IT Staffing Shortages Spawn Next Generation of Technology-Based Solutions

CareAR and CrushBank use AR and AI to help stretch IT-technician resources



Jamie Bsales


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Necessity is the mother of invention. And if there were ever a problem in search of a solution, the ongoing IT staffing shortage is it. In-depth interviews conducted with CIOs and IT Directors for our recent research study, The Managed IT Services Opportunity, revealed that these decision-makers routinely outsource IT functions to outside managed services providers (MSPs). One of the main reasons cited for doing so is an inability to hire enough qualified staff in-house.


Of course, problems float downstream, so IT outsourcing just puts that much more pressure on managed IT services providers to maintain adequate qualified staffing. Fortunately, technology is stepping up to help. We have received two recent briefings on platforms that can help MSPs shoulder the ever-increasing load.


CareAR Leverages Augmented Reality

MSPs are tussling over a shrinking pool of qualified field technicians. With staff turnover and poaching by competitors running rampant, it has become a challenge to maintain a roster of seasoned field technicians. But what if there was a way to have a senior-level tech overseeing—in real time—several field appointments at once without resorting to cloning?


CareAR’s visual support solutions allow a remote technician to guide a customer
or support tech through the steps of servicing even the most complex equipment.


That’s the idea behind the cutting-edge the service experience management solutions from CareAR (a Xerox company). The company’s CareAR Assist and CareAR Instruct solutions leverage augmented reality (AR) technology to help field-service personnel keep equipment operational. Techs in the field simply use a smartphone, tablet, or virtual reality (VR) headset to show the remote “master” technician what they are looking at, and the remote tech uses the menu of mark-up tools (e.g., arrows, a bullseye, laser pointer, handwritten annotations) to guide the on-site tech as to what to do. It’s quite literally the next best thing to being there.


Our upcoming lab test report will go into details about the CareAR Assist but, suffice it to say, the solution encompasses a host of advanced technologies. For example, the solutions’ patented “spatial mapping” technology means that any annotations are anchored in space to their intended location. If the on-site tech pans their device away from the equipment being worked on, the annotations disappear from view; when he pans back, the annotations reappear exactly where the remote tech put them relative to the equipment. We also like the automatic bandwidth adjustment feature, which prioritizes maintain the connection should the cell or Wi-Fi signal be less than ideal.


Notably, these CareAR offerings are not just for MSPs. The platforms can be used by customer-service and tech-support departments to guide end customers through troubleshooting an issue.


Crushing It with AI

Sure, we all know that IBM’s Watson can win at chess and Jeopardy, but can it help with the IT staffing shortage? Why not! The clever team at 2019 start-up CrushBank realized that many questions fielded by help desk personnel have been asked and answered hundreds (if not thousands) of times. Yet, outside of some rudimentary FAQs some service providers may maintain in-house, support reps wind up treating each inquiry as unique.


Founders Evan Leonard and David Tan knew there must be a way to leverage technology to improve key industry metrics, such as time to resolution, closed tickets per employee, first-call resolution, and billable utilization. Their big idea is to dump millions of help-desk tickets into Watson and let that artificial brain make sense of it all. This evolved into a powerful suite of tools—CrushBank Resolve, CrushBank Insight, and CrushBank Ask—that utilizes Watson’s AI abilities to be the fraont line of response, freeing up support techs to handle more complex interactions. The natural-language processing abilities of the AI engine means questions can be asked in any number of ways and still elicit the correct responses. Heck, it can even gauge customer sentiment, so if a caller is “coming in hot” the system can sense that and transfer that call to an (ideally calming) agent right away.


The result is a platform that allows techs to spend less time searching for answers and more time resolving help-desk tickets. According to CrushBank, this enables MSPs, help desks, and product-support organizations to deliver faster time to resolution, improve customer satisfaction, and increase profitability.


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