Overcoming Cultural Roadblocks When Implementing AI

by Mike Hanson
Date Published April 4, 2024 - Last Updated April 4, 2024

There have been uncountable articles and white papers in the recent past extolling the benefits and advantages of adopting artificial intelligence (AI). In the IT Service and Support industry, leveraging a virtual agent or chatbot that uses machine learning to crawl very large data sets and presenting the results concisely and efficiently has been a paradigm change.

However, with all of those advantages come some legitimate concerns. How will AI impact IT staffing, particularly at the Service Desk? Is it reliable? Is it ethical? Is the lack of a ‘human touch’ a cause of concern?

When considering the potential of adopting AI in the IT support environment, it’s important to evaluate the cultural impact of the new systems on the organization. One of the primary concerns of any major change is resistance from the people who fear how the change will impact them. It’s a concern that must be overcome to have a successful implementation, so proactively building a road map on how these potential roadblocks will be addressed is essential. Let’s look at a few of the most common cultural concerns.

“AI is going to take my job!”

The first and most significant cultural concern to address is AI's impact on staffing. The last thing we want to do as leaders is give false assurances, and the fact is that some of the things that AI does well will ultimately result in the number of employees necessary for certain classes of jobs being reduced or eliminated. The key to reducing the cultural impact of that fact is to show empathy and have a proactive strategy to first acknowledge the staff’s concerns and then be transparent about the organization’s strategy for implementing and using AI. Explain how it will be integrated into the current support processes and how it will be leveraged to automate some tasks a human agent may handle today. Recognize that there are possible implications for some job roles.

That will be a difficult message, but honesty is always the best approach. The key to addressing the cultural concern is to turn that potentially damaging message into a positive. This can be done by focusing on three things.

First, get everyone involved in the discussion. For example, Service Desk analysts are the closest to the customer. They speak with them constantly, every day. Leverage that knowledge and involve them in figuring out how AI can make their job easier. Providing input and ideas on how AI is integrated into the support workflow will give them a sense of ownership in the new technology.

Next, look at the types of support the AI’s back-end processes will require. Some of it will be highly technical, but there are internal support roles that staff can be trained to do. As part of the AI discussions, provide training opportunities for qualified staff to acquire the new skills and competencies required to meet the demands of an AI-driven support environment. This could include roles like analytics, scripting, and the ‘training’ of the new AI. For those who need it, offer support such as career counseling, mentoring, or other guidance to aid them in transitioning to a different role.

Finally, be very clear that adopting AI doesn’t mean there is no room for human interaction. There will often be situations that go beyond the scope of the AI’s parameters and need to be handled by a real person. Some situations require critical thinking and empathy, which an AI simply cannot provide. While AI may be excellent at handling routine and repeatable situations, there will still be a need for human-centric roles that interact with customers.

“Our customers will hate it!”

It’s true that many support organizations that are highly focused on customer service. The use of AI may give the perception that customers will suffer because of a lack of personal (human) interactions. There are two ways to overcome this cultural obstacle.

First, demonstrate the efficiency of the technology. For routine tasks, AI can clearly be shown to be as or more efficient and accurate. It has a significant advantage in that it’s scalable. Where humans are limited in how much multitasking they’re capable of, AI is only restricted by the size of its operating environment. Often, cloud-based systems are dynamically scalable and able to accommodate increases or decreases in demand on the fly. This will result in faster response times and a better customer experience.

The technology argument can only take you so far, though. Equally important is to emphasize that AI is a tool that the organization will use to complement the staff’s capabilities. The fact that AI can efficiently handle routine tasks means that the team can handle more complex issues, which provides a higher value to the business.

“AI can be biased/untrustworthy/unreliable.”

There’s been some controversy in recent months as tech giants such as Microsoft and Google have tried to implement AI into their search engines. Both have had unpredictable results and, in some cases, the AI’s output was actually offensive. This may have created the perception that AI as a whole is not ready for everyday use.

Addressing these cultural concerns requires some careful consideration. The algorithms used by an AI system rely heavily upon the data on which they are trained. If the data is biased or flawed, it will result in unpredictable outcomes. To prevent this, the organization should include ethical guidelines within the framework of AI development. Create definitions for fairness, bias, privacy, and other essential principles and integrate them into the development process.

Trust and reliability can be addressed by constant monitoring and continuous evaluation. Systems that constantly assess the AI’s performance should be implemented, with alerts if something appears problematic. This is an excellent example of where human interaction remains integral to service and support. Assign a team responsible for reviewing the AI’s decisions and, where necessary, intervene and correct any biases or errors they discover.

These are just a few of the cultural issues raised by implementing AI systems. It’s just as important to prepare for the natural human response to these changes as it is to prepare the technology infrastructure. By reducing employee concerns about AI, you can foster a culture of resilience and adaptability in the face of rapidly changing technology.
Tag(s): supportworld, support models, service design, service level agreement, service strategy, service management, technology


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