Date Published July 12, 2023 - Last Updated 1 Day, 10 Hours, 27 Minutes ago
Much has been written about how artificial intelligence (AI) will change the technology landscape. We're already seeing it in many forms; all you need to do to know the power of these systems is visit one of the online AI-powered chat systems. It's truly amazing how these large-language-model (LLM) bots can aggregate, format, and respond to different kinds of interactions.
This has led some to be concerned about a 'singularity,' an event where AI could become self-aware. This idea is generally based on popular culture, usually science fiction, and is not supported by scientific evidence. While there have been major technological advances, AI still operates within the limits of its programming and lacks the ability to think, reason, or make decisions in the same way as humans.
However, it doesn't take a self-aware, hyper-intelligent artificial intelligence to have a massive impact on the service and support industry. The continued advancement of this technology has led many to be concerned about the human impact. Is AI going to eliminate jobs?
Spoiler alert – yes, the advent of AI technology will absolutely have a dramatic effect on the service and support industry, and jobs will be eliminated as a result.
This outcome shouldn't be too surprising. Automation – and AI is just an advanced, smarter form of automation – has been implemented in many industries. Manufacturing has seen significant changes to assembly lines as robots can complete tasks quicker and more consistently than humans. Food services have had a growing number of kiosks to replace human cashiers, and in some cases, there are even fully automated kitchens for preparing food. In some countries, entire factories are automated, with the only human influence being the occasional need for monitoring or maintenance. In all these scenarios, roles that would have traditionally gone to a human were eliminated in favor of automation.
In the service and support industry, there are compelling reasons why AI will continue to transform our environment.
Chatbots built on script-based automation have often taken over routine tasks from a service desk. They can manage things like password resets, software updates, or check the current status of an issue. The next generation of AI will be able to supply more intelligent self-service options, walking customers through the troubleshooting and enabling them to resolve their problems quickly and easily. These systems will also be able to monitor systems proactively, identifying potential issues and alerting the appropriate IT team before they occur, ultimately minimizing downtime.
Taking the human factor out of the process also enhances security. An AI system can potentially identify and respond to a security threat more quickly and accurately than its fleshly counterparts. As this technology continues to evolve, we can expect to see even more significant changes in how IT services and support operations are delivered and managed.
The bottom line is simple: yes, AI will significantly impact the role humans play in service and support. This will primarily affect roles like service desk analysts, customer service agents, and other front-line staff.
However, it does not mean humans will no longer play a role in IT service and support.
There will be a need for higher-level technical staff that are familiar with and able to train these AI systems for their specific roles within an organization. In addition, these systems will require regular maintenance and updates to ensure they continue to function effectively. Again, those roles would be filled by humans with the background and expertise to keep them running.
There will also be the need for human interaction when the machine AI cannot resolve a problem.
Machines lack a human's emotional intelligence and empathy, meaning they will be less effective in dealing with complex issues or where personalized support is needed.
The ideal scenario would be a combination of AI and human-centered support. The machine AI can be used to handle routine requests or supply answers to common or simple questions. This frees the human staff to provide higher-quality, targeted support for complex issues requiring a more personalized or empathic approach.
IT service and support leaders should begin preparing now for the coming changes to the support environment. The adoption of automation and AI is inevitable – today, it's expensive and challenging to implement, but as with all technology, it will become cheaper and easier over time.
Consider the technology in automobiles just 10 or 15 years ago; amazing systems, like adaptive cruise control or parking assist, were only found in very high-end, expensive vehicles. Today, they're in my wife's minivan.
Take the time to understand what roles will be required to implement, train, and maintain these AI systems, and start building a plan to deal with it. For example, while we may not need as many front-line analysts or customer service agents, we will need people who understand data science, engineering, and AI. That specialized expertise will be valuable as organizations move to implement AI effectively.
Overall, we know that AI has the potential to automate routine tasks and improve efficiency. But we can also recognize that it will not eliminate the need for human support staff. Automation and AI are tools that can be used in combination with human expertise to provide more effective and efficient support to our customers.