A zero-incident culture: proactive approach to service desk transformation

  • August 09, 2023
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Employees in a modern workplace are continuously seeking greater flexibility, especially in the post COVID-19 era. With millennials and Gen Z making up nearly half of the workforce, the digital workplace demands newer ways of IT service management that are driven by digital technologies. This generation is known for being innovative, open-minded and supportive in the workplace, and who tend to value culture over other things. It puts organizations under immense pressure of adopting technologies that provide more personal and intuitive experiences for their employees.

According to the 2022 Innovation Index report by NTT DATA and Oxford Economics, 45% of leaders believe that artificial intelligence and machine learning are the most or second most critical technologies for providing a positive digital experience to employees. The influence of these technologies in transforming service management will continuously increase and, therefore, organizations must consider setting up aspirational goals and changing their approach from reactive resolutions to proactive resolutions, by putting such technologies to the correct use. This approach promises more flexibility for employees as well as considerable gains for organizations, providing an increase in employee productivity and increasing profitability. Following are the five key tips/success drivers to transforming from a reactive to a proactive support desk.

1. Human-centered design and digital experience monitoring can reduce the number of incidents at the help desk — An effective user interface should be intuitive and require no explanation or training, thereby reducing the number of Level 1(L1) incidents at the help desk. If a user interface is good, then it shouldn't need explanation, instructions or training on how to use it. Having simple human-centric design interfaces with access to support and the right resources will make the environment dramatically lower the number of L1 incidents that happen at the desk. Digital experience monitoring also plays an important role in proactive support. The number of incidents can be further reduced by identifying potential issues before they become noticeable to the user or employee. As an example, one of our clients was having more than 30 calls regarding the blue screen of death (BSOD) every two weeks, but the technicians couldn’t accurately rectify the issue. When NTT DATA searched for the error in the recently deployed digital experience monitoring platform, we found the issue was happening on 6000 devices once or twice a month. Despite other devices being the same model and using the same applications, it wasn’t the case for all. Finally, we detected a bug in WiFi driver, reverted those devices to the old driver and reported the issue to the OEM, thereby reducing over 6000 BSOD instances in the following month.

2. Conversational AI is a key tool in handling support incidents and Generative AI can accelerate knowledge base build-out — The significant improvements in intent understanding and natural language processing have made conversational AI a valuable tool in resolving issues for employees or users. If these tools aren’t able to resolve the issues, they can still accelerate the resolution by routing to the correct resolver group, capturing the intent and doing the preliminary troubleshooting. Conversational AI can also be integrated with back-end systems through open APIs and custom scripting and automation tools. This integration allows for hyper-automation which can significantly automate most requests. With the introduction of Generative AI, it can be used to summarize the issue and resolution consistently, allowing for better issue and resolution analysis. It can even build the knowledge base articles from the tickets, based on voice-to-text transcription. The voice-to-text transcription can also be used for sentiment analysis, which helps eliminate the watermelon effect. Due to survey atrophy, we usually see a 30% response rate, mostly from people who were either very happy or unhappy. Whereas with the transcription, we'd have the sentiment analysis across all tickets.

3. Elevate L1 technicians to L1.5 to achieve the goal — The goal of zero L1 incident support is aspirational and requires significant changes, including elevating the role of the L1 technician. L1 support has a high attrition rate at most organizations, and this is amplified by the fact that the job isn't challenging or mentally stimulating for digital native, newly hired technicians from universities/colleges who graduated with advanced skills like scripting, Conversational AI and automation skills. They don't want to answer the phone. The technicians find the role to be more interesting when they troubleshoot new issues and proactively hunt for problems before employees notice them, as well as building the integrations and automation that the AI can leverage.

4. Bi-directional automation and multi-source knowledge correlation are essential for proactive support — Bi-directional automation for inbound and outbound communications and correlating multiple sources of knowledge for proactive support are one of the most critical aspects in a proactive approach. Giving Conversational AI the first chance to resolve an issue without involving a human could be beneficial. Even if AI is simply capturing the ticket details, understanding the intent and routing to the correct resolver groups, there's a significant benefit in reduced handle time. If the issue is known, and repeatable, and there's knowledge on how to handle it. The issue could be dealt with using Conversational AI if the integrations to enable it enact the change that needs to be applied. We should also explore proactive support options with multi-source knowledge correlations. As an example, if a database is down that affects 12 different applications, we could have AI proactively communicate to the users of those 12 applications about the outage and the restoration preventing a flood of inbound calls. Correlated and understood, it'll allow us to get proactive with our support services.

5. Introspective automation choice is critical to guarantee efficiency — While multiple levers for automation are available, please be cautious against using them indiscriminately. Instead, underscore the importance of using the right automation tool for the right purpose and ensuring it's kept up-to-date and focused. Catalog and document automation to be repurposed for other use cases. Simplify as much as possible so technicians can grab the individual components and connect them to others for a new use case. Track automation use and report on its success and failures. Also, look for automation that runs often, as it may just be covering the issue rather than resolving it. This can lead to an internal denial of service attack if it is running in loops wasting computing resources. The biggest thing organizations need to do is build a plan to enable automation where it's best to automate, and where it'll be reused — and measure what matters. Most impressive, ServiceNow built an automation center and integration hub for analyzing, requesting, tracking, quantifying and building use cases and workflows in a low-to-no-code approach.

Digital transformation through thoughtful use

Accelerated digital transformations and tech innovation from the last couple of years of remote work have created opportunities for digital workplaces to become more agile and streamlined. With flexible work being here to stay, every workplace must set goals to prevent problems before they even occur. Organizations should consider building a model with a focus on human-centric design, proactive digital experience monitoring, the use of Conversational AI, and hyper-automation. Conversational AI can efficiently help in resolving common incidents creation, request fulfillment, and password resets, among others. At the same time, be cautious about using automation thoughtfully and in the right place. At NTT DATA, we are dedicated to the goal to achieve zero level one incident digital workplace desks for our clients. We are on the journey to building a zero-incident digital workplace model and embracing the future of productivity.

Learn more on how NTT DATA’s Omnichannel User Support Services can further help you achieve the goal of transforming your workplace operations by providing a smart, convenient and on-demand support across channels.

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Brian Marranzini

Brian is a Senior Director for Digital Workplace Services at NTT DATA and has more than 20 years of industry experience. He works with NTT DATA’s largest clients to elevate the employee experience and productivity while optimizing costs, leveraging AI, automation, machine learning and modern workplace technologies. Before NTT DATA, Brian worked for Microsoft, helping clients and partners on Microsoft’s core infrastructure technologies. He has authored multiple magazine articles and has spoken at many technical conferences, including delivering keynote addresses for worldwide product launches.

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