3 technology support trends to watch in 2020
Proactive monitoring, contextual chatbots and advanced augmented reality are on the rise
By Kevin Wahlmeier | 4 minute read | January 22, 2020
Technology support is a fast-moving industry, one that must both respond to disruptive change and constantly reinvent itself to improve user experience. From chatbots that learn from interactions to improve their functionality over time to augmented reality support that boosts field technicians into instant experts, the business of technology support continues to break new ground. In the new decade, watch for advances in enhanced monitoring, chatbot experience and augmented reality capabilities.
Monitoring is the foundation for predictive and proactive support
The future of technology support is a predictive, proactive approach to the health of your IT environment. Monitoring is the ability to collect relevant data to drive meaningful insights. Where is the equipment located? Is the equipment healthy? How do all the systems connect and interact with each other? This real-time, dynamic collection of information about the environment can help your IT support team predict and prevent outages before they occur.
While there are solutions today that provide limited visibility, often software- or hardware-focused, the trend is moving toward complete visibility into the IT ecosystem, including multi-cloud and hybrid IT environments. Five capabilities of a holistic monitoring solution:
- Automatically discover end points, like servers, storage, routers and UPS. Collecting end point information enables inventory management and is the foundation for the rest of the use cases.
- Collect configuration information, such as firmware, operating systems, software products and topology.
- Monitor events, including log files, traffic and load, capacity and status information in real time.
- Automate tasks from monitoring the ecosystem to determine an action is needed, like creating a ticket in the call management system and automatically recommending or even implementing the fix.
- Gather analytics that provide trends insights and recommendation on maintaining and improving the overall health of the IT environment.
Monitoring isn’t something people necessarily think about when considering trends and new technologies to adopt. Clients often ask for elements that surround monitoring, like inventory management or predictions about when to replace a piece of equipment before it fails. Very often, it comes back to the foundational ability to monitor.
Context takes chatbots to the next level
Most of us have interacted with a chatbot at some point, probably growing frustrated as soon as the support we need is outside the chatbot’s scripted responses. Chatbots that can follow a script and escalate problems in a stepwise fashion are nothing new. More advanced chatbots today can actually learn from interactions and ask clarifying questions.
The next step for chatbots is to improve the user experience by adding context to those interactions. Context is vital to all our human interactions; the ability to see someone or hear the tone of their voice helps us infer the intention of their words. There are two main ways I see chatbots evolving to include context:
- Signal comprehension to convert videos or images to text. In a tech support situation, how much simpler would it be to just send a video or photo of the problem? When a chatbot can interpret visual data, e.g. cabling configuration, a picture really is worth a thousand words.
- Human interaction comprehension to understand the tone, emotion, body language and facial expressions that accompany the user’s questions. It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. If a user is particularly upset, the chatbot could even decide to escalate the ticket based on that contextual information.
Though these capabilities exist in siloes today, the step-change for technology support chatbots will be combining them into one cohesive user experience.
Augmented reality is getting smarter
Augmented reality has really opened up the world of real-time technology support, allowing remote support providers to assist users almost like they are standing right next to each other. Imagine you’re an engineer in the field. You’re on a client site and they have a tape drive for backup, and you haven’t seen one before. You pull up your augmented reality app and connect with a support agent for a walkthrough of the procedure. The support agent can see what you’re doing and overlay virtual elements to direct you — arrows to say “Stay away from this because it’s hot,” or circle the screw that needs to be undone, or even directional information like which direction to turn the screwdriver. You see all this in real time, superimposed over your real environment.
Now augmented reality is getting even smarter, incorporating additional AI capabilities to enable new and exciting capabilities:
- Self-assist: What if a there isn’t a support agent available, or you’re working somewhere without connectivity? With self-assist, the application will guide the user through a procedure without assistance from another human.
- Acoustics for anomaly detection: If a piece of equipment is making a weird noise, it’s often difficult to describe the sound in words. Adding acoustics will allow the application to just listen to the sound and make recommendations.
- Vibration and thermal analysis: The application can interpret sensor data to detect problems and determine the health of the system and or environment
Support for technology changes almost as quickly as the technology itself. It’s exciting to see the industry advance with a strong focus on user experience and a smarter, more proactive approach to technology support.