By: Kristen Gray • 04 May 2022

4 ways automation is helping service companies do more with less

Artificial intelligence is so intertwined in our daily routines that, most of the time, we don’t even realize we’re using it. But the reality is, we wouldn’t be able to scale our businesses or society so quickly without those time-burning tasks taken off of our plate by AI.Advancements in AI are reshaping our lives for the better. Everything we need is at our fingertips and we’re able to offload many of our day-to-day tasks.

Instant service always trumps the 1-800 number

How many of us would be able to go back to the days before navigation was built into our devices and vehicles? Or personalized shopping and streaming services?We’re accustomed to the speed and convenience of instant service. AI has enabled real-time experiences across so many facets of our lives that we now expect to see them everywhere.Consider the last time you had to fix a product in your home. When you went to the company’s website, what was the first thing you searched for? Chances are, you sought out a self-serve option first, rather than calling the dreaded 1-800 number.Most companies have a knowledge base or FAQ page that covers commonly occurring issues, but it can be difficult to find the answer you’re looking for. Whether the FAQ page is difficult to navigate or the issue was too complex, sometimes you need to escalate your issue and speak to a service expert.With the rise of chatbots and other AI-powered customer support, we’re so used to having access to service 24/7 that we get frustrated when we don’t have that option.90% of customers rate an “immediate” response as essential or very important when they have a customer service question. 60% of customers define “immediate” as 10 minutes or less. This is a problem many companies are facing – how to balance the demand for ‘always-on’ customer service and the cost of hiring or developing those resources.

The challenge

In the summer of 2021, we were challenged by our customers.“Can you help us do more with less?”Our customers – manufacturing, utility, and hardware companies that support complex products and services – are feeling the strain of a labor shortage at the same time as the demand for customer support has skyrocketed. They have implemented omnichannel strategies, but they are still feeling the strain of demand.The number of products and customers they support has increased. The product complexity has increased. And their resources have, at best, remained the same.The problem isn’t with the availability of resources, it’s how they’re being consumed. Currently, product support companies serve their customers across a few key channels: Call centers, email, and remote visual assistance.Because of the complexity of products and services they support, the time exchange between service expert and customer has always been 1:1.Our goal is to change that. There’s no effective way to significantly save time, costs, and improve productivity without AI.Companies using ICwhatUC already have the on-demand visual support channel figured out. Now, they need to optimize their time and their data.By augmenting some of their tasks with AI and supporting experts and their customers with real-time guidance, we can improve that 1:1 time exchange and give everyone some time back in their day.So, we got to work.

Helping companies use their data to scale

First, we needed to determine where we could make the biggest impact for the service providers we serve.Because of the rise of smart and connected products in homes across the world, service experts are not only supporting products, but product applications and firmware as well. This rise in required knowledge has made their job more challenging resulting in frustration for their customers.Have you ever been seeking assistance via chat, and had them give you an answer you knew was wrong? How about an expert putting you on hold for ten minutes while they search for an answer?This is by no means the fault of the service expert; their workload is getting increasingly heavier. But it goes to show that a new solution is needed.Where is your service expert searching for the answer they don’t have? A knowledge base or FAQ page.By supplementing our users' intelligence with support from their knowledge base, we can reduce the manual time and effort they spend searching for the answer.We’re partnering with our customers to build technology solutions that will detect the product and keywords about the issue, search the company's knowledge base for a solution, and feed it back to the service expert.This allows companies to apply this approach to a guided self-service option. Customers can walk through simple issues like assessments or parts questions on their own, only escalating their issue to a service expert when absolutely necessary.Just like that, we overcome the 1:1 exchange of time.Experts can solve issues quickly and reliably, helping them to build more trust and loyalty with their customers by giving them their time back.Customers connect with an expert over video only when they need to – because let’s face it, 69% of us would rather try to fix a simple problem on our own before talking to someone.

Optimizing the real-time data interaction

You’re likely familiar with smart home devices such as thermostats or voice assistants. Perhaps you have one in your own home. These devices collect and process data from around the house and send it back to a centralized cloud server for processing – which results in a slight delay in updated information on your smart home application.Those delays are noticeable, but coming from a smart home device, they’re expected.In a visual assistance session, they would create an experience where the expert’s responses are slightly delayed, waiting for more information from the cloud server. This service experience would become almost as irritating as the delay you experience on the phone or in a chat.ICwhatUC’s technology solution will run on edge devices so that service experts and their customers can access guidance in real-time, anywhere they are.

What’s this edge you’re talking about?

If you’ve never heard of “the edge” or “edge devices”, we’ll fill you in.The word edge in this context means literal geographic distribution. Edge computing runs on devices on the edge of the network, like mobile devices, tablets, smart watches, IoT devices, etc.These devices still connect to the centralized cloud server to process data, but now it doesn’t happen during every interaction with the product, allowing for more real-time data engagement.

The benefits of Edge computing

One of the benefits is – as mentioned – real-time data engagement. But there are some other very significant benefits to edge computing.Security and privacy are huge benefits. When data is encrypted and stored on the device, it’s less likely to be affected by malware or a cyber attack. The owner of the device is authorized to access it, and that’s all.Another benefit to edge computing is connectivity. Progressive web apps like ICwhatUC can enable offline-first functionality, which essentially means that you can open the application on your device without an internet connection, do some work, save your changes locally, and only sync up with the cloud when it’s convenient.These benefits are significant to product support teams, who are often dealing with urgent issues, sensitive information, and occasionally, poor internet connection due to the job site location.

The human-machine collaboration

We believe that AI should augment human intelligence, not replace it. Better collaboration between the two is the ultimate solution.Both bring different strengths to the table. While AI is replacing some repetitive tasks, it’s creating more highly-skilled opportunities for us as a result.Humans have a better ability to shift from short-term to long-term concerns; this is a trait unique to us. However, we’ve historically had to take on mundane tasks to keep society moving.With AI taking on those tasks, we’re able to shift our authentic intelligence to higher-order tasks like strategic thinking. This collectively improves the experience of employees, companies, and their customers.Service leaders are being tasked with improving customer experience while also managing employee burnout. That’s quite a daunting task as service requests continue to increase. By implementing an AI model that gives their employees better career opportunities and their customer a better experience, they are able to solve both of those issues at once.Here are the four key areas where AI can augment human intelligence for ‘smarter’ service:

1. Save time

When your AI model detects an issue using computer vision and provides support options instantly, service experts can stay focused on their customer’s needs and provide fast, personalized service.

2. Reduce repetitive tasks

Have you ever tried to wish away the paperwork on your desk?  Wish no more. AI can be trained to complete paperwork based on video or audio data and send it where it needs to go.As a bonus, AI can detect issues and complete tasks at a consistent level of accuracy, especially more so than humans when completing repetitive tasks.

3. Provide self-serve options

Take the strain off of service experts by providing AI-generated self-serve options to customers. That way, issues can be escalated to an expert only when necessary, and their overwhelming workload can be reduced. This is important now more than ever as 71% of customer service agents have considered leaving their jobs in the past 6 months.

4. Improve connectivity

Some service providers and product companies support issues in areas that have little or no internet connection. Basements, parking garages, and rural job sites are all culprits for poor connection. But with ICwhatUC’s technology solution running on their devices, service experts can still record the interaction and access guidance even in those low coverage areas.The next step in the way we work is going to be a collaboration between humans and machines, called augmented intelligence. With more connected devices coming to market every year, augmented intelligence is the logical next step as we learn to support these devices in a way that’s more sustainable for the humans that support them.
We’re the leading human-machine interface for companies that support products in the utility, manufacturing, and hardware/IoT industries. If you want to learn more about how we can help your company work smarter with AI, contact our team.

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