virtualagent

How ServiceNow’s ‘Virtual Agent’ can assist your organisation: Part 4

How ServiceNow’s ‘Virtual Agent’ can assist your organisation: Part 4

This blog entry is part of a four-part blog series on how ServiceNow’s Virtual Agent can assist your organisation.

See Part 1 HERE

See Part 2 HERE

See Part 3 HERE

Part 4: Experiences Matter

Through this blog series I have spoken about, through Virtual Agent, it is easier to empower users, create more opportunities for contactless resolution and create better operational insights and accuracy.

This is to achieve an end goal.

This end goal is to achieve a better service experience for users and customers. Virtual Agent really drives this home by focusing on the elements mentioned throughout this blog series. This is largely due to the Virtual Agent’s ability to evolve as your employees and organisation does. It allows a user’s or customer’s experience to be front and centre, as it provides the opportunity to improve consistently, even if there is staff turnover.

This is done by bringing across the knowledge from previous employees to the current and future employees as a sort of synthetic genetic history (through the Virtual Agent's flows). Although in theory, staff turnover should happen less as agents can refocus on more engaging work due to the virtual agent taking over most of the daily mundane work. These blog entries have largely been focused on positives and the next point has only been touched upon previously, but a Virtual Agent is there to offer another option, not replace completely, for users to interact with the service desk. The key point there is that it is an option.

Offering Options

These articles have been centred around the reasons why Virtual Agent is a useful addition to your organisation and how it can dramatically improve the service experience, but Virtual Agent should never replace all other avenues that users can use to access the information or raise issues.

Some users know where to look, so forcing them to use the Virtual Agent would frustrate them. Not only that, sometimes it is an emergency, so being forced to go down the Virtual Agent path will just delay something that should not be delayed.

It is important not to forget the fact that accessibility is also important, so offering a phone helpline may also be helpful for users with poor eyesight or bad internet connections. In addition to this, there are some queries that are just so specific that doing anything other than chatting to a person will not be efficient or beneficial.

As a result, a Virtual Agent should not replace all other options as an attempted cost cutting measure or in an attempt to be “cutting edge”.

It may be tempting thought as your Virtual Agent matures that you consider outright replace certain options, but this should not be done without ensuring there are other clear options for your user base and that the service experience is not negatively impacted as a result.

Evolving Your Business

When you begin your Virtual Agent journey though, it may not solve the issue alone, but can gather more information before handing it off to a person via web chat or otherwise, which ensures the service desk can focus their efforts on more complex issues or necessary contact.

An example of this is serving the users better who need to user a different resolution method, such as a phone call. When a Virtual Agent becomes a more prominent element within you organisation however, there will be time for people to work on other more, previous considered “only if time persists” projects.

This is important for several reasons, but largely because it opens agent’s time to be able to work on a variety of other initiatives in the organisation. They can up-skill and learn skills to provide newer and more useful services to their customers. Service agents can strive to become more user experience focused and become experts in understanding how to help customers, as opposed to regurgitating the same information day in and day out.

Your business will be able to review new initiatives to either become more profitable, by being able to focus on what you currently offer or expanding and investigating options that previously seemed untenable due to resourcing constraints. Chat bots and Virtual Agents tend to be over-hyped, but using it correctly can be a huge benefit to your organisation.

Even if the Virtual Agent only helps in evolving your business only slightly, some of that hype is warranted as that may be enough to bring your organisation to the next level.

Summary

Over the past couple of months, this blog series has largely been focused on positives, but with every positive and idealistic plan in mind, it is important to have a dose of realism, which this blog entry focused on.

That’s not to say Virtual Agent is not a worthwhile endeavor, quite the contrary, but starting a journey with only the positives in mind can be potentially damaging to your organisation. In summary, in the first blog entry we focused on the concept of empowerment. Not only empowering users, but also service agents and the organisation as a whole.

This was further highlighted in the second entry when we focused on the user and service agent level by discussing the concept of contactless resolution. From a user perspective, this was being able to raise issues out of hours and solve it on their own when is convenient for them, without staying on hold whilst they are asked to turn their machine off and on again.

From an agent’s perspective, contactless resolution allowing service agents to work on different projects and stop working on mundane tasks day in and day out and now being able to focus on service experience. Then focusing on empowerment on an organisational level, as discussed in the third blog entry as a virtual agent assists with improving operational insights and accuracy. This meant using newly gathered and accurate data to improve the experience even further and potentially solve more issues proactively.

Finally, this article highlighted the fact that even though Virtual Agent has all these benefits, this is a journey that needs to properly be planned for and not used as the singular point of entry for a user or customer. This journey can be made easier by people who have helped other organisations down this journey, as they can bring their experiences and suggestions in the best way to introduce it slowly and effectively.

Without making this sound like a sales pitch, this is often where consultants come in to play and can recommend a good starting point to start this journey and equip your service agents for the future. Regardless however, I hope this blog series has been informative and has ensured that your customers and users are more a focal point than ever. Thanks for reading!

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this four-part series. If you have not already, take a read of the earlier parts and see what you missed!

If not, reach out to us at JDS Australia if you want to begin your virtual agent journey. In doing so, we hope that we can assist in empowering your people, allowing a higher rate of contactless resolution, improving operational insights and accuracy and ensuring that that experience of your users, matter.

Posted by Cameron Chambers in Blog, ServiceNow
How ServiceNow’s ‘Virtual Agent’ can assist your organisation: Part 3

How ServiceNow’s ‘Virtual Agent’ can assist your organisation: Part 3

This blog entry is part of a four-part blog series on how ServiceNow’s Virtual Agent can assist your organisation.

Part 3: Operational Insight & Accuracy

Every day that a service desk is operational, it creates data, both useful and not so useful.

As time continues though it can become quite overwhelming and the data that was once useful can be poisoned with data that makes it less useful. People tend to have different opinions, differing working styles and language quirks that is amplified when there is staff turnover.

As a result, the data they create is only as insightful as its consistency when dealing with a large amount of it.

Accuracy

Data accuracy and data in general is one of the most common issues in any organisation.

This can be due to several reasons, but there are some ways that inaccurate data that gets in the system can be avoided. When entering data repeatedly, it can be mundane, boring and although not done purposely, accidents can be and will be made. Not only this, individuals will normally only enter the information they want to or need to, so some insights that would be useful to know or capture simply won’t be. In making that more and more information mandatory however, it may even cause more mistakes as it is more work that does not appear immediately valuable to the people who enter it.

These are just some of the things that could be alleviated in a few different ways if required.

Virtual agents can assist in doing this entry without error, without complaints and because it will just do the same thing over and over, the mistakes will occur when done manually should not occur. This makes the resulting data more accurate. It is not only that however, it is something as simple as if someone has been worked on and has been resolved without contact.

You can track this, and the record will close once the conversation has closed with the virtual agent. In day to day work, you may be working on something that has been resolved, but you then go to lunch and forget to close the record, causing SLAs to breach and information to be forgotten. Once again, another possible data point that is compromised.

As a result, the way we attempt to resolve requests without contact needs to evolve, as the added complexity in certain issues of today’s world are not answerable with the previous methods described.

Insights

Accurate data and information is all well and good, but what is the point if it does not offer any real insight in how to improve your processes and business? This is likely because a lot of the information that is commonly captured is done only for contractual reasons.

Agents are not focused on improving service, because trying to capture this information and making it meaningful is a long and drawn out process This is often simply because everyone thinks differently and may enter the same different information differently.

Having a virtual agent alongside the journey though can assist in making this information consistent and capturing more information along the process in a logical matter as standard. Let’s think about the example of a few employees who are having issues connecting to the VPN.

In the various calls that had been made regarding VPN issues this week, Sam, Roger and Cameron have all been resolving these in different ways, but it has all been down to the singular issue. Sam has been saying it is because people are using their wrong username to connect to the VPN. Roger has been saying that people are attempting to use their email address to use the VPN. Cameron has been saying that people are not using their windows login username to use the VPN. If you read this on face value, they all appear similar, but requires someone that understands the issue to understand it it is all related to the same key issue.

Let’s just say now that these phone calls have now become a virtual agent flow that Sam, Roger and Cameron have designed with their years of experience on the service desk. They have created a flow talking about common VPN connectivity issues and listing off possible solutions in a logical step by step and conditional manner. In this flow, they also asking after each troubleshooting step if it helped or not. As the next person who has VPN connectivity issues continues along the process, they too have an issue that relates to the above scenario.

Now the virtual agent is answering it and provides the solution and tracks that a misunderstanding in what username should be used as a login method is extremely common and easily reported against. This is the case as the wording is consistent now. As a result of this, Sam decides that before people even request VPN access, he would highlight what format the username should be. In the meantime, Roger and Cameron are looking at what other common support issues they can resolve through the virtual agent and now have a more complex skill set then they did before through this design and continual improvement process.

This issue went through a few steps to get to this point but now is being proactively resolved by Sam highlighting the username format. As a summary, these steps were:

1. Reactive resolution: Numerous people called the service desk talking about service desk issues and spoke to Cameron, Sam and Roger about VPN connectivity issues.
2. Contactless resolution: The service desk realized this coming up and spoke about it in their daily standup, so Cameron, Sam and Roger created a virtual agent troubleshooting flow, capturing when this issue has been resolved.
3. Proactive resolution: Sam notifies users before requesting VPN access they need to enter a specific username and no more support calls are raised, minus the few that do not read the necessary steps correctly.

As issues progress towards the proactive resolution stage, the NPS and CSAT scores of the service desk improves, as less and less people need to wait in a queue to have their issue resolved or wait until they are answered from an email. This scenario, although may seem as a best case and overly convenient for the sake of a blog entry, is surprisingly a common situation that people find themselves in and can be brought across different less conveniently written scenarios. Even if the proactive resolution stage does not occur and the contactless resolution only occurs in half the scenarios, it is still a net improvement of never attempting to solve the issue. Out of the box, ServiceNow’s virtual agent can hook into its powerful survey application, so understanding what the service experience is easy to gauge as the weeks continue.

 

In the long run however, that should be a focus for the organisation as virtual agent assists in improving the service experience and as it should be highlighted, this matters.

In the fourth and final part of this four-part blog series, we will discuss just that, how service experience matters.

In the meantime, check out this great Virtual Agent demo from ServiceNow.

Posted by Cameron Chambers in Blog, ServiceNow
How ServiceNow’s ‘Virtual Agent’ can assist your organisation: Part 2

How ServiceNow’s ‘Virtual Agent’ can assist your organisation: Part 2

This blog entry is part of a four-part blog series on how ServiceNow’s Virtual Agent can assist your organisation.

Part 2: Contactless Resolution

Contactless resolution, no contact resolution and zero contact resolution are three ideas that are similar in concept, but are all trying to get essentially the same result.

This concept is not new at all, despite it getting more recent attention. Searching for zero contact resolution in my search engine, brings up a link to something created in 2008 discussing this very topic.

What this concept means and how it can be made a reality though has evolved and will continue to evolve as time continues as the technology to support this evolves.

What Does This Mean?

Contactless resolution means being able to resolve something without contacting a person. In other words, getting a result from self-service and without requiring involvement from another person.

This is different to proactive resolution, which is the ideal scenario and realistically this is something built upon years of experience and data. There will always be issues and requests that cannot be proactively resolved though, as people will always have questions and issues that cannot be predicted or have not been raised before.

Historically this was done through expecting a user to find a knowledge article and using the information from that knowledge article to solve their issue. Before that and outside of anything IT related, you could think of the opening times posted on the window of a local café as a method of contactless resolution.

You could go into a building to ask the opening time from a person, but in terms of contactless resolution this would mean reading a poster outside of it to get the same result.

However, as we as a species become more advance, so do our questions and issues.

As a result, the way we attempt to resolve requests without contact needs to evolve, as the added complexity in certain issues of today’s world are not answerable with the previous methods described.

Virtual Agent

This is where virtual agents come in.

A knowledge article and a poster on a window are all well and good for simple questions and queries, but it does not really evolve as the query evolve. It is a static bit of information. Also, these sources can be information overload (a bit like these blog entries some would say), so are not effective for complex questions. Imagine if you will that you are having printer issues. Historically, you would have searched in search engine with your printer make and issue and browsed around 10 websites, until you realise you do not have the permissions on your machine to be able to resolve this issue alone. Either that, or you will call the service desk, only for them to provide you a knowledge article with a step by step guide that they developed using the official website as a guide. Both “may” work but cannot evolve as your situation evolves without continual contact.

Let’s look at it from a ServiceNow virtual agent point of view.

Fortunately, your organisation has made the effort of saying what printers are assigned to what person and locations in your ServiceNow instance. You browse to your Service Portal and decide to “try” the virtual agent experience. You tell the virtual agent that the printer will not turn on and that takes you to the virtual agent topic related to printer issues. The virtual agent confirms you are working from a certain location with you and then understands that the printer you are having issues with is from a certain manufacturer (as your configuration management database is up to date and your user record says you are working from that location).

In doing this, it can provide step by step trouble shooting issues specific to that printer within a matter of seconds, simply from you typing your initial query and confirming your location. You try a few different steps and then get asked if it was able to solve your issue. It does not, however provides another solution that does. The virtual agent asks if the new recommendation helped and by saying yes, you record this information that then can be reported against to improve the virtual agent in the future.

All in all, this saves you the time of waiting on the phone waiting to talk to IT support, trying to find a website on your own and saves the service desk agent time. A simple sign may help with the opening hours of a business, but won’t help in deciphering complex issues, empowering users to solve their own issues and tracking what the common solutions are to issues to potentially proactively solve them in the future.

However, what does this mean for the service agent now that a “robot” has stolen “their job”.

Service Agent Concerns

One of the most common concerns when looking into virtual agents is how it may impact your service agents’ daily activities. It may not directly impact them, but they may feel as though that their day to day activities will change or they will simply be made redundant.

Yes, their day to day activities will change, but organisations can use this newly procured time to put their service agents to work in improving the virtual agent experience, improving their overall service experience and more importantly improving their business with this newly found time.

Service agents are just that, agents and individuals in place to provide a service to their customers. What can happen that instead of taking the same phone call day in and day out can therefore be exchanged with improving their applications to perform better and creating new services for their end users.

This will improve employee satisfaction and as a result, the retention of employees as it provides a more fulfilling job experience.

Their jobs will not be filled with mundane tasks that require data entry for the sake of data entry, Operational insights will also be more accurate to provide an even better service to their end users as it is no longer manually entered.

Although contactless resolution appears like a negative to the service agents without investigating it, it becomes a positive when it is implemented.

 

This is what really highlights the potential results you can get with a Virtual Agent at all levels of the business.

In the third part of this four-part blog series, we will discuss operational insights and accuracy.

In the meantime, check out this great Virtual Agent demo from ServiceNow.

Posted by Cameron Chambers in Blog, ServiceNow
How ServiceNow’s ‘Virtual Agent’ can assist your organisation: Part 1

How ServiceNow’s ‘Virtual Agent’ can assist your organisation: Part 1

 

This blog entry is part of a four-part blog series on how ServiceNow’s Virtual Agent can assist your organisation.

 

If you talk to someone about the present state of the IT industry, artificial intelligence, virtual agent and chatbots are topics that commonly surface in one way or another.

From forcibly having to “deal” with it while trying to raise a support query from your internet provider to something less prominent to having a popup in the bottom right part of your screen asking if there is anything they can help with.  These concepts have become front and centre in the drive to provide a better customer experience to users.

They are often get implemented with the best intentions, but when not implemented with the right strategy can turn a previously acceptable user experience, to a frustrating one where you are constantly getting distracted by notifications.

  • Is implementing a virtual agent the right thing to do?
  • Will it really provide a better experience for users?
  • Will it improve satisfaction for all members of my organisation and my customers?

In a word, yes.  This blog series will discuss four main topics that should be front and centre when talking and thinking about virtual agents for your organisation, as well as some small bits of wisdom to take on your journey.

We at JDS Australia would love to help you on this journey, and fortunately ServiceNow has a great Virtual Agent out of the box that you can utilise.

Part 1: Empowering People

When Virtual Agent comes up in conversation, the concept of empowerment comes up but normally only focusing on the end user.

In reality though, Virtual Agents help empower both sides of the coin.

What does this mean though?

How can virtual agents empower both end users, service agents and the organisation and their customers at large?

The End Users

To start, let’s start with a thought experiment.

You and everyone else reading this article is an end user somewhere.  Whether for your internet service provider, mobile provider or even as a patron of your favourite fast food chain, you have experience as an end user and will have seen an evolution in how this is done.  In your head, what do you consider a good experience? What do you consider a negative one?  What do you think would help that experience?  Fast food chains introduced self-service terminals where you can order without talking to someone and various telecommunication organisations introduced Virtual Agents, both with varying levels of success.   Now think about the place that you work or the customers that you serve.  What is something you answer day in, and day out based on a question that is commonly asked?

Frankly speaking, Virtual Agents have a bad habit of being introduced and forced onto users, whereas really it can be introduced to empower users, by offering them options and saving time.  If we investigate the last question in our thought experiment, the joke answer is “have you turned it on and off again”. It may be seen as a joke, but yes, it sometimes helps (despite our reluctance to do it before calling).

In a more complex example, what about access and permissions to an external system?  The most common response is to call up IT or ask your friendly IT support team to do it off the record, but what happens if you could do it yourself?

Various systems and applications offer a range of web services that you can hook into with ServiceNow via an integration.  Through these integrations and details you may find on a user record, you could simply automate it.  Where does Virtual Agent play into this though?  Before getting access to a system or understanding permissions, there are often a variety of questions based on the application you are speaking about.  The Virtual Agent can ask these questions first and respond based on the answers provided.  It may not necessarily remove all human interaction to make the request possible (such as requiring approvals), but it will handle the questions that need to be asked that may cancel a request before it is even raised.  Saving the time of the end user, as they no longer need to make time for a phone call and saving the time of the service agent, as they no longer have to spend the time to have the conversation, which includes the time to get back into the groove of what they were working on.  This gives the end user the feeling as they solved their own issue and provides them with the confidence to try to solve this issue first without calling the help desk.

What does this mean for the service desk agent though?  If they are not on the phone with end users, how does this empower them?  Doesn’t that make their job redundant?

The Service Agents

In a word, no.

In fact, having the various service agents involved to in the investigation of how they can better serve the end users is more important than ever.  These are the people who now can spend more time on more complex questions and fulfilling the manual requests when needed and know what is best when serving the end user.  The Virtual Agent empowers these users even more than the end users, as now they can be involved in the development and continual improvement of the Virtual Agent.  This provides the service agents the power to be directly involved in the improvement of their services to the end users but using their experience to ask the questions they need to, to get a better outcome.

That is the main opportunity for Virtual Agent when the service desk agent is directly involved.  They can help in improving the questions and topics that a Virtual Agent asks the end user, so they get the information that they need to resolve the query first time as they continually improve it.  That is what is important to note and the reason why service agents do not simply become redundant.  Implementing a Virtual Agent is not a one and done, it’s a continual process to ensure that as your understanding of your newly empowered end users improves, so the mean time to resolve tickets improves.  Up to the point that this no longer even becomes a metric for some requests, as through asking the correct questions, these issues can be resolved without even contacting the service desk.  This is a concept known as contact-less resolution and will be spoken about in more depth in the next part of this blog series.

So if the end users now feel empowered, as they are now able to solve more issues in their own time, out of hours and without picking up their phone and service agents now can focus on improving these experiences and can spend more time on more complex tasks, what does this mean for the organisation as a whole?

The Organisation

The organisation itself also is empowered as a result of this.  People now feel a sense of autonomy as they are not necessarily required to spend their work hours doing what they use to, as the Virtual Agent assists in alleviating some of the needs around this. The organisation can bring forth new initiatives to improve their service further.  The organisation can direct users down the path they need them too to achieve their goals… but the change on the organisational level is not so much about empowerment, but how the operational insights can move your organisation forward.  That topic however, will be discussed in a later part of our blog series.

What is the end goal when it comes to implementing a Virtual Agent?

How can this can be taken even further?

In the next part of this blog series, we'll cover contact-less resolution.

In the meantime, check out this great Virtual Agent demo from ServiceNow!

Posted by Cameron Chambers in Blog, ServiceNow
Virtual Agent Is Your Friend

Virtual Agent Is Your Friend

Don’t underestimate the importance of user satisfaction

If there’s one defining characteristic of the social media revolution it’s “make life easy.”

Why did Facebook win out over MySpace? Facebook made it easy to connect, easy to post, easy to find people, easy to interact.

Amazon, Google, Twitter and Facebook have spent the last decade refining their technology to lower the barrier-to-entry for users, making their web applications highly accessible. Have you ever wondered why Google only shows the first ten entries for each search when it could show twenty, fifty or a hundred? Google found that 10 results returned in 0.4 sec, while 30 results took 0.9 sec, but that extra half a second lead to a loss of 20% of their traffic because users were impatient. User satisfaction is the golden rule of online services and so 10 results per page is now standard across all search engines regardless even though now days the difference is probably much less.

When it comes to ServiceNow, organisations should focus on user satisfaction as a way of increasing productivity. ServiceNow allows organisations to treat both their internal staff and their customers with respect, offering services that are snappy, intelligent and well designed. To this end, ServiceNow has developed a number of offerings including Virtual Agent.

What is Virtual Agent?

To say Virtual Agent is a chat-bot is disingenuous. Virtual Agent is a channel for users to quickly and easy get answers to their questions. It is a state-of-the-art system that leverages Natural Language Understanding (NLU) and a complex, decision-based response engine to meet a user’s expectations without wasting their time.

The Natural Language Understanding machine learning engine used by ServiceNow is trained to understand conversational chats using Wikipedia and The Washington Post, and can be enhanced with organisational specific words and phrases. Natural Language Understanding is the gateway for users to reach a catalogue of prebuilt workflows that resolve common issues.

The Virtual Agent Designer allows for sophisticated workflows with complex decision-making. Not only does this reduce the burden on first-level support it drastically reduces the resolution time for common issues, raising the satisfaction of users with the services provided by your organisation.

But the real genius behind Virtual Agent is it can be run from ANYWHERE

A common problem experienced by organisations with ServiceNow is managing multiple corporate websites. The ServiceNow self-service portal can be seen by some users as yet another corporate web instance and a bridge too far, reducing the adoption of self-service. To combat this, ServiceNow allows its Virtual Agent to be deployed ANYWHERE. As an example, it’s on this WordPress page! Go ahead, give it a try. As soon as you click on “chat”, you’re interacting with the JDSAustraliaDemo1 instance of ServiceNow!

By allowing the Virtual Agent to run from anywhere, customers can incorporate ServiceNow functionality into their other websites, giving users easy access to the services and offerings available through ServiceNow.

Keep your users happy. Start using Virtual Agent.

Posted by Jillian Hunter in Blog, ServiceNow