There is a lot of hype out there about Artificial Intelligence (AI). For the Services Sector, the technology has significant potential to drive improvements in service efficiency, cost and product quality. But for now, AI is only beginning to be deployed widely enough to compete with the expertise of trained service professionals.
Recently, the team here at Service Strategies conducted a benchmark study by asking executives about their service business practices and their outlook for the future. We included artificial intelligence in the study and asked them how the technology could affect their business, what their current level of use of AI is and what areas they see AI as having the most future impact on. The results are interesting in that while service executives agree there is huge potential, very few are leveraging any kind of AI in their businesses today.
When asking about how AI could potentially affect their business, the vast majority agreed that it could have a beneficial effect. Approximately 30% of respondents stated it would change their business. The potential to have AI provide automated resolution of customer issues, with a high degree of accuracy would vastly improve the efficiency and cost of providing services.
Fig. 1 – Potential Impact of AI on Your Business
While the benefits seem clear, when talking to some executives, they worry about losing the relationship with their customers. Service professionals develop rapport and strong relationships with their customers that help build loyalty and drive retention. Many become trusted advisors and viewed as an extension of the customer’s team. Some executives fear that they’ll lose touch with these customers and make them more vulnerable to their competitors. Maintaining the relationship with customers is a real concern. It seems clear that as AI becomes pervasive, service personnel will need to shift their focus towards relationship building and offer another layer of value beyond break-fix technical skills. Redefining the role of the service professional and helping them to develop their soft skills will be critical as the use of automation advances.
Areas AI Can Influence
Most executives who participated in the benchmark study agreed that issue triage and resolution were the areas with the greatest potential impact. The next largest impact was cited as automating customer communications, with skills matching to ensure technical issues get routed to the correct resource and scheduling optimization rounding out the list.
Fig 2 – Where AI can Have Biggest Impact
One of the issues that will affect how AI is leveraged for service will be the deployment of IoT. Modern IoT can enable enhanced remote monitoring and allow systems to automatically conduct troubleshooting diagnosis and predictive analysis on system usage & performance data. IoT provides the data stream for the artificial intelligence systems to analyze. While companies are working hard to deploy IoT capabilities into their systems, they will need to accelerate this effort and either retrofit or replace legacy systems to gain the full benefit of these complementary technologies.
When asked about their plans for implementing AI, a surprisingly high number of executives (53%) said they don’t currently have any capabilities in place and have no plans to implement them. Another 33% said they don’t have any capability but are planning to implement it in the future. Only 10% said they have some form of AI in place that it adding value to the service experience. So, while hype abounds, it’s still early in the cycle, with very few having actually adopted this new technology.
Fig 3 – Current Use of AI
While 53% of executives have no plans for adopting AI, automation vendors are working hard include it in their systems. These capabilities will creep into service organizations via case management, knowledge base, remote monitoring and other service enablement systems.
As AI infiltration progresses, the question will be how quickly service organizations adopt these new capabilities. As we said earlier, AI is coming and is in fact around the corner, but it’s not here yet. Service executives must start thinking now about how their services will be delivered in the near future. Leveraging their teams to ensure strong customer relationships in an increasingly automated world will be critical.