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A typical day in the life of a service desk agent used to be spent sifting through phone calls and emails, which inundate queues and slow down resolutions. This quickly depreciates the experience both for the affected employee and the service desk agent, who’s an employee, too. Poor engagement and utilization of service catalogs have long been evidence of service desk failures.

IT Automation And The Ticketing Process

Enter IT automation with its streamlined ticketing processes. Structured ticket intakes, request-tracking tools and the identification of recurring service requests have been some of the ways resolutions have been expedited.

Maintaining a repository of tickets and leveraging ticket analysis for identifying systemic issues have been welcome outcomes of IT automation. Referring to a library of service histories at the touch of a key became the wind beneath the help desk agent’s wings. Employees have enjoyed the “DIY” feel of self-service with access to relevant knowledge articles. In fact, IT automation has been having its healing moment as it increased the scope of processes it could automate across the enterprise via prebuilt connectors.

Why IT Automation May Not Be Enough

Yet, on the back of the pandemic and the new work-from-home culture, help desk calls increased exponentially — more than 35% according to the results of a DeepCoding study — and service desks have become overwhelmed. Lengthy queues cause equally lengthy wait times, resulting in an increase in resolution time and a decrease in first contact and first-level resolutions. Employee satisfaction scores have been decreasing while frustration among IT support staff has escalated.

Another negative outcome was a 30% rise in the cost per ticket. Although the backend of the service desk is typically robust, the frontend — facing employees — tends to be inadequate. It’s become clear that a combination of self-help solutions, technology and the omnipresent chat might help mitigate the issues.

Intro To Conversational IT

Enter conversational IT. The world’s been chatting and so are employees. So, many IT help desks have begun to use purposed chatbots that understand an employee’s IT needs in plain English (or the language of your choice). This is a contextual understanding — enough for the bot to know when a service ticket needs to be open, when to serve up a relevant knowledge article or when to troubleshoot using a screenshot taken by an employee. For complex situations, the bot could hand off the issue to IT support staff. With this technology, there isn’t a need to take remote control of a desktop — the bots, running on multiple desktops, are able to address issues directly.

Considering An Integrated Solution

But it turns out that employees express most of their IT woes in emails, which remain the most frequent mode of communication with the IT service desk. Employees may also report issues or request services using voice channels. With a multichannel approach to ticket resolution — one that could assess the text in emails and categorize and route them — service desk malaise could be tackled.

Although standalone solutions for each of these functionalities are available in the market, companies have been building up a portfolio of applications to address all of these needs with integrated solutions. It seems less than optimum for an enterprise to work with three or more solutions rather than an integrated platform that includes IT automation, AI, chatbots and optical character recognition (OCR) built for IT support.

Intro To AI Assistants

IT support agents also need help. Here, conversational IT can help IT and support staff with ChatOps. AI assistants can help technicians resolve tickets faster by categorizing them, suggesting solutions and allowing staff to work on tickets without needing to go through multiple screens. Conversational IT can learn from every interaction with human technicians and improve over time.

What To Look For In A Conversational IT System

If you’re considering a conversational IT system, you’ll first want to decide if it’s right for your company. Start by measuring how much time is spent in the traditional ticketing process. If it’s not significant, conversational AI might not be right for you at this time. Ask your employees (and make sure to include the IT staff) if the current system is working for them and get their opinions on a conversational IT solution. If you decide to explore the possibility of using such a solution, ask yourself the following questions when evaluating options.

• Does the system establish always-open channels of communication with IT?

• Do the channels include the ways in which my employees prefer to communicate, such as email, voice and/or chat?

• Can employees communicate in plain English, or will they need to know some basic IT terms?

• Does the platform employ the latest technologies, and does it offer regular updates?

• Is it powered by a scalable automation engine that can grow with my company?

Remember that most vendors will tell you that their solutions meet all these criteria, so it’s up to you to do your due diligence. Ask for references, do online research and request a trial run before committing yourself.

Happy Employees Are Productive Employees

Forrester’s David Johnson states in his employee experience blog that “what makes up employee experience is what they experience every day” and “having the resources they need to succeed in the work their organizations expect of them is paramount.” The next-gen IT service desk sits firmly behind employee productivity, but its success depends on the ease of communication, as well as the speed and quality of resolutions.

The IT service desk often sits on the cusp between being a hefty cost center and an employee enabler, contributing to employee happiness by meeting them in the channels of their choice. Equipping the IT help desk with the right tools and technology can benefit every employee in the company.

By Uday Birajdar

CEO and co-founder at AutomationEdge

This article was first published on Forbes here.

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