There is a lot of hype out there these days about how the robots are coming for our jobs. Artificial Intelligence (AI), the brains of these robots, is advancing at a rapid pace. For the Services Sector, the technology has significant potential to drive improvements in service efficiency, cost and product quality. But for now, the robots and their AI brains are not mature enough or widely enough deployed to compete with the hands-on expertise provided by a trained service professional.
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 AI 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. Th 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.
Potential Impact of AI
When asking about how AI could potentially affect their business, the vast majority agreed that it could have a beneficial effect, with 30% saying it would change their business. The potential to have AI remotely resolve customer issues in an automated fashion, with a high degree of accuracy and little to no human interaction 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.
Where Can AI Have the Biggest Impact?
Most executives who participated in the benchmark study agreed that issue triage and resolution were the areas where AI could have the greatest impact. Automating customer communications, skills matching to ensure technical issues get routed to the correct resource and scheduling optimization followed.
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 AI systems to conduct troubleshooting diagnosis and predictive analysis on system usage & performance data. IoT provides the data stream for the AI 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.
Current Adoption of AI
When asked about their plans for implementing AI, a surprisingly high number of executives (53%) said they don’t currently have any AI capabilities and have no plans to implement them. Another 33% said they don’t have any AI in place but are planning to implement it in the future. Only 10% said they have some form of AI in place and that it is currently 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 into their service environment.
Fig 3 – Current Use of AI
While those 53% of executives state they have no plans for adopting AI, the automation vendors are working hard to add it into their systems. As a result, these capabilities will creep into service organizations via case management, knowledge base, remote monitoring and other service enablement systems.
As the AI infiltration progresses, the question will be how quickly, and effectively service organizations adopt these new capabilities to enhance the customer experience. As we said earlier, AI is coming and is in fact around the corner, but it’s not here yet. Service executives need to start thinking now about how their services will be delivered in the near future, and how they can leverage their teams to add value and ensure strong customer relationships in an increasingly automated world.