Is Predictive Support the Future?

by Sysco LABS Application Support 28 December 2018

Support is now veering towards a culture of proactivity in which vigilant monitoring and analytics help prevent or resolve issues before customers even realize they exist. Practices such as intelligent re-routing where incoming calls from customers are prioritized based on urgency, and the ability to view customer history prior to a support conversation are now standard in most organizations. They all work towards making the customer-support interaction more fruitful while also making things easier for both parties. Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a shift in the customer support paradigm – one that aims to stem issues even before they have a chance to arise.

This is called predictive support, and it is similar to proactive support in that they both try to identify and resolve issues without the customer having to call in. However, the technology behind predictive support is more complex – it not only monitors for existing issues but uses analytics to predict a possible fallout, taking corrective action to prevent it from ever taking place, without the need for human intervention. By predicting and eliminating negative outcomes before they take place, predictive support seeks to reduce downtime and allow businesses and organizations to continue functioning without having to worry about system failures disrupting their business or taking them by surprise.

At CAKE, support plays the crucial role of keeping customers well informed and happy. Most of CAKE’s customers operate in the restaurant industry; managers and restaurant owners who are running a demanding operation that requires technologies that will not fail on them, and an A team to provide support and resolve issues if they do. By undertaking a proactive approach to support and leveraging technologies that are built in-house, the support team at CAKE have succeeded in anticipating customer needs and serving them better, while also improving internal processes. With the help of the Operations Engineering team at CAKE, they are taking this one step further to augment their existing culture of proactiveness with predictive or self-healing technology, with the objective of reducing down-time for restaurant owners who use the CAKE system, to zero.

The technology behind predictive support, popularly known as self-healing systems or self-healing technology, endeavors to mimic the human body’s capacity to self-heal. It has undergone a lot of study over the years; one of the earliest include a research carried out by IBM-Israel in 2010 on ‘Building Self-Healing Technology for Complex Systems’ – they wanted to emulate how the human body behaves when sick and apply it to software. The project, called ‘Shadows’, was a proposal made to a European Union program that promotes collaboration in research and technology across Europe. However, the conditions necessary for organizations to adopt the technology only fell into place years later.

While working tirelessly in the background to identify and take care of issues, enormously improving the product experience for the end-user, self-healing technology also creates more resilient systems and takes much of the load off internal teams, allowing them to put less human hours towards maintenance and root cause analysis when resolving issues.

Implementing a self-healing system is a lot less challenging now that technological approaches such as microservices exist because it allows for a more granular management of development compared to formerly monolithic systems. Research conducted by the University of California proposed an event-based architecture for a self-healing system that follows this idea, that takes advantage of loose coupling and autonomy of components to allow the highest level of flexibility in terms of the types of repairs that can be conducted for a system.

Predictive, autonomous healing will allow organizations to scale more easily because they will now need proportionately less manpower to handle support issues as the organization grows, allowing much smaller teams to manage and control a larger area.

Predictive support, due to its anticipatory and self-healing capabilities will prove to be a game changer for organizations not only because it helps create more resilient and more robust products and technologies, but also because of what it entails for customer support and the way it traditionally functions.

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