Technology moved us from bank tellers to ATMs to mobile banking, airline agents to airport kiosks and photo drive-throughs (remember Fotomat?) to digital prints. We’ve embraced self-service everywhere it makes sense, but one place not so aggressively ─ the tech industry that created these advancements.
We have to ask ourselves, in a technology-enabled society that has moved from interacting with people (person to person) to interacting with machines, why has IT not more actively advanced our service models? This is beginning to change, fortunately, and I expect that in the next 18-24 months, most of the managed services industry will begin leveraging new engagement and automation models to improve the service experience and reduce the costs of support by changing the mix of engagement.
In the current virtual service desk model, employees or customers call for support, often in what I call a Help Desk Moment when they are gripped with panic because the technology they depend on to do their work has failed. They call the Help Desk, have a conversation about what’s wrong and receive an incident number that goes into a queue before they get assistance. Is that what people really need in that moment of frustration? Do they want a number or do they want a solution that is accessible in a way that suits them as a performer and meets their needs in the situation they face?
You don’t follow that process to walk into a retail store for help, or to order from Amazon. Think about walking into Macy’s and being given a number before someone waits on you ─ not acceptable. Whether you talk to a salesperson, someone stocking shelves or a Customer Care manager, you want a quick response. The same scenario has to exist when an end user needs help from IT and the technologies exist to make it so.
It won’t be long before users can choose a self-service interface or pick up the phone and have someone digitally assist them, or walk up to a facility and gain resolution in a digitally directed mechanism, where customer care reps in a physical facility will leverage technology on the individual’s behalf. People will obtain the support they need or want at the time and place and of their own choosing.
Getting to this point starts with changing our thinking about service. Right now we think about Service Desk, self-service and walk-up services each as individual entities, but they are not. They’re components of a continuum to help performers achieve their objectives by leveraging technologies in an efficient, expedient way. When we thread together the service desk, self-service and walk-up services, they transform from separate entities into a service enablement continuum, a virtual service platform where users will be able to choose the support channel appropriate to their need, persona and situation, boosting end-user experience and satisfaction. IT will able to deliver a channel of communication and delivery that the user desires.
Ultimately, it's possible and reasonable to think that the Service Desk as we know it will disappear, melting into this continuum of engagement models.
What this means for the Service Desk industry is that our obsession with traditional service frameworks such as coin sorter, FIFO stack delivery model, will disappear and be replaced by these new forms of engagement and automation.
Will we ever get to zero-people support? It’s fair to expect that we’ll never eliminate all people support because there are classes of users who still want it. Yet digital mechanisms will continue to get smarter and smarter as technologies advance, including scripting technologies, evolving from scripting technologies to orchestration and Robotics Process Automation (RPA) technologies enhanced by cognitive computing.
The service enablement continuum is all about “Change Management 101,” and that part of the journey will be much more difficult than the technology. Most of the paradigms that we’ve hung our shingles on will dissipate and disappear and be replaced by machines. Many humans fear that evolution. I would argue that you don’t really have to buy that eventuality but you’re in denial if you don’t at least ascribe to the significant advances that are being delivered through this automation. It’s time for IT to adopt the advice that we so ambitiously give to customers: Time to drink our own champagne!
Please comment with your thoughts on the service enablement continuum. You may also be interested in Martin Ford’s 2015 book that addresses issues like these, “Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future.”