advice

The transformation of IT support: helping people to help themselves

By Mike Matthews, - Advice

The concept of self-service is nothing new in the consumer world.

For years, supermarkets have allowed people to check out their own items, while ecommerce giants like Amazon have encouraged customers to find answers to problems without ever having to speak with a support agent at the end of a telephone.

These methods are less costly to the companies involved and much easier for the consumer, because self-service diversifies the environments and widens the hours within which support can be consumed.

So why can’t we bring this kind of predictive, self-service approach into the corporate IT world?

The simple answer is: we can.

There are quite a few mature and some less mature technologies that can help us. Let’s take a look at two:

  1. Voice biometrics
  2. Virtual assistants

These technologies are nothing new, of course, but it’s how they’ve developed and the way we’re now able to deploy them in a Service Desk environment that has enabled us to transform IT support.

But it’s not just an issue of introducing new technology and expecting it to work. It’s important to integrate tools into the support ecosystem and ‘productise’ them in order to encourage people to prefer them over calling the Service Desk in the old way.

First, let’s look at the tech element…

Watch our new video to learn more about the Social Command Centre – our self-serve service desk:

1. Voice biometrics

One of the most powerful developments in Service Desk delivery has been the introduction of voice biometrics.

For our purposes, it has two distinct uses: recognition of what is said (voice recognition) and identification of who has said it (voice identification).

Recognition software has been around for a number of years. Most of us use it pretty regularly in our private lives when we ring our bank or phone company and provide the system with our name, account number and so on.

We have been using voice recognition for similar purposes in IT support for some time. We might want the user to tell us their name or staff ID, and the main focus of their call. After that we use back office systems to interpret this input and carry out the required task – or, at the very least, give the agent information that speeds up the resolution of the call.

The most interesting aspect of voice biometrics is Voice ID because this technology authenticates who is calling as well as what they say. It works by prompting individuals to go through a one-time registration process where they speak to an automated system which generates a unique biometric hash of their voice.

This has massive benefits for business IT support. Voice ID pre-authenticates the person calling for help, proving that they are who they claim to be. This saves the agent taking them through the challenge-response questions, making the process quicker and more secure.

Fujitsu is using Voice ID to allow people to reset their passwords without speaking to a service desk agent.

Our voice biometric solution allows the user to ID themselves to the system, tell it (via recognition) what application or Operating System is the target of their request and carry out the entire E2E process wherever they are.

For employees, embracing this stuff is not much of a jump – as I said, we’ve all been using biometric identification on our personal devices for some time now. But the amount of business time and effort you could save them, in the long run, is enormous.

Imagine never having to change your password again.

2. Virtual assistants

The second major technological development that makes this new kind of service desk possible is the increasing intelligence (and therefore usefulness) of virtual assistants (VAs).

These can be extremely effective if deployed in the right way. In many instances, people don’t realise they are speaking with a virtual agent which may then migrate seamlessly to a real person when the situation becomes too complex…

When we first install our VA, we build in a certain amount of relatively simple logic that comes out of the box – such as a decision tree or simple workflow that enables the VA to make choices based on a simple set of potential options.

But the more people use the VA the more the artificial intelligence and cognitive analytics underpinning it learns about them and the wider environment. And so it can start to make contextual decisions and predict what people need.

So, if you ask your VA to buy you a train ticket, it will use contextual information to choose the best ticket for you, based on the closest station to your house, and your preference for facing forwards or backwards.

This kind of contextualised decision making can also be applied to IT requests you might make of the service desk.

Imagine what this could mean for your employees – the amount of time you could give them back to focus on the important stuff. The stress you could remove from their working lives.

It’s great for them, but there will also be a hugely positive knock-on effect for the wider business in terms of increased productivity and satisfaction.

Getting your people on board

I’ve talked about the technology involved in creating a ‘self-serve’ IT service desk, but in order to make this work, you need cultural change too.

When I talk to customer stakeholders about this they’re still asking the wrong questions. I still see RFPs asking about average handling times, first call resolution and call pick up. At this stage, I have to ask, “what does that all mean to the bottom line of your organisation”?

The key element to any support service now is value.

Who cares how many P3 tickets we fix within 5 days?

It’s not just about how quickly you can react to something – it’s about understanding, predicting and proactively solving people’s problems before they occur. When we can’t prevent faults, we have to provide people with a simple and intuitive experience – exactly what they’re used to as consumers.

When people start to see how quickly and easily they can solve problems without going through the convoluted processes of old, they will become advocates for the new self-serve approach, which helps eradicate shadow IT and reinforces the position of the CxO.

It’s important to harness this to spread the message about your new style of Service Desk, encouraging employees to stop picking up the phone every time they have an issue.

The fact is: IT guys aren’t here to fix tickets anymore. We’re here to improve an organisation’s performance.

And you do that by empowering people to help themselves.

Watch the Social Command Centre video to learn more.

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