… rather than replace human interactions and demand self-service from your customers, pitches this ERP support expert.

Global disruptions and competition are placing new demands on the delivery of IT support services. CIOs that use AI to enhance—not replace—a human-first digital strategy in IT support services, will likely gain competitive advantage to survive and thrive.

According to Kevin Johnson, CEO, Starbucks: “A ‘human-first digital strategy’ is the key to future retail success, and those who fail to marry physical and digital will fall by the wayside.”.

We can see this trend clearly: tech support services are being disrupted by digital transformation— automated response systems have replaced help desks, chatbots are used instead of call centers, and software is used to analyze business instead of simply being used as a system of record.

However, if implemented strictly as a cost-saving measure, the increased use of technology in IT services can decrease human interactions. Take the instance of enterprise software vendors that have automated help desk services and are enjoying operating margins as high as 94% on their annual support fees.

At the same time, personalization is becoming a differentiator for customers that demand excellence in the services they receive. For many companies, this means shifting expertise closer to the customer. It also involves providing a higher degree of informed, educated, and technology-powered human services that enable customers to self-help when desired, or receive rapid human support.

These trends are being impacted by the current global market disruption. Even though digital transformation is an important focus area for IT services, CIOs must immediately address how to maintain a human connection in IT services when faced with social distancing.

CIOs can leverage digitalization of IT services to help their companies survive and even thrive when faced with rapidly evolving market conditions. Addressing the human connection can provide differentiation in addressing customer expectations while at the same time saving money through automation.  

Business impact of using AI to enhance the human connection

In a recent Gartner CIO study, 40% of top performing companies expected AI to be a game changer in their organization. Yet, consider the level of maturity in AI today: what it does best, at present, is quickly and efficiently analyze, categorize, and find relationships in large amounts of data. AI is best-suited to solve narrowly-defined problems; by itself, AI cannot replace all IT services jobs, particularly those that require deep analysis or a contextual understanding (i.e., adapting to the environment) in order to find the right solution.

AI for IT services involves shifting knowledge through technology, putting organizational and product expertise in a readily consumable format to support IT services via automation. Retail, for example, has been using the machine learning aspect of AI for some time to enhance customer experience by learning more about shoppers and understanding what buyers want.  Although this type of AI enhancement can lower the cost in support service delivery, over-reliance on automated AI alone may decrease the level of personal service by forcing the use of self-service.

Where having a human connection between customer and service provider will provide differentiation and improve service outcomes, the addition of AI can surface insights and correlations to resolve complex issues and deliver higher quality services more rapidly. That is, using AI can make that human-to-human interaction even better. An example of this in action is at Rimini Street, where the company provides a unified, personalized, human-centric support experience, backed by an AI-powered service platform that delivers swifter routing and human response.

AI is used to speedily-assign cases and/or move them to the right engineers. It improves support resilience by handling resource availability in order to deliver uninterrupted support from hundreds of specialized engineers at scale across thousands of clients with complex, mission-critical software.  

Enhance the AI-human connection

IT service vendors can provide better services, improve customer experience, and increase customer satisfaction by providing an AI-enabled, human-to-human interface that differentiates them from competitors. Digital has made the world of potential IT support service vendors truly global, so IT support services providers must differentiate their service experience. They must make people want to come back.

Just as enterprise resource planning by itself is not differentiating if it did not offer easy-to-use features like online order entry, self-service support (even AI-enabled self-service) will become ubiquitous and will lack the differentiation that is provided by a human connection in solely digital interactions.

When using AI to automate IT support services, companies can lose sight of the elemental part of services that are uniquely human—the ability to interact personally, in real time. Losing that to a programmed machine is not a step forward; it is truly a loss of something very special.

At the same time, without the backing of AI to empower and inform, a strategy of providing the human touch in IT support services is not enough to create differentiation. Using AI as a strategy to enhance (and not replace) the human connection in IT services is applicable cross-industry, providing customer service interactions that are truly engaging.

The human-first digital strategy

When looking at transforming an IT services model, identify where the human element in services can improve overall outcomes. Use expertise and customer profiles to guide which IT services are strong candidates for using AI technology to enhance that human connection.

Purchasing professionals seeking enterprise software support should strongly consider providers that use AI technology to enhance their human connection. Seek partners that have the wisdom to balance digitization with personalization.