I have an idea. And to give wings to this idea, I wanted to do a small proof-of-concept using Azure. For the uninitiated, Azure is Microsoft’s cloud computing platform which comes with a lot of services bundled.
So I proceeded by creating a free subscription of Azure that comes with 1-month of free services along with enough credit. Once the set-up was done, I created a virtual machine that came bundled with Visual Studio 2017, downloaded the remote desktop connection file and tried connecting to it.
The RDP (remote desktop) would not work and failed to connect. I tried to troubleshoot and failed every time. This included diagnostics present on the site, Microsoft’s help documents and other forums on the internet that either drowned me into more technical aspects of getting the things to work or gave me vague resolution which I did not know how to work with.
My last option was reaching out to the Microsoft Tech Support team. And so I proceeded. It presented a form that automatically populated my Azure subscription details and provided me options to select the category of service that I need. I selected “Virtual Machines” and the other fields were populated which included name of my VM and further asked me the issue I needed help with. I selected the option that pertained to unable to connect to VM via RDP.
And in a few seconds, a file appeared for download. It declared that Azure has found an issue with my VM settings which was perhaps the most probable reason for my RDP not able to connect to the VM and failing every time. I downloaded the PDF document and in another 5 minutes, my RDP worked like a charm and VM was running. Happy me!
Soon I realized the amount of automation Microsoft has put in place to ensure that not every user/client problem creates a ticket in their system that would otherwise require a Microsoft employee (most of the times, they are vendors) to work on it which would require any or all of the following steps:
- Contact the user via e-mail or phone
- Provide a resolution
- Wait to hear back from the user on whether the suggestion worked
- Send “gentle” reminders to get an update
- Confirm on the resolution
- Close the ticket
This process can take anywhere between an hour to several days, depending on when either of them check their emails and decides to respond, geographic location, complexity of the issue, among other factors.
However, what Microsoft did in my case was resolve my issue in less than 5-minutes.
While I was filling out this easy-to-understand and follow form, Microsoft employed its algorithms to do the following:
- Predict my next input
- Provide me the most suitable options
- Run diagnostics at the back-end to understand what caused the issue
- Provide the resolution in a downloadable format (although I have always disliked Microsoft’s explanation of how to make things work and this was bad too, there is enough scope of improvement here, but that’s for another day!)
When a technology company solves a customer issue in less than 5-minutes as opposed to hours or days (as is currently the case), a number of things happen:
- Reduces cost
- Improves margins
- Improves, enhances client satisfaction
- More sales or better customer retention
The Future is Here
I still see large multi-nationals making an attempt to reduce the complexity involved in providing tech support to their clients. However the major part of the tech support still involves a huge workforce that slog in through out the day in shifts to ensure that customer problems (easy and complex) are resolved.
Every one around is only getting busier by the day. The internet has heralded an age of instant gratification on demand. You have everything on demand, be it food or a movie.
Why can’t the same be applied to tech support? If you face an issue largely because the service or product you are using is technology-driven (almost everything is technology driven today), shouldn’t technology in the 21-st century help you get an instant or a quick resolution?
Of course, yes!
Over the past many decades, technology giants have gathered humongous amount of data that can be classified, analyzed and used to develop algorithms which can solve real-time issues faced by customers/users. That is exactly what big data and analytics is doing today.
Use machine learning and deep learning models to predict customer behavior and implement to understand and resolve their issues.
Forms are generic and too old-school. Come on! Conversational interfaces are here. Think chatbots! The user keys in the issue in simple language, NLP takes up the input, processes the same and checks the context based on the user’s most recent actions; and BINGO! You have a solution!
What It Means
It’s obvious that there is a lot of ground to cover. No doubt, there’s a silent revolution brewing in the corridors of how tech support works today and the transformation is visible to only a handful. It’s just a matter of time when these changes become a norm.