Espressive, a provider of a help desk software that makes extensive use of artificial intelligence (AI), announced this week it will provide free access to its software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform for the next 90 days.
Company CEO Pat Calhoun said the COVID-19 Rapid Assistance Program is intended to provide a way to augment existing help desks that are now being overwhelmed by requests from end users working from home.
With a massive spike in IT incidents being seen since the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, many help desks are now simply overwhelmed. In some cases, Calhoun said some end users are finding themselves on hold for 2.5 hours or more.
Espressive, via its Barista virtual agents, provides a means to automatically address most routine requests using chatbots and a natural language processing (NLP) engine that the company developed specifically to address help desk use cases.
The Espressive platform has already been trained to recognize 750 million phrases, Calhoun said, noting each time a new phrase is added to the NLP engine, the entire customer base benefits from the addition.
Organizations that are finding it difficult to handle the volume of support calls being made by often geographically distributed remote workers can employ chatbots via a SaaS platform in a few hours, Calhoun said. In many cases, IT staff are trying to respond to help desk requests using on-premises applications that they need to access remotely, often using cumbersome virtual private network (VPN) software. A SaaS platform provides an alternative approach that is designed from the ground up to be accessed remotely, he said.
Chatbots are already being widely employed online by customer service organizations with mixed success. Most end users, however, are at the very least familiar with interacting with them. In the case of IT support calls, the volume of requests is within a narrow range of tasks that could be handled via a chatbot, such as requesting a new password.
Many organizations have already been gradually infusing AI into their help desk operations. The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to accelerate that transition. AI isn’t likely to completely eliminate the need for help desk staff anytime soon. However, it does provide a way to scale help desk services at a time when IT staff are trying to manage a massive transition in how and when applications are accessed by the entire organization.
Naturally, it remains to be seen how much organizations will rely on AI to resolve support issues once the current pandemic crisis has passed. Short of being replaced altogether, there are many rote tasks that many IT professionals would just as soon not have to manually perform multiple times a day. The challenge now is defining the line between where an interface between man and machine makes the most sense for the benefit of all. In the meantime, to one form or another, chatbots are now here to stay.