Future of Help Desk Support

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The world of business is currently undergoing a major transition, thanks to emerging technologies that have come to redefine how businesses operate.

One operational aspect undergoing a dramatic transformation is support, and the future of help desk support, in particular, warrants close attention.

In this article, we look at how help desk support will look like in the future. 

The Future of Help Desk Support 

These are the pillars that are quickly shaping the future of help desk support. Some of them are already being deployed across many organizations in full swing while others are in the early stages. Combined, they make the foundation upon which the future help desk will be defined. 

1. AI + Automation — a key pillar

Automation, powered by Artificial Intelligence, is a core foundation upon which a major part of the future of help desk support will be anchored.

Automation enhances the experience and efficiency of help desk support. This means, for example, that the help desk support staff will be able to resolve issues faster. This will be enabled by technologies such as natural language processing, chatbots, and machine learning algorithms, among others. Combined, this shift will herald a platform where customers will no longer wait in line to be served, as timely service will take hold.

According to Gartner, 91% of businesses plan to invest in AI to enhance customer support services in the near future. In this same study, Gartner also estimated that customer-owned bots will raise a billion service tickets.

2. Omnichannel Support — covering all touch points

Customers, especially, have reached a point where they increasingly expect to be served wherever they are. And for the most part, this happens to be social media. Whereas the traditional support landscape was concentrated on phone and email, the future will shift to omnichannel. Here, you will need to invest in multiple channels. While the default starting point is social media platforms, a deep look into the future points to more touch points that will include collaboration platforms and much more.

The secret to getting this right is to constantly keep an eye on the trends that define where people are interacting, both within the organization (staff and partners), as well as outside (customers and others).

The shift to Omnichannel is so huge that we don't think any organization would be comfortable not investing in this. For example, according to  statistics from Think With Google, Omnichannel strategies drive over 80% higher incremental store visit rates.

Earlier a study involving 46,000 shoppers conducted by the Harvard Business Review established that 73% of the respondents confirmed that they were already using multiple channels in their shopping activities.

3. Security

Cybercrime is not slowing down, but as an organization, it's imperative that you make it your obligation to slow the effects or prevent it totally from ever rocking your systems.

Our own Cybersecurity Statistics Report highlights that if cybercrime were to be a country, it would be the third largest economy in the entire world.  This is a real threat, and no organization should take it lightly.

Why is the help desk support so strongly ranked top among potential target entry points for cybercriminals? Support staff, especially those in tech support, are constantly handling high value and extremely sensitive information. This information can easily land in the hands of criminals posing as legitimate users seeking help.

Because of this threat, future help desk support solutions will incorporate robust cyber security measures that are capable of monitoring and thwarting cyber threats in real-time.

This also goes hand in hand with compliance. So urgent is the need to step up security that governments have also moved in to ensure their citizens are protected, because whenever there is a breach, it's the sensitive data of customers and users that gets exposed to all manner of breach.

Help desk platforms will increasingly integrate advanced security measures for example multi-factor authentication and real-time threat detection. These measures provide security to customer information and as a result, help the organization to comply with regulations such as GDPR, PCI DSS,  which are strict in ensuring customer data is always protected.

4. Continuous improvement

While the traditional way of running systems has been that we use until it's time to improve or replace, the future of help desk support will entail the incorporation of continuous improvement.

This may sound simple, but it's so elaborate as to include the continuous training of the help desk support staff and nurturing a culture of being a support-first organization.

This will not only be great for the support function, it will also earn organizations a unique competitive edge. Customers love to deal with companies that are dedicated to offering rich support and this will grow to peak levels in the future.

Companies will make help desk support improvement a routine process, not a one off event. Support specialists and their tech counterparts will learn continuously, in some cases making it part of the routine work activities.

5. Collaboration

While collaboration has been adopted to some extent in most organizations, it's yet to be fully embraced in areas like help desk support. Imagine a scenario where the help desk support staff collaborate in real-time with their colleagues in different departments to respond to customer issues.

This move will power a help desk support that's much richer than what we have now. Through solutions such as AI-powered knowledge bases, the help desk support will benefit a great deal from the expert knowledge that is held by experienced colleagues.

As collaboration takes root, we are likely to see the emergence of a unified support ecosystem, where support is offered centrally through multiple channels.

6. Self-Service

Most people naturally tend to try to solve problems on their own before they seek formal assistance. This same case applies to support, and the help desk support field is one area that is going to benefit greatly from this culture. It's this same culture that makes search engines like Google popular. People go to Google to try and find a way to get answers to their questions by typing onto the search bar.

In the future, the help desk will increasingly transform into a largely self-service tool, where users will find ready solutions to their problems -including in real-time.

This is already happening in the form of rich knowledge bases where users can get satisfactory answers to queries. However, in the future, we foresee the potential to enhance the self-service experience even more. Imagine, for example, an AI chatbot helping a user to solve a technical problem in their device through step by step guidance.

7. Relationships, not fixes

Strong relationships are the backbone of a successful enterprise. And by this, we mean both internal and external relationships. The help desk support is a critical contact channel with enormous potential to create essential relationships that power cohesion and growth.

Think about it. An ordinary employee frustrated by a tech issue will build a strong relationship with the help desk support when they feel that their issue has been handled with immense personal touch.This goes on to nurture a sense of belonging because they feel valued and their needs taken care of. The same case applies for customers. When a customer feels that their needs have been attended to in the most humane manner, they view the organization as friendly and this inculcates loyalty.

Now, imagine a time when the support staff will have more time to get more 'personal' with users, be it internal colleagues or customers. They will be free to explain things passionately, understand issues better and check back to ensure that a user's issue is fully resolved.

The help desk support system will take care of repetitive tasks. Meanwhile the human staff will have more time to increase the contact duration with users. This will strengthen relationships. The result? More cohesive internal teams and higher customer and stakeholder loyalty.

8. Cost reduction

Technologies likeArtificial Intelligence will contribute greatly to reducing the cost per support contact, i.e the cost it takes to serve a single support request.

Through approaches such as automation powered by RPA, avenues such as chatbots will become the norm. Over time, this will bring down the cost per contact and the overall expenses around help desk support.

Learn more about how to reduce IT costs, including across hardware, software, and human resource costs.  We also have a comprehensive guide on IT process automation, please have a look. Also, how to create an AI Strategy

9. Personalization

More and more users are not only looking for enhanced convenience,personalization is also a core need. In fact, a majority of customers report disappointment when they do not receive personalized experiences, according to a study by McKinsey.

Personalization has become so critical that some customers are actually  willing to pay more if it means they will earn that much desired tailored experience. According to a study conducted by Deloitte, a sizable number of the surveyed buyers said they can pay as much as 20% more for high quality personalized experiences.

With AI technologies, it's possible to offer premium personalization to customers. For example, the help desk support staff can tell in real-time that the customer at hand is a repeat customer who is about to upgrade to a higher value product or service. When you deeply understand the customers you are handling at the moment, you can offer customized responses.

10. Real-time access to experts

Often, help desk support staff encounter situations where they need to consult experts in order to offer satisfactory responses to requests.

This takes a lot of time as the traditional help desk support systems do not have capabilities of being able to get expert help in real-time, or quick enough to meet user expectations.

With emerging technologies like AI and Machine Learning, this need could be met in real-time. These technologies can enable expert knowledge to be 'harvested' continuously and be 'fed' to the help desk support system, giving the staff all the information they need to fully attend to complex requests.

11. Skills dynamics

As technology is evolving at a fast rate, there is every indication that the tech skills in demand will also have a shift. This will also apply to help desk support.

In a survey conducted by Comptia in this regard, the participating businesses identified security, at 40%, as the top technical skills that they require. We earlier discussed cybersecurity extensively, so it's not difficult to understand why security is becoming paramount. Businesses are increasingly aware of the dangers of cyber threats and they are willing to invest heavily in ensuring that they are secure.

The second most important skill is database/information management. Data and information in general are becoming the lifeblood of forward looking organizations. Organizations would want to ensure that their employees have the necessary skills that enable them to better utilize the information in their disposal for the utmost benefit of the company. To get this right, the help desk will be instrumental in ensuring that teams are constantly assisted to access and  work smoothly with information systems, databases, etc. 

Other top skills that will continue to grow in prominence, include but not limited to:

  • Networks

  • Cloud architecture

  • Telecommunications

  • Web development

  • Datacenter management

  • Server management

  • Mobile device management

  • Application development

You will notice some of the traditional skills still remain relevant and could remain so for a long time to come. A good example is web development. The pioneer entry point to the public facing end of mass tech deployment still continues to be a mainstay of the tech world. Websites still hold sway in this side of things, as organizations still need them as the window to the many of the services they offer both internally or externally.  

12. A more immersive help desk

With the progress being made in areas like Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, the future help desk support may become more immersive and more real. How about seeing the person assisting you on the screen, talking to them, etc. This can work magic during complex requests especially where the user needs something close to a physical guidance.

This will bring a soul to the help desk support, make it lively, and potentially reduce ticket resolution times.

13. The rise of AI chatbots 

AI chatbots have already become a hit and we have referred to them at great length in this guide. But what is their true impact on the future of help desk support?

There are those who believe that these tools will spell the end of the help desk as we know it. Others argue that so many technologies that were touted to 'kill' the help desk have not done so, and therefore the help desk, especially the human side of it, will still remain intact.

While the impact of these AI chatbots on the help desk cannot be disputed, it's not possible that the human element of the help desk can be completely wiped out. Instead, what we foresee is the role evolving over time. The chatbots will take away tasks that do not have to be done by humans. This does not mean doing away with the human. Instead, the human role will evolve to other tasks. The overall result is a much more powerful help desk support that delivers satisfactory assistance.

Furthermore, for companies that run several applications, the amount of troubleshooting that takes place almost on a daily basis is too significant to go without a human hand. Some aspects of troubleshooting can be complex for AI chatbots. On the other hand, the human mind understands things, brainstorms things, and knows when to escalate. This scale of imagination is still way above the ability of the technologies, however capable.

14. A gold mine of insights to drive intelligent decisions

The help desk support ecosystem is always being ‘bombarded’ with a lot of data. If used well, this data can be turned into an engine for making intelligent business decisions.

The insights from the support systems can give pointers to weaknesses as well as opportunities to cut costs, develop new products, improve processes, etc.

Already, we are seeing that some organizations are starting to integrate business intelligence tools into their help desk software to take advantage of the massive insights that the helpdesk systems hold.

This will also require that the help desk support personnel have good skills in analytics. This means the ability to dive deep into data and extract vital insights that will help them deliver quality responses to requests. Might require increased investment on training, but the ROI is well worth it.  It will also be imperative to ensure that all the data in this respect is owned by the company or that indeed the company has permission to use the data for the purpose of drawing insights and using them to improve the business.

Notable challenges: BYOD and Shadow IT

BYOD has been a trend in the works for some time, and companies have begun to recognize that they just have to find a way to coexist with this trend. Out of this trend, another related trend emerged  — Shadow IT.

These are two key trends that could pose some challenges to the future help desk support ecosystem. For instance, how should companies address situations where help desk staff utilize unsanctioned technology to assist users? Similarly, when remote employees encounter issues with their personal devices, should companies expend resources troubleshooting problems stemming from technologies they haven't approved?

These are just examples of some of the challenges that help desk support policies will need to take care of. The best approach is to have an open mind. See what can be accomodated and what is a strict NO.

To help avoid these challenges and more, please understand help desk best practices

Is help desk support poised for continued growth?

However funny it may sound, there are so many people who have no basic understanding of the technologies, systems and devices they use to do their work. So many have no interest in learning these basics. They just report to work, log into systems or fire up their devices, get to the programs they need, do their work as they are trained, and go home.

To this category, technology is not their thing. Support experts will surprise you with stories of users who, for example, turn off their monitors when they are asked to restart their computers. Others will see two monitors and think it's two computers. These scenarios are real, we encounter them in workplaces, and the help desk support comes in handy here. It's the nature of human beings. Not all of us are born to be tech enthusiasts. And even tech enthusiasts can also be thoroughly blank in some aspects of life in this universe.

Because of this, the function of the help desk will still be very much around going into the future. In fact, it's our view that the more the tech ecosystem evolves, the more it becomes complex for the ordinary user. And the more it becomes complex, the more help desk support will be needed.

Never forget the role of COVID!

When the future of help desk support is finally clear, it won't be lost to many of us that it was shaped in part by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

When we look back to the peak of COVID, many businesses were forced into action as the need to adapt to COVID restrictions soon became a realty.  Remote work grew in prominence, which intensified the need for remote support. Companies also had to innovate on technical as well as customer support. This transition meant that the help desk became even more important, as organizations depended heavily on smooth working systems.

The impact of the resulting quick changes is that they put the help desk on a path to a future where it could potentially be starkly different from what we knew in the not so distant past. This has created a foundation for all the changes we anticipate, and what we have covered here will collectively define this future.

Finally, please check out the most important KPIs to measure for effective help desk performance. For clarity on help desk compared to service desk, please check our guide on help desk vs service desk

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