With the continuing challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 has been a year of sharp pivots and re-evaluation for enterprise and customer service and support organizations. The advent of pervasive remote, work-from-home workforces particularly has required companies to rethink and begin to revise their support strategies and platforms.
Yet, as with so many of the changes taking place this year, the pandemic has tended to accelerate, rather than rewrite, many of the transformations and trends now under way. The current pandemic has underscored long-term deficiencies and needs that many enterprises are now making priorities for the way they support employees.
This edition of eWEEK Data Points uses industry information from Wai Wong, President and Chief Executive Officer of Serviceaide, which makes virtual agents (chatbot, AIOPS and automation) for service and support management.
Here are some of the major trends Wong believes are now accelerating within enterprises worldwide.
Data Point No. 1: Work is not just work from home but ‘work anywhere and anytime.’
Many employees are not going into the office and continue to work from home. Many are also not working set hours, but when it is convenient. Parents, for example, are being forced to juggle the need to help their school-at-home children while also getting their own work done. This necessitates a work schedule that may begin earlier in the day, later into the evening and during the weekend. These flexible work schedules mean not just remote support, but 24×7 availability.
It’s a change that means self-service is growing in importance. Self-service is no longer a nice-to-have, but a must to meet the needs of employees without sacrificing productivity. Self-service, of course, has tremendous benefits in a post-COVID-19 world as well, in terms of cost-efficiency and employee productivity. New technologies, such as AI-driven virtual assistants that can engage with employees, automate service delivery and efficiently develop and assign support tickets, are more critical than ever to supporting this new mode of working.
Data Point No. 2: The economic downturn and business uncertainty are forcing companies to be more deliberate and re-prioritize as they review their technology budgets.
While many areas of the IT budget are being cut, reduced, or postponed due to current uncertainties, other areas of spend are being prioritized. Spending on collaboration software, for example, has seen a dramatic increase. There has also been significant growth in software solutions that address the need for business continuity and service and support for remote workers. As companies reassess service and support solutions, low-code and no-code solutions will increase in popularity because budgets cannot expand to cover costly consulting engagements and long time to value implementations.
Data Point No. 3: Technology expands urgently across the enterprise.
Historically, new service and support technologies were implemented in the IT organization first. However, the urgent need to transform companies to improve productivity and efficiency means there is no time to start with just one organization. The service management mandate is being felt not just by IT, but by HR, employee benefits, facilities and other departments. Increasingly we will see an urgency at the enterprise level to address service requirements across more functions.
Data Point No. 4: Knowledge access and availability is recognized as an immediate need.
In keeping with the desire to improve productivity and service, companies are recognizing the critical importance of automating and streamlining knowledge accessibility. Service organizations must be able to effectively share knowledge in order to quickly and effectively resolve problems, handle requests and provide services. They are realizing that all the knowledge artifacts they have accumulated and stored are only valuable if it can be accessed and used. Leveraging intelligent virtual agents with superior access to enterprise knowledge bases will become a priority for companies to improve employee and help desk productivity.
Data Point No. 5: Innovation becomes even more important for differentiation and disruption.
The use of artificial intelligence and machine learning will not only support immediate business needs but become an integral part of corporate digital transformation strategies. Implementing technology that learns and self optimizes will make companies more efficient and put them ahead of their competition. The role of AI in creating more productive workforces and support organizations will accelerate in organizations of all sizes, particularly as vendors bring to market solutions that are more cost-effective and less skill-intensive to implement and use.
These trends will remain in place long after we develop a vaccine for COVID-19. They will become fundamental shifts in the way companies operate and differentiate in the years ahead. Increasingly, companies of all sizes will seek to tap the power of AI-driven, knowledge-capable service and support.
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