Five Emerging Trends in Technology Support Services
December 14, 2017
Written by: Shu Tao, Ph.D.
AI and Virtual Agents
Chatbots have been under the spotlight and have seen some success in the consumer space. It has yet to deliver the promise in the domain of customer support in enterprise environments. With new breakthroughs like AI-powered conversation platforms, addressing critical challenges in natural language understanding, context resolution, and knowledge graph-guided question answering, we will be able to create more sophisticated virtual agents that possess deep knowledge about supported products. We now are able to provide end users with a new way of interacting with support services beyond the help desk. This will also allow a support organization to scale to new product domains, without having to scale its workforce proportionally.
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
Tech support is about expertise and knowledge sharing. With AR/VR technologies reaching a greater level of maturity, we expect to see these technologies used more in tech support scenarios, especially for hardware support. For example, a remote expert can visually guide a field agent who uses a mobile device or AR glasses to fix a problem, a novice agent could be trained on complex procedures in a VR-based, game-like setting, and a customer could be guided to a specific AR-enabled procedure to fix a problem himself after interacting with a virtual agent. The creation and curation of AR/VR capabilities will further scale support expertise beyond geographical, time, and even organizational boundaries. This technology trend can also foster a wider ecosystem of knowledge sharing, in which a problem can be solved by someone who can provide expertise and time, and gets rewarded for offering those as a service.
Support for Intelligent Devices
The devices being supported are increasingly embedded with sensors and monitoring capabilities to gather information about themselves and about the environment surrounding them. Leveraging sensor and monitoring data, technology support engineers will reply more heavily on predictive analytics, and proactively conduct maintenance, repair, or replacement tasks. For example, future intelligent ATM machines can be equipped with sensors that not only collect system data and logs, but also monitor cash levels, user access, temperature, noise, etc. Using predictive analytics, anomaly or other support-critical events can be detected before problems arise, allowing support engineers to prevent problems from happening. Realizing such an intelligent support paradigm involves collecting and processing data in real time, and performing support actions intelligently. To facilitate intelligent support, the industry will push for more standardization of data format, data collection platforms, as well as APIs for providing such data and analytics as service.
Technology support involves many canonical applications of blockchain, such as parts and logistics, supply chain, transaction and billing, etc. Blockchain offers a shared, distributed, and decentralized ledger that serves as a foundation for trusted collaboration among multiple parties throughout the tech support processes. As industry practitioners gain more experience with the technology, the next wave of innovations will be focusing on standardizing blockchain solutions that can be seamlessly integrated with organizations’ IT systems to jointly drive the tech support ecosystem.
Cloud provides the ubiquitous computing, storage and network infrastructure much needed in the future tech support paradigm. The AI and conversational platforms have been born and developed on the cloud; the content generated by AR/VR support applications will be stored, managed, and delivered through the cloud; the platform for supporting intelligent devices will be built on the cloud, leveraging big data and machine learning technologies. Cloud-based, managed blockchain networks (such as the IBM Blockchain Platform) will underpin the various blockchain solutions emerging in the tech support domain. The main advantage of cloud – its scalability – is key to solving the scalability problem in tech support as well.
In today’s digital age where cloud and AI are driving the way technology is designed, managed, and delivered, the traditional “break-fix” support models are no longer practical. Technology support services professionals at IBM are working hard to transform their own practices to align with ongoing hardware and software innovations, mindful of the fact that without a modern approach and support structure in place, support services would fail to keep up with the evolution of technologies. At the current pace of innovation, the technology trends described above will play a vital role in accelerating the transformation of technology support services into the future.
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