Managed service providers (MSPs) should start moving now toward incorporating conversational interfaces into their customer service applications. Chat bots that rely on natural language interfaces are already employed on the Web.

The next wave of these bots, however, will support speech interfaces to invoke robotic process automation engines that will enable end users to ask a bot to, for example, change a password or provide access to a network printer. Instead of waiting on a human technician, the bot will automate that process in real time.

For now, those bots are only going to be able to automate very narrowly defined tasks. However, it will become possible for MSPs to string together multiple bots to create an automated workflow.

The best part is, rather than having to build these bots, MSPs should expect providers of IT service management platforms to embed bots that not only automate specific processes, but also adjust to new use cases as artificial intelligence (AI) models detect changes in patterns. Depending on the level of complexity of the process, some of these bots will run unassisted while others will augment the capabilities of human technicians.

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Vendors such as SAP and Boomi, a unit of Dell Technologies, are already demonstrating how conversational interfaces will be employed to transform not just customer service interactions, but also human resources applications. At the SAP Tech-Ed conference this week, SAP demonstrated how it’s is embedding bots with conversational interfaces into everything from accounting applications to field service. At its annual Boomi World conference last week, Boomi showed how it’s working with Accenture to automate a broad range of processes using conversational interfaces.

Conversational interfaces are nothing new

Many end users now routinely interact with search engines using Alexa devices from Amazon or the Siri interface Apple makes available on iPhones. Those end users are no longer going to need to be trained on how to interact with an IT service request portal. MSPs that continue to ask customers to log into a “self-service portal” to request a service will soon be viewed as antiquated.

Those speech-enabled bots are also getting a lot smarter. It’s now only a matter of time before these bots start handing tasks off to one another, regardless of what conversational interface was employed to launch the initial request.

It may take another year to iron out all the kinks associated with deploying bots that have conversational interfaces, but now it’s more a matter of when than if those bots will be playing a larger role in delivering IT services. The good news is, bots should allow chronically short-handed MSPs to reallocate IT staff to handle complex tasks as more first-level support issues are increasingly handled by bots.

It may take a while for everyone gets comfortable with using speech interfaces to request IT services. However, once end users discover all they must do is issue a verbal command for IT services, the number of requests being made for those services will exponentially increase.

Ready Set Managed

Photo:  antstang / Shutterstock.

Mike Vizard

Posted by Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications including InfoWorld, eWeek, CRN, Baseline, ComputerWorld, TMCNet, and Digital Review. He currently blogs for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, The Channel Insider, Programmableweb and Slashdot. Mike blogs about emerging cloud technology for Smarter MSP.

One Comment

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    Great article and completely agree.

    Invarosoft is actually launching ITSupprtBot for MSPs at IT Nation 2019 which will include an embedded ‘Self-Service Bot’ designed to reduce tickets via our desktop and mobile App and a ‘Smart Engineer Bot’ designed to speed up resolution time by giving your engineers the right information in the ticket to solve the issue leveraging the power of your IT Glue or other documentation.

    From our MSP experience (our MSP has 45 staff) anything you can do to reduce your in-bound tickets and drive operational efficiency leveraging technology helps you scale profitably. Most small MSPs don’t have enough resources or time in the day and even if you’re bigger you’re still getting inundated with 100s of support tickets every week, so both ends of the spectrum benefit from bots to reduce tickets and giving the customer another modern channel to resolve their issue promptly.

    At the end of the day the customer just wants fast accurate support and expects a modern experience they typically get in their personal lives with Apps, Bots and Automation.

    Find out more here: https://www.invarosoft.com

    Reply

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