How AI can put humans first in IT support services

Profile picture for user Brian Slepko By Brian Slepko October 22, 2020
The use of AI in IT support services is a powerful force, but only if it enhances instead of replacing the human touch argues Rimini Street's Brian Slepko

Handshake in front of video conference screen © geralt - Pixabay
(© geralt - Pixabay)

Technology support services are being disrupted by digital transformation: automated response systems have replaced help desks, chatbots are used instead of call centers, and software is leveraged to analyze business instead of simply being used as a system of record. The risk is that, as the use of technology in IT services increases, human interactions can decrease, particularly if implemented strictly as a cost-saving measure. CIOs must use AI to enhance, not replace, the human connection. Follow the advice of Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks:

A ‘human-first digital strategy’ is the key to future retail success — and those who fail to marry physical and digital will fall by the wayside.

Personalization is becoming a differentiator sought out by customers who demand excellence in the services they receive. For many companies, this means shifting expertise closer to the customer. It also involves providing a higher degree of informed, educated, and technology-powered human services that enable customers to self-help when desired, or receive rapid human support. The whitepaper Adopting a ‘Shift Left’ Strategy to Transform Technology Support Services describes these alternatives to human disengagement in the era of digital connection.

Current global market disruption accelerates these trends. Even though digital transformation is an important focus area for IT services, CIOs must immediately address how to maintain a human connection in IT services when faced with social distancing. CIOs can leverage digital transformation of IT services to help their companies survive and even thrive when faced with rapidly evolving market conditions. Addressing the human connection can provide differentiation in addressing customer expectations while at the same time saving money through automation.

Business impact of using AI to enhance the human connection

What do we mean by AI-enhanced human connection in IT support services? This is the coupling of AI technology with the human touch in order to transform and create differentiation in IT services. When human IT support experts are supercharged with AI, it allows for more rapid resolution of complex issues and delivery of higher quality services.

In a recent Gartner CIO study, 40% of top performing companies expected AI to be a game changer in their organization. Here are five industries already heavily vested in AI:

  • Healthcare
  • Finance
  • Transportation
  • Technology
  • Retail

Yet consider the level of maturity in AI today — what it does best, at present, is quickly and efficiently analyze, categorize, and find relationships in large amounts of data. AI is best-suited to solve narrowly defined problems — by itself, AI can’t replace all IT services jobs, particularly those that require deep analysis or a contextual understanding (ie, adapting to the environment) in order to find the right solution.

AI for IT services involves shifting knowledge through technology — putting organizational and product expertise in a readily consumable format to support IT services via automation. Retail, for example, has been using the machine learning aspect of AI for some time to enhance customer experience by learning more about shoppers and understanding what buyers want. Although this type of AI enhancement can lower the cost in support service delivery, over-reliance on automated AI alone may decrease the level of personal service by forcing the use of self-service.

Where having a human connection between customer and service provider will provide differentiation and improve service outcomes, the addition of AI can surface insights and correlations to resolve complex issues and deliver higher quality services more rapidly. That is, using AI can make that human-to-human interaction even better.

An example of this in action is at Rimini Street, where the company provides a unified, personalized, human-centric support experience, backed by an AI-powered service platform that delivers swifter routing and human response. AI is used to speedily assign cases and/or move them to the right engineers. It improves support resilience by handling resource availability in order to deliver uninterrupted support from hundreds of specialized engineers at scale across thousands of clients with complex, mission-critical software.

The value in using AI to enhance the human connection in IT services

When using AI to automate IT support services, companies can lose sight of the elemental part of services that are uniquely human — the ability to interact with each other personally, in real time. Losing that to a programmed machine is not a step forward; it is truly a loss of something very special.

At the same time, without the backing of AI to empower and inform, a strategy of providing a human connection in IT support services is not enough to create differentiation. Using AI as a strategy to enhance the human connection in IT services is applicable cross-industry, providing customer service interactions that are truly engaging.

When looking at transforming an IT services model, identify where the human element in services can improve overall outcomes. Use expertise and customer profiles to guide which IT services are strong candidates for using AI technology to enhance that human connection. When seeking enterprise software support, strongly consider providers that use AI technology to enhance their human connection. Find the right balance of digitization with personalization by combining today’s technology with proven human skills.