Three ways to motivate employees to embrace AI service desks

There’s a lot of debate in enterprise service desk circles: What is “high-touch” customer service?

It used to be picking up the phone and calling the service desk to speak with an agent for personalized IT support. But what is “high-touch” about sitting in queue for 10 minutes, finally getting an agent who takes your info and reason you’re calling, only to say, “I can’t help,” and transfers you so the whole process starts over?

Maybe this was considered “high-touch” when it was the best technology could offer. But advances in technology, particularly the AI-powered service desk, have paved the way for shorter wait times, faster resolutions and clearer insights.

The next hurdle? IT managers just have to convince their users to use it.

Analytics, automation, cognitive

In the modern digital workplace, purpose-driven analytics, continuous automation and cognitive solutions have created a new standard for high-touch support.

AI and cognitive engines enable IT teams to:

  • Quickly diagnose issues
  • Proactively identify and mitigate issues
  • Empower cognitive agents
  • Provide self-service options
  • Provide access to knowledge articles and, if all else fails, access to live agents
  • Gather and analyze information for continual improvements

These tools exist in the here and now and can be implemented today. In fact, many have already been implemented and are basically sitting unused.

User adoption is always a challenge

I have the unique perspective of meeting with CIOs around the world. User adoption is always a challenge. A typical complaint might look like:

“Our vendor sold us on a solution. We spent a lot of money and time implementing and educating our employees about it, and no one uses it. We were promised efficiencies, we are not seeing them, and we are upset with our vendor.” 

While it may or may not be a vendor issue, remember: vendors cannot make your employees do anything. That part’s up to you.

Over 18 years, I’ve studied this process, considered the best ways to drive new adoption and come up with three approaches: guided, directed and penalizing.

Let’s take a closer look at each.

Guided innovation adoption

If you’ve ever participated in a corporate change initiative, you know the ropes of a guided approach. This is the hand-holding option. In these cases, you see frequent communications detailing the new technology and why it’s good for both employees and the business. You also see a requested timeline for compliance, which factors in plenty of time for trial and error.

As my change management colleagues remind me, employees are most inspired to change when their needs for growth and meaning are met. The guided approach can work well when employees are involved in setting timelines and any feedback they provide is acknowledged and heard.

We know this approach can work, but its effectiveness is often limited. Some companies embrace new technologies and others not so much.

Here’s the conundrum: we’re not asking our employees to do anything at work that they’re not doing at home. We learn to use new technology often in our personal lives.

Think of it this way…

Who do you call when you have an issue with iTunes? Who taught you how to use Uber? Who taught you how to update your cell phone to the latest software release? Who showed you how to set up an online account and order from an online catalogue?

Answer: no one! (Well… maybe your kids.)

As users of consumer technology, we’ve already learned to be self-reliant and figure things out for ourselves.

So, how do we get users to adopt new technology when the guided approach fails?

Directed innovation adoption

In this approach, we start with an information campaign describing the new technology and its benefits. We follow that with mandatory training. Next, we provide a date at which calling the service desk for help is no longer an option. They must use the technology.

In the directed model, we’re removing the option of the previous type of support and directing them to the new application to resolve issues. Of course, there will always be escalations for more complex issues. But for Level 1 support, the new tool is how we resolve issues.

Does the directed model work? Yes. At my company, we once moved more than 400,000 end users from calling the service desk for password reset support to an automated tool. It has worked at many other companies, too.

Penalize for not adopting

This approach makes the most sense after first trying the guided and/or directed approaches. Here, we are penalizing employees or business units if they don’t adopt the new technology. For example, if an employee still call the service desk after the mandatory compliance date, their business unit gets billed for support desk time.

Why? Because the financial investment in an automated, cognitive service isn’t trivial. Given such an investment, employees who continue with the status quo after a mandatory compliance date are draining the organization.

My company polled attendees at a recent conference featuring cognitive service desk technology. More than 80 percent of poll participants said they’re either “willing” or “totally willing” to embrace AI-powered tools at work. And more than 70 percent said they’d want the agent to help with IT support.

As more and more companies adopt digital workplace technology, they’re seeing the promise of high-touch IT support is better fulfilled with an AI-powered service desk. That tells me the standard for “high-touch” is changing — and so should organizations’ approach to implementing new technology.