Stop Asking When AI and Automation Are Coming—They Are Here

Here on SupportWorld in December of 2016, I wrote about what I called Level 0.5 support:

If good Level 0 support keeps the simplest and most repetitive issues easily accessible to the end users, then good automation should be able to handle the repetitive work of answering those frequently asked questions that currently are handled by humans and assisting with tasks such as resetting passwords, helping locate information, and, in general, taking the scriptable work off the hands of humans.

The tools to create this type of assisted self-service/self-help are here. Chatbots are becoming very familiar and are relatively easy to obtain or to build, as Julie Mohr describes in her post, “Meet Sherlock: The Knowledge Chatbot About Knowledge.” Just this month, several well-known vendors in the service management space announced AI-assisted products at Service Management World.

What does this mean for support? It ultimately means that, sooner or later, your job will be changing. The work you’ll be doing will be more challenging. Instead of repeating solutions you already know or that have been previously solved, documented, and shared, you’ll be using your technical knowledge and your troubleshooting skillsalong with your people skillson virtually every contact. When the easy stuff comes off your plate, the more difficult stuff remains.

Here’s what this means for the support center:

Metrics will change.

  • Volume will (eventually) go down, because it will be faster and easier to get information and resolutions through the new, intelligent systems providing service unassisted by humans.
  • Average Handle Time (AHT) will go up, because the average complexity of the cases handled by analysts will have increased.
  • Metrics based on telephone callsalready largely obsolete in the age of chat, internal collaboration tools (Slack, Yammer, and others)will be useless.

Necessary skills will change.

  • Knowledge management (to feed the bots and/or AI) will be essential. This is not just at the beginning, but ongoing. Some high-profile AI projects have failed to produce the expected results because human trainers did not keep up.
  • Understanding new technologies and using them to the customer’s advantage will be necessary.

Working side-by-side with advanced technologies will be different from working with an all-human team. If you think about how many times you get frustrated with autocorrect, or how often you hear people saying, “Representative!” loudly into their phones or punching the 0 button with force, it’s easy to see that we have not yet reached the level of near-perfect function.

What will this new relationship look like? In a few years, will support analysts be using AI tools to query large internal data warehouses and external data sources to discover solutions? (Hint: This is precisely what users are attempting to do when they use Google or Bing to find an answer or solution.)

The truth is that we don’t really know what the next few years will bring in technological advances and disruption. What we do know is that we need to be prepared for change, because it is already here.

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