Three ways to motivate employees to embrace AI service desks

By: Jeff Dean

I hear a lot of debate in enterprise service desk circles about, What is “high touch” customer service?

It used to be picking up the phone and calling the service desk to speak with an agent for personalized IT support.

Let me ask a question: what is high touch about sitting in queue for 10 minutes, finally getting an agent who takes your info and reason you’re calling, and then says, “I can’t help,” and transfers you so the whole process starts over?

When this was the best technology could offer it probably was high touch.

Advances in technology have created a new experience. Now, IT managers have the added challenge of convincing their users that’s the case.

Analytics, automation, cognitive

Today’s digital workplace, powered by purpose driven analytics, continuous automation and cognitive solutions, creates a new standard for high touch support.

Powered by AI and cognitive engines, we can:

  • quickly diagnose issues
  • proactively identify and mitigate issues
  • empower cognitive agents
  • provide self-service options
  • provide access to knowledge articles and (if all else fails) access to live agents

All while gathering and analyzing information for continual improvements.

Advanced service desk tools are here, today

I’m not referring to things coming in the future. These tools are here today. In fact, when I visit clients all across the globe, I see many already deployed and basically sitting unused.

I have the unique perspective of meeting with CIOs around the world.

User adoption is always a challenge.

A typical complaint:

“Our vendor sold us on a solution. We spent a lot of money and time implementing and educating our employees about it, and no one uses it.

We were promised efficiencies, and we are not seeing them, and we are upset with our vendor.” 

This may or may not be a vendor issue but remember, vendors cannot make your employees do anything. It’s up to you.

Over 18 years, I’ve studied this process and considered the best way to drive new adoption.

I’ve come up with three approaches: guided, directed and penalizing.

Let’s look at each.

Guided innovation adoption

If you’ve ever participated in a corporate change initiative, you know the ropes of a guided approach. This is the hand-holding option. In these cases, you see abundant communications detailing the new technology and why it’s good for employees and the business. You also see a requested timeline for compliance, which affords plenty of time for trial and error.

As my change management colleagues remind me, leaders most inspire employees to change, even in difficult circumstances, when the employees’ needs for growth and meaning are met. The guided approach can work well when employees are involved in setting timelines and any feedback they provide is acknowledged and heard.

We know this approach can work, but I have to tell you its effectiveness is limited. Some companies embrace new technologies and others not so much.

Here’s the conundrum: we’re not asking our employees to do anything at work that they’re not doing at home.

Think of it this way: who do you call when you have an issue with iTunes?

Who taught you how to use Uber?

Who taught you how to update your cell to the latest software release?

Who showed you how to set up an online account and order from an online catalogue?

Answer: no one! (Well… maybe your kids.)

As users of consumer technology, we’ve already learned to become self-reliant. By necessity, you simply can’t call most technology-based services for help; you have to figure things out yourself.

How do we get our end users to adopt new technology when the guided approach fails?

Directed innovation adoption

We start with an information campaign describing the new technology and its benefits. We follow that with mandatory training. Next, we provide a date at which calling the service desk for help is no longer an option. They must use the technology.

In the directed model, we’re removing the option to call for a certain type of support and directing them to the new application to resolve issues.

Of course, there will always be escalations for issues. But for Level 1 support, the new tool is how we resolve issues.

Does the directed model work?

Yes. I Have personal experience. In one quarter at my company, we moved more than 400,000 end users from calling the service desk for password reset support to an automated tool. It has worked at many other companies, too.

In a directed model, training and compliance are mandatory after a specific date.

Penalize for not adopting

In this phase we are penalizing employees or business units if they don’t adopt the new technology.

Remember this is after using the guided and/or directed approaches.

In these cases, if employees still call the service desk after the mandatory compliance date, their business unit gets billed for support desk time.

Why? Let’s face it: the financial investment in an automated, cognitive service isn’t trivial. Given such an investment, employees who continue with the status quo after a mandatory compliance date are draining the organization.

My company polled attendees at a recent conference featuring cognitive service desk technology.

More than 80 percent of poll participants said they’re either “willing” or “totally willing” to embrace AI-powered tools at work. And more than 70 percent said they’d want the agent to help with IT support.

As more and more companies adopt digital workplace technology, they’re seeing the promise of high-touch IT support is better fulfilled with an AI-powered service desk.

That tells me the standard for high touch is changing, and so should be organizations’ approach to implementing new technology.


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About The Author

Jeff Dean

Global Lead, Digital Workplace Services, GTS, IBM

Jeff has been with IBM more than eight years and worked in the managed services industry for more than 18 years. He currently leads the Global Digital Workplace Services Center of Competency. Prior to this he led the North American Network SIH. Jeff's broad range of experience gives him unique insights into Digital Workplace Services.