A survey of 125 business leaders published this week by Serviceaide, a provider of a service management platform, suggests a significant majority (81%) are actively looking for ways to apply artificial intelligence (AI) to service and support. A full 87% said they anticipate AI will improve service support and quality, the survey finds.

Across all business functions, customer service is seen as the top priority for AI deployment (61%), followed by sales and marketing (55%), product innovation (52%), and IT service and support (48%), the survey finds.

Reducing workloads and costs (32%) is cited as the top benefit of deploying AI, followed by product improvements (26%), and increased employee productivity (19%). Overall, the top three roadblocks to transforming service and support are budget (69%), risk (48%), and lack of internal resources (45%).

The survey results suggest organizations are simultaneously looking to automate as many low-level tasks as possible, while at the same time using AI to enable employees to provide a better overall experience, says Serviceaide CTO Bill Guinn. Instead of replacing people, the focus should be on finding ways to use AI to provide a competitive edge, he notes. “It needs to be about providing a more intelligent experience,” adds Guinn.

Most organizations, however, are looking for a blueprint (47%) on how to achieve that goal.

In the meantime, there is no doubt that AI will have a profound impact on service and support. While there is a lot of focus on jobs that might be eliminated, the fact is most organizations are unable to fill all the positions they have open.

In addition, the level of stress service and support personnel experience creates high turnover rates that could be sharply reduced by, for example, making precise answers for resolving specific issues that today reside in massive knowledge bases more accessible, notes Guinn.

Naturally, it’s still early days in terms of how organizations are operationalizing AI but it’s apparent that automating service and support is a low hanging fruit. In fact, applying AI to service and support will soon be table stakes as more customers expect issues that arise to be either fixed automatically or resolved in minutes. Tolerance for long phone calls with service and support teams or a need for an in-person visit will drop. In fact, organizations should assume customers will switch vendors if the service and support experience in the age of AI appears antiquated.

It may be a while before AI is pervasively applied across every business process, but most organizations would be well advised to start with tasks that involve more toil than they are worth. It’s all but certain those efforts will disrupt the culture of the organization, but in the final analysis business leaders and employees alike will discover many of the tasks being automated are ones that nobody especially enjoys performing in the first place.