Is the Automation Storm Coming to the Service Desk?


by Roy Atkinson
November 30, 2016

Autonomous drones are delivering pizza in New Zealand, where they’ve been testing the idea for about three years. Already, many of the customer service conversations you have through chat are automated, and some of you may be working for companies that are already using automated, cognitive systems like IPSoft Amelia to interact with customers. To be a bit blunt about it, let’s consider that an IBM Watson virtual agent costs as little as $265 per month. Your current cost per analyst may be (ahem) somewhat higher than that.

Before all your staff members keel over in fear, let’s be clear: We are not at a point where you can replace your staff with a bot; but you should be thinking about the coming day when you can.

We are not at a point where you can replace your staff with a bot.
Tweet: We are not at a point where you can replace your staff with a bot. @HDI_Analyst @ThinkHDI

In order for that pizza drone to do what it does, the technology had to exist. GPS with very good accuracy had to be available. The proper drone control systems had to be in place.

The coming of automation will be an evolution, and you should be thinking of ways this technology can assist you and your team, rather than cringing in fear about what the ultimate consequences might be.

  • A virtual agent could handle your after-hours calls, texts, and emails, creating cases for them and escalating to humans based on some language analysis. It might even allow chat sessions with customers for some simple issues, taking some pressure off your on-call staff.
  • As mentioned in this post, a virtual analyst could lend assistance to customers looking for solutions but unable to find them through self-help.
  • Virtual agents could provide the “at the elbow” support many medical professionals are looking for.

But why limit the help to customers? Imagine being able to speak a few words—as you may already do in Google—and have an automated agent trace a fault to its source, find a missing entry in your CMDB, or help solve a complex firewall configuration issue.

All of this will be happening, sooner or later. What you should be doing now is thinking through the kinds of things your organization will need to make it all work—the equivalent of the GPS I mentioned earlier.

The cinematic effect called morphing makes it appear that one thing or one person is changing into another. This is accomplished by having a starting image and an ending image and then having powerful computers create everything in between. Right now, you are at the starting point. Perhaps a fully automated service desk is at the other end. What you need to do is start deciding what data you need, what kind of knowledge you need—and how it should be organized, what kind of service your customers will expect, and what the highly-skilled support center analyst will need to know over the coming years.

Start now. Those pizza delivery jobs are already disappearing.


Roy AtkinsonRoy Atkinson is HDI's senior writer/analyst, acting as in-house subject matter expert and chief writer for SupportWorld articles and white papers. In addition to being a member of the HDI International Certification Standards Committee and the HDI Desktop Support Advisory Board, Roy is a popular speaker at HDI conferences and is well known to HDI local chapter audiences. His background is in both service desk and desktop support as well as small-business consulting. Roy is highly rated on social media, especially on the topics of IT service management and customer service. He is a cohost of the very popular #custserv (customer service) chat on Twitter, which celebrated its fifth anniversary on December 9, 2014. He holds a master’s certificate in advanced management strategy from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business, and he is a certified HDI Support Center Manager. Follow him on Twitter @HDI_Analyst and @RoyAtkinson.


Tag(s): automation, future of support, technology, support center, supportworld, service desk technology

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