Agent Role Elevation To Sme

Agent Role Elevation To Sme

Agent Role Elevation To Sme

Agent Role Elevation To Sme

Agent productivity has long been an essential focus of the service desk. Service desk managers and supervisors look at metrics like – 'open tickets by agents,' 'ticket resolved per time by agents, ' etc. The idea was – to let us ensure that our agents are optimally productive and that we are running an efficient service desk. For the last almost two decades – there has been no change. However, a huge change is underway in looking at agents and their roles.

Elevation From An Agent To SME  

The best way to explain this change is to provide an example. Once upon a time (maybe 15 years ago or earlier) – if you wanted to do a banking transaction, you had to go to a bank. You would meet someone who will greet you and a teller who will help with your transactions there. Your transaction might be a simple one like withdrawing some cash or depositing a check – or a very complex one like retirement planning; you will have to go inside the branch. Typically, you will also have to stand in a queue to be helped. Often, these queues were long because of the sheer volume of transactions. There used to be many bankers and tellers in each branch, but they were always swamped.

Fast forward to the banking experiences today. To begin with – there are fewer branches and even fewer tellers. Simple transactions like deposits and withdrawals are done using ATMs and do not require human help for the most part. Online banking helps customers see their activities, payments and statements. When you go to a branch, if at all, it is genuinely for some significant reason. Branches are a lot less crowded, and queues are smaller. Bankers are willing to spend more time with you to help with your significant or complex issues that need handholding. Why? Because the simpler transactions are not cluttering everyone's bandwidth. There are more bankers and experts in each branch as opposed to tellers.

Overall – many people like this new experience. They don't miss the queues, frequent visits, the wait and rushed experience. They like spending quality time on important issues while taking care of routine transactions with ATMs and online banking. This is precisely the transformation that service desks are either experiencing today or will experience in the next two to five years. But why is this transformation happening right now, exactly? Let’s talk about that.  

A Perfect Storm  

Here is the troika of catalysts that are bringing about a huge transformation. We will go into the sequence/timeline in which this catalyst decided to show up.  

  • AI-powered SaaS-based technologies

    Although switching SaaS-based platforms was a big step-up for most enterprises five years ago – infusing AI with SaaS platforms is changing the game. AI technologies started showing up on the Radar 5 to 7 years ago and matured over some time. Today (at least for the last two-three years), these technologies have really become advanced and robust. Today AI can read documents, engage users in conversation, take a phone call, or decide whether or involve a human in an issue or not! They have come a long way from frustrating phone IVR systems that everyone hates. Whenever a new technology emerges – new doors open for automation and efficiency. Modern AI created the right conditions for innovation in the service desk and employee support space.

  • Pandemic and remote working

    With more and more employees working remotely, the need for easy access and 24*7 support became apparent to everyone. Enterprises wanted continued employee productivity. They finally focused on the employee service desk. Typically, employee support was low on everyone's priority list. For comparison and context – the focus on customer support was real. CEOs talked about it as a strategy, and CFOs invested in it. But employee support used to get passing and polite mentions. Most of the time, C-suite was trying to figure out how to reduce the cost of employee support, slash the budget, do more with less etc. Pandemic changed very quickly. Furthermore, collaborative platforms like MS Teams and Slack gained prominence in the way employees communicated and collaborated. Gone was the intranet, and came MS Teams. Therefore, employee support for MS Teams was waiting to happen.

  • Agent and employee attrition

    During the global pandemic, the employees decided to explore other jobs – and get a raise. The "Big Resignation" has big implications for enterprises. Employees became more expensive to hire and even more challenging to retain. From the perspective of employee support and engagement, there are two implications:

    a. Employee support and engagement get different focus

    b. Agent attrition creates new disruption

    While the first implication is obvious, let us focus on agent attrition. Every time an agent walks away – he or she takes much knowledge away. Why? Because most service desks today do not have an organically growing, modern knowledge management system. Furthermore, hiring a new agent is not easy. Agents have become more expensive as well. This was the final nail in the coffin of the traditional service delivery model.

    Any of the above three catalysts were enough to get the transformation started. But all three of these hitting the scene almost simultaneously create a perfect storm for a big change.

    Read More: Five-Step Plan To Attrition-proof Your Service Desk

Agents as Subject Matter Experts  

Remember the bank analogy earlier? The new service desks will have more experts than agents who are resetting passwords for most of their time. These experts will not spend time creating tickets and phone calls to solve a mystery around "how to create a new MS Teams channel". Instead, they will spend quality time on complex issues and help the service desk and enterprise automate and focus on problem management. These experts will become change agents for enterprises and act as internal evangelists for efficient organization. They will collaborate with AI-based platforms like to bring about integration and simplicity to employee support. Believe it or not, this change is afoot. We are all about to move to a new service delivery model.

What we will measure: The focus will not be on how many tickets are resolved per day per agent – rather on metrics like 'automation achieved this month' or 'recurring issues fixed this month' etc. Since AI will now do the heavy lifting in case of simpler/repetitive issues, the SMEs will have the bandwidth to prioritize higher importance tasks/projects.

Desired Agent Productivity Features

  • AI-powered issue resolution for simple issues

    AI engines should auto-resolve most of the simpler issues by either providing the right answer or performing a task for the users. typically auto-resolves 40 to 65% of total issues. This frees up the time of agents for more complex issues.

  • Human experts for more complex issues

    More complex issues are smartly rerouted to the right service desk agents or Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). If the right expert is available online, employees can enter a live chat with that expert to get instant support.

  • Agent access via MS Teams

    Agents should not have to leave MS Teams to work on the ticketing system and participate in a live chat.

  • Agent access while mobile

    Agents should be able to access ticketing functions and even live chat while on the move. has a mobile app for agents available via IOS or Android.

  • Smart ticket creation & routing

    Tickets should contain better information, so agents do not have to chase the employee for additional/required information. Now virtual assistants (VAs) can do exactly that. If cannot solve the issue, at least it will create a ticket with more information. Additionally, there is no point in routing the ticket for L1 if the virtual assistant (VA) already knows that this issue needs to be routed to L2/L3. Better routing saves on the number of tickets that will be touched.

  • Automation for agents

    For certain repeatable tasks, automation should be available for agents so that they do not have to go to five different systems. can automate specific tasks with RPA efficiency and make those available to the agents. 


With all these features, your agent's expertise will truly be utilized to feel more like an SME rather than an agent. service desk managers love this new model too – and are becoming pioneers of automation within their organization.

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