AI – A Catalyst for Support Transformation

by | Feb 20, 2019

Since its very inception Support has been relentless in the pursuit of continuous improvement. Support organizations have adopted new technologies, enhanced delivery strategies, improved organizational design and staff development, successfully integrated self-help and automation, and have made tangible financial contributions to the overall business. Even with so many innovations Support has remained fundamentally unchanged for decades.

The State of Support

At the heart of Support are personal interactions where Support experts respond to customer information requests – to fix an issue or instruct customers on “how to” use a product.  Even with all the technology we employ and wide availability of self-help resources, Support continues to be a people intensive business.

The way we measure Support continues to focus on our ability to satisfy customers and meet financial expectations of the business.  Contributing to the satisfaction of customers and to the company bottom line are important, yet Support with its vast resources, deep product expertise and intimate customer relationships can contribute so much more to a business.

Many support organizations want to be more customer-success focused to drive adoption and success with products. Few organizations however have the excess capacity to fundamentally shift from transactional case management to nurturing customer relationships.

AI The Catalyst for Support Transformation

Support has relied on training, technology, and self-help to achieve efficiency gains, yet the potential of AI offers so much more.  Through the introduction of intelligence afforded by AI-enabled systems, we are not just streamlining the way we provide Support, we introduce the means to fundamentally change the strategic role of Support.

Introducing machine intelligence into support processes creates a significant opportunity to free Support staff to focus on critical activities to sustain and grow customer relationships. Here are some of the ways that artificial intelligence can impact Support:

Improve Support Efficiency

Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of established Support processes by:

  • Clarifying customer questions to establish a firm understanding of what the customer really needs help with.
  • Assuring that all information required to resolve an issue is collected.
  • Aligning open cases with the individual and teams most qualified to help.
  • Prioritizing open issues so that the most important cases are handled first.

Reduce the Level of Effort by Support Staff

Reduces the time and effort expended by Support staff to resolve customer issues by:

  • Helping customers search and find answers more effectively by understanding what they are looking for even if they do not explicitly ask for it.
  • Diagnosing issues and suggesting relevant resources to assist Support staff.
  • Eliminating manual processes to prioritize, route and escalate issues.
  • Suggesting top customer issues for creation of new support knowledgebase content.

Mitigate Risks to Customer Relationships

Identify and mitigate the risk factors that negatively affect customer relationships by:

  • Evaluating factors that affect customer relationship health based on analysis of sentiment expressed within customer interactions.
  • Identifying factors that are most likely to generate support demand.
  • Proactively identifying at risk configurations with products.
  • Prioritizing corrective actions for product or policy enhancements.
  • Mitigating potential issues through proactive intervention.

The AI Impact

The introduction of AI into Support processes will deliver three significant benefits:

  1. Machine intelligence assumes responsibility for some Support processes.
  2. AI makes human-activities more efficient.
  3. AI-enabled data analytics helps to reduce overall Support demand.

These three benefits of AI can be measured in terms of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) Support headcount.  How the AI Impact is applied to the business will determine the future path for Support.

Cash Out AI Benefits for Savings

Companies can choose to take the “savings” from AI enabled efficiencies and reduce overall headcount thus reducing the cost of Support delivery.  This assumes that service levels and quality can be maintained at a reasonable level.

Build and Sustain Relationships

Alternatively, companies can view AI as a means to free staff to focus on high value relationship building activities.  Note that staff displaced by AI enabled capabilities are not necessarily the same staff or roles required to deliver high value relationship building activities.

Cost Reduction or Relationship Growth

With a growing reliance on as-a-service licensing and clear evidence that sustained customer relationships are essential to profitability, Support must rethink its role within the company. Short-term financial motivation may compel some companies to look to AI for savings.  The best return from AI, however, is likely to come from the protection of recurring revenue and growth of relationship value.

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