service and will soon be trusted to run whole support processes without human oversight.
When it comes to meeting typical helpdesk metrics like mean time to resolution (MTTR), the use of AI helps boost the speed of problem resolution and makes the information given more accurate and relevant to the query.
As both IT vendors, IT departments and companies that run IT help or support for other organizations aim to hit the 99% mark of their service-level agreements, AIs can learn how to deliver better solutions by machine learning, guided by experts, and in the near future under their own power.
They can also access and surface data from a wide range of sources, beyond a typical chatbot script. These can include structured and unstructured data, previous support email archives, a wider range of customer responses and cull information from community support or other pages, where there is evidence of a successful outcome.
The flexibility of chatbots enables any helpdesk to carefully monitor success levels through analytics, but unlike traditional helpdesks, changes can be made in seconds to help improve success stories. When it comes to avoiding bad helpdesk service and helping a company or client learn how to improve customer service, bots and AI improve the speed and likelihood of success faster than any third-party traditional helpdesk.
These bots will also take up the mantle of dashboards and other means as a way of identifying confused workers in need of education, hostile workers abusing their IT or other services, by identifying use of language, comprehension and other markers.
All of these efforts will help reduce the average cost of IT support services, improve the quality of service metrics (once any quirks have been ironed out) and help build a future-proof service for whatever comes next in how AI impacts business.
The Era of Virtual Support Staff
Bots and AI aren’t limited to the screen or Messenger app. When the IT team is out for lunch, or a company has a wide range of clearance levels, helpdesk kiosks using smart speakers can be installed in areas where new hires, guest users and others without typical credentials can get support. Providing automated responses to common questions, they can also gather the required information to provide answers or further support and seamlessly pass on tricky requests to front-line technical support.
Speech-to-text and text-to-speech services allow the bots to access the full level of IT support information, and provide high-quality reporting just like a traditional bot, but with increased flexibility. And, as more users become familiar with Alexa, Siri and so on, they will expect their bots to be more talkative, making them useful in a wider range of situations.
Bots can show images of the right buttons to press or features to access, or video of a physical process to help reduce the level of mistakes and errors during support calls.
Providing a speedy and proactive service, whatever the query, helps set any IT service provider or business up for success. A good virtual support bot experience can help generate positive opinions as workers get used to operating in a more automated environment. And these first bots will only be the start as more businesses look to automate internal help and support processes in departments like ordering, reporting lost devices, human resources and for external customer support.
Beyond customer supports, bots will soon help in the IT decision making process. Instead of a user requesting bandwidth, computer power or extra storage or a new device, and requiring senior approval, bots will handle and approve all but the most abnormal of requests, while updating whatever service they use from Amazon AWS to other cloud services.
The Future is AI Bot Powered
As bot adoption ramps up across many industries, IT service providers, vendors and IT departments within these businesses need to be dogfooding bots to understand how the could help the wider ambitions of any company. Bots for healthcare, airlines, hotels and other high-customer-volume areas are making huge strides in bot deployments.
It won’t be long before business leaders expect all areas of a company to be using bots to streamline support and other processes. And, as we approach the Internet of Things era, bots will be talking to themselves to process orders and requests.
IT needs to be leading the way in these initiatives, otherwise, departments will start their own bots, and an enterprise could end up with dozens of different bots from many vendors. When the time comes to try and rationalise all those bots into one unified service, the problems will be extensive and IT will likely take the blame.
By understanding how to use AI, NLP and technologies yet to come, IT will be able to help the business build and service the much-needed bots to keep it competitive and gain an edge on slower rivals. While bots may be internally developed or acquired through specialist providers or as part of technology packages, the onus is on IT to be a master of bots, not a passive user of them.
Showing the business how much time and revenue can be saved using bots will help IT lead in future efforts. And, at the other end of the spectrum, as users become acclimatized to working with bots as part of their day-to-day tasks, they will appreciate the speed of response. Bots are ideal for delivering instructions for typical IT support tasks and have infinite patience for the user - taking the strain off IT support staff, making it an all-round benefit.
The story of chatbots is an evolving one, some early efforts failed due to a lack of understanding of the conversation between user and bot. A few high-profile public efforts were deliberately sabotaged, but the business benefits continue to prove the value of bots. The story remains the same as with many other growing technologies.
Now, as business bots approach their third or fourth generation, the technology has improved, the understanding of language and chat architecture has evolved, and bot satisfaction rates are rising fast. They will soon be looked on with those 99% uptime rates that we used to think were so outlandish from cloud providers. And as AI gets smarter and becomes a common part of the business decision-making landscape, we will be asking our IT and systems to do more beyond customer support, so learning how to leverage them is a critical task.