AI at your service: Five ways to optimise self-service with ML, AI-powered virtual agents

By Alexandria Nisha, ITSM Content Writer, ManageEngine

Johannesburg, 29 Sep 2023
Virtual agents are available 24/7.
Virtual agents are available 24/7.

The not-so-secret ingredient to give users instant solutions with minimal human intervention is to empower them to find their own answers. Thankfully, self-service options have been around for quite some time now and you probably are no stranger to them.

Self-service is a sought-after medium that many users seek to resolve issues. To resolve their own support issues, 72% of customers prefer a self-service option instead of sending an e-mail or making a phone call, according to Forrester Research. However, contrary to this demand, self-service in IT isn't taking off as fast as you'd expect. Our 2022 survey found that a third of organisations (34%) still don't offer self-help capabilities, and of those that do, 29% don't see it as effective.

This begs the question: Why doesn't the overwhelming interest by users in self-service align with the adoption rates by organisations?

While self-service is clearly the preferred route, users want the experience to be seamless and personalised. Static self-service portals often require users to resort to the ever-dreaded e-mails and calls to resolve their issues and, trust us when we say this, trying to make them unlearn old habits is the last thing that you need. If impatient users and overextended help desks are bogging you down, you might want to seek ways to avoid self-service complexities.

AI for self-service

In an ideal world, the goal of self-service is to reduce human intervention to the absolute minimum. Though we are not fully there yet, by integrating AI into IT service desks, we are slowly chipping away at this goal. Currently, self-service portals lack the ability to personalise or adapt to users' needs, but AI, with its ability to mimic human intelligence and learn from past experiences, is changing the way service desks interact with end-users. AI technologies, including machine learning, have already opened new possibilities to make self-service relatively faster, smarter and effective. By leveraging these technologies, AI-powered virtual agents are making it fairly simple to address the barriers of personalisation and smart automations you'd normally face in traditional self-service.

How then can you optimise self-service with ML and AI-powered virtual agents?

Let's cut to the chase and look at five ways AI-powered virtual agents can come to your rescue:

1. Assist users contextually with instant resolutions

Rather than directing users to lengthy knowledge bases or complex service catalogues to fend for themselves, virtual agents offer more personalised experiences by giving users exactly what they need from the get-go. Say a user pings the virtual agent with a printer issue. The virtual agent quickly locates relevant data from the knowledge base and provides the user with accurate solutions on the fly. The solution they need is just a chat away. By constantly analysing user intents and preferences from each interaction, these agents learn to assist contextually and provide tailored resolutions in no time!

2. Provide round the clock assistance

The best part about virtual agents is their 24/7 availability. Users can reach out anytime and from anywhere, as these agents offer uninterrupted assistance by working around the clock. Be it non-business hours or holidays or weekends, you are assured they'll be available all day, every day. Now, even your night owl users, or those who simply have the knack for running into setbacks at the most inconvenient times, can receive prompt support.

3. Provide conversational assistance with contextual interactions

Users often find themselves plagued with a ton of queries when seeking assistance from service desks. Some might come armed with simple queries regarding details about their workstations, while others might pose more complex queries related to security and data privacy. Either way, manually sorting through and addressing these queries is very time-consuming. Not only does this result in longer wait times for the end-users, but it also takes a huge toll on the service desk's productivity. Virtual agents, by acting as the end-user's first point of contact, can help bridge the gap between end-users and the service desk. These agents can understand and interpret user queries, simulate human-like conversations and even ask additional questions to provide users with instant and contextual responses.

4. Reduce human error

With a boatload of tickets coming your way every day, at some point you are bound to fall prey to human error. For instance, tickets would have to be properly categorised and prioritised before they can be routed to the correct technicians. With the availability of multiple categories and priority levels, it would be unfair to blame your technicians for struggling to set up and maintain these processes. On the other hand, predefined automation rules lack the intelligence to adapt and improve, therefore requiring periodic human intervention to course correct over time. But with the application of machine learning, algorithms can be trained to learn from historical data to automate categorisation and ticket routing processes based on certain parameters. By leveraging these trained algorithms, tickets can now be automatically categorised, prioritised and routed to the technicians adept at handling specific ticket types. This means less human intervention and fewer errors!

5. Ease technicians' workloads

Service desks receive hundreds, if not thousands, of tickets every day. When it comes to self-service, time is money. If your technician is looking at handling their umpteenth password reset of the day, their time clearly isn't being spent wisely. The sheer volume of such L1 requests flooding the service desks can affect the team's productivity. By automating such requests, virtual agents can now alleviate technicians from repetitive tickets, enabling them to cater to more critical tasks. Virtual agents, by adhering to predefined workflows, deliver standardised and seamless solutions. This helps ease the workload on the service desks as your teams would only come into play for tasks that require the human touch.

Final thoughts

At the end of the day, the success of any AI model comes down to the data it's fed and having a well maintained and neatly organised service desk is crucial. If you've been sitting on the sidelines, wondering if AI-powered virtual agents are worth giving a shot, these five benefits should be reason enough to get your self-service initiatives on track. Users simply won't settle for "good enough" self-service anymore. Staying on top of the ever-evolving technological advancements is vital for a great user experience and improved service desk productivity. From minimising wait times for end-users to maximising the efficiency of your service desks, AI-powered virtual agents are the future of self-service. It is highly unlikely this trend will reverse and the smart thing to do is welcome the potential with open arms.

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