Here are my takeaways from our latest research.

by Daniel Thomas
Date Published June 21, 2024 - Last Updated June 21, 2024

Last week, HDI published “The State of Technical Support in 2024,” a benchmark study examining the progress, perceptions, opportunities, and challenges shaping the industry. HDI surveyed over a hundred support professionals in March and April on a variety of issues and concerns — from recent workforce trends and hiring forecasts, to skills and training needs, as well as key support metrics, technology initiatives, and adherence to best practices. Quick disclaimer: the report is beefy. Just shy of a hundred pages, there’s a significant amount of data and charts to sift through. So if you’re short on time and need the TLDR version, don’t worry because we’ve got you covered. Without further ado, have a look at our top takeaways from this year’s report.

Despite slower job growth, tech support isn’t going away any time soon.

A time may come when technical support goes the way of the dodo, but that day is distant. Consider that 46% of the surveyed audience saw their ticket volumes increase over the past year, largely driven by the acquisition of new applications, new devices, and an influx of new customers. Demand for remote support applications, which skyrocketed in the height of the pandemic era, hasn’t declined even as many workers returned to the office fully or in part. Organizations continue to hire and fill jobs as well (82%), but not at the record levels seen back in 2022 (92%). With turnover rates also down this year, support professionals may feel more cautious about changing jobs in an uncertain market. Rest assured, though: increasing ticket volumes and customer devotion to channels like phone, chat, and walk-up support are evidence that technical support is as vital as it’s ever been. 

Support teams have big plans for generative AI, and they’re already laying the groundwork

This next year will be a big one for generative AI. HDI’s report finds widespread excitement for what AI – properly introduced –  may unlock for support team functions and training needs. Forty-one percent are planning to deploy generative AI in the next year, up from 34% in last year’s study. Nineteen percent are already using it. Nearly half of all survey takers (47%) have already established an AI oversight group. Of this group, 55% believe the support organization feels represented in the group. The report identifies a number of ways that AI could be used to enrich support team operations – from providing 24/7 incident coverage during off-hours, to increasing productivity and metrics, and even helping organizations train new hires more efficiently. On top of this, AI could decrease operational costs and help leaders predict and prepare for spikes in channel traffic or other sudden demands.  

Tech support is adapting to meet modern expectations.

The last few years were highly disruptive for the industry as workforce models changed, new technologies came online, and customer expectations climbed. As a result, tech support continues to adapt to this new normal. For example, respondents make it clear that the hybrid workforce model is here to stay. An overwhelming majority have opted for a mix of both in-office and remote work arrangements, and many have zero intention to ever return to the office full-time. Meanwhile, the growing expectation is that support can be given anytime and anywhere. Half of all tickets are resolved remotely. Roughly three-fourths of respondents say their organizations handle tickets outside of normal business hours, whether through a 24-hour support center (29%) or through alternative means – such as on-call staff, chatbots, or outsourcing to a provider. Beyond desktops and laptops, teams are expected to support everything from mobile devices and telecoms, to network devices, peripherals, IoT wearables, and POS systems. There’s a lot to keep track of in this new normal, which is why it’s not surprising to see so many applying best practices from ITIL4, knowledge-centered service, and DevOps to keep things humming.

Emotional intelligence, leadership, and problem-solving skills are key to delivering a superior service experience 

When it comes to delivering technical support, it’s the non-technical stuff that carries the greatest weight. The best analysts and technicians are the ones who can learn quickest, provide great customer service, communicate effectively with their team, and troubleshoot under pressure. The most effective managers and directors are those of integrity – who can think strategically and communicate clearly, and understand how the support team functions within the larger business. Great customer service is a must-have skill across all levels. Some organizations reduced outsourcing this year because they observed a decline in customer service. HDI identifies training as an ongoing challenge for support teams. Less than half of respondents say new hires are able to achieve job proficiency in the first two months of onboarding, and only around 40% of respondents said that staff receive more than 10 days per year of ongoing training. For organizations to deliver superior experiences to customers, it’s critical that the ones responsible for giving this support feel supported themselves. As generative AI enters the fray, expect to see organizations introduce AI “coaches” that could help new recruits get up to speed faster and provide ongoing training following onboarding. 

To recap: 

Everything in HDI’s study suggests that while technical support isn’t going away, it’s also never going to be the same. With the advent of AI, the growing number of devices and support technologies, and customer expectations evolving over time, support organizations must seriously consider how they’re preparing the next generation of specialists to meet these demands.

Interested in seeing the full report? Click here to download your own copy. 

Tag(s): supportworld, artificial intelligence, ITSM, service management, ITIL, business value, future of support


More from Daniel Thomas

    No articles were found.