If you experience high fluctuation in support requests and see your customer satisfaction decreasing, you might be considering implementing automation in your customer support. There are many aspects to review and ways to automate, and we try to cover all of them in this article. Before we start talking about benefits and strategies, let’s quickly go over the definition of customer service automation.
What is customer service automation?
Automated customer service (also known as customer support automation) is a purpose-built workflow that seeks to minimize or remove the need for human interaction while providing guidance or assistance with customer requests. In the simplest words, customer care entails identifying a customer’s needs and assisting them in meeting those needs.
External demands from customers that are either in or out of tune with internal support skills on your team complicate that equation. However, it is the combination of the two that distinguishes good customer service from bad. At the end of the day, performance is a collaborative process that involves both the agent offering assistance and the person receiving it.
Automating customer care enables the offloading of redundant or unwanted human-to-human touchpoints. The following types of automation can help you free up your customer service team time while keeping your customer happy:
- Self-service help centers
- Virtual agents (voicebots and chatbots)
- Email automation
- Automated workflows (RPA – Robotic Process Automation)
- Artificial intelligence and machine learning-based customer support tools
Automated customer service is most effective when consumers need answers to repetitive, simple requests, status alerts, or assistance locating a particular resource. Automation should never take place if the goal is to develop relationships with customers.
Is automated customer service hurtful or helpful to customer experience?
Before we even start discussing customer service automation strategies, it’s important to mention the problem of the impact of automation on customer relationships. The growing awareness around the impact of customer experience on revenue makes businesses afraid of hindering their image and reputation among customers. Unfortunately, customer service automation gained a bad reputation for making customers angry and frustrated over the years. While the automation capabilities have changed dramatically, the public image of automation hasn’t improved. So is automation hurtful or helpful to customer experience?
The answer is: It depends on how you implement it. It will work for your business and customers when the goal is to remove human involvement in straightforward and repetitive processes. These processes generally take up a lot of your team’s time, not because of the length of every interaction but because of the quantity. If you try to remove human involvement in high-touch, creative thinking required problems; you are bound to fail.
Let’s look at an example in the ecommerce industry:
Most of the returns are straightforward, someone received their order and wants to return one or more products. This type of process is perfect for a bot to handle because the customer just wants the process to be quick and easy.
But, let’s say someone ordered a wedding dress and it came in the wrong size, and the wedding is in two days. So returning the item using the standard process won’t do it. This high-stress, high time pressure situation needs out-of-the-box thinking, therefore it needs human involvement.
And that’s the key to the success of customer service automation, it should support humans by freeing up their time not replace them completely.
If you want to lean more about how to automate in a way that helps your customers and your business read our article on human-centered automation.
Customer service automation benefits
Automating customer service systems has several advantages. Let’s look at why more companies are automating their customer service.
1. Lower cost of customer service
We cannot discuss customer service automation without addressing the cost. Engaging with consumers through a bot costs a fraction of what a live agent does. Companies who revamp their consumer experience through technologies reduce their reliance on new employees, office footprint while also increasing the consumer lifetime value.
2. Enhanced efficiency and accelerated time to value
Automation provides customers with value by faster response times. By diverting customers to self-service solutions, agents may focus their attention on more complex issues.
Rather than focusing on call times, human agents should concentrate on results. Consider the possibility of resolving problems the first time rather than bouncing customers between different individuals. This strategy results in satisfied customers and a reduction in consumer complaints. If your support team adheres to customer service metrics such as First Contact Resolution (FCR) or Average Handle Time (AHT), automation will assist them in meeting their objectives.
3. Round-the-clock customer support
Humans are limited in their daily work hours. By contrast, automated customer service offers constant assistance without breaks, lunches, weekends, or sick days. A voice bot, for example, enables online assistance without the need for human interaction.
4. Decreased likelihood of human error
Nobody enjoys being shuffled between support agents, regardless of how pleasant the support staff is. You owe it to your customers to promptly and effectively answer their inquiries. Automation is a highly effective method of increasing service speed and minimizing human error. Individuals often rely excessively on intuition and instinct. Although live agents strive to provide the best service possible, they also build a muscle memory for customer inquiries. Individual customer experiences are not always indicative of the entire customer base.
5. Consistent brand personality
Automation enables the team to deliver consistent, always on-brand customer interactions. For example, if your brand utilizes a specific term, you can program your virtual agent to use it when speaking with customers.
6. Eliminated duplication of effort
By implementing a CRM framework, you can centralize all your customer data, including contact information, purchase history, self-service experiences, and viewed content.
Integrating your CRM with automated customer support systems, such as a virtual phone system, gives you a more complete picture of your customers. Support agents provide real-time access to customer data prior to receiving incoming calls, emails, or web chats.
This knowledge is available in seconds to your customer service team. They will have an exceptional customer experience without having to navigate through a plethora of tools, tabs, and spreadsheets.
7. Satisfied consumer preferences
Although the telephone is still the most frequently used customer service platform across generations, the trend is changing. Younger generations prefer alternative modes of communication to calling. As digital natives, Millennials and Generation Z are becoming increasingly adept at self-solving problems. They are accustomed to using online knowledge bases, frequently asked questions, virtual assistants, web chat, and social media messaging. Without automated customer support, you restrict the quality of service you can give to tech-savvy customers.
Customer service automation strategies
1. Invest in conversational AI to automate customer service
AI-powered virtual agents (like voicebots or chatbots) manage repetitive calls, chats, and texts across a dozen industries and hundreds of specific use cases, ranging from basic conversations such as order status, payments, and outbound reminders to more complicated ones such as authentication, order returns, roadside assistance, tech support, and outbound collections. They work within the boundaries of established business rules (based on your customer data), which serve as guidelines to keep automation on track, with the CX remains on par with (or better than) a live agent. Any exceptions that violate the guideline (e.g., the customer makes extremely unusual demands or excessive background noise makes purpose capture difficult), the call is simply transferred to a live agent that can pick up where the conversation left off.
Read our guide on virtual agent implementation to learn how to successfully add a bot to your customer service team.
2. Providing a valuable knowledge base
Why do consumers avoid self-service customer service methods? They’ve lost faith in your outdated and inaccurate help posts. But knowledge base articles can be a great way to provide self-service if their written in an engaging way. Read our aricle on improving self-service adoption to learn how to encourage your customers to use your help center.
To make sure the quality doesn’t drop over time, conduct routine audits of your support material for consistency, readability, and discoverability. By conducting regular quality assurance audits, you will identify materials that need revision. You can also include videos to increase the level of interactivity, and have the support staff regularly check the material for accuracy.
3. Use email customer service automation tools
When the number of customer requests begins to mount, the situation can quickly become overwhelming. Offering editable answers will help the staff save time and provide more personalized service to customers. Customer service representatives may create insightful responses to commonly asked questions. After that, support agents will use those templates to react to customers with a minimal amount of personalization. By pre-configuring responses for your team’s top call drivers, you can equip them to help customers via email, chat, social media, and phone.
4. Integrate customer service tools with your CRM
The majority of customer service tools are self-contained and run independently of other business applications. Additionally, they are mainly responsible for responding to inbound customer service inquiries. CRM software often includes integrations that allow automatic sequences to be triggered during the customer journey. If a user has not signed in for more than a month, it is worthwhile to contact them by email. After two months, if they have not signed in, you might arrange an outbound phone call to ascertain why.
The paradigm shift here is from seeing customer service as a cost center to seeing it as critical to maximizing consumer lifetime value. Integrating your CRM with customer service tools is needed to accomplish this task.
5. Check customer satisfaction at different stages of the customer journey
You cannot change something you don’t know about, which is why the customer service approach should include real-time customer feedback metrics. If there is a problem with an event or a customer service process, customers need to have a way to inform you about it.
Automated surveys will help you take things a step further. You may initiate an escalation based on the response of a customer. If they left a one-star review and angry remarks, arrange for a customer service representative to contact them.
This form of customer service outreach helps minimize turnover and elicits actionable ideas for change. To learn more about measuring customer satisfaction read our article on how to measure customer experience.
The time to automate is now! You don’t need to do everything at once though. Start small, see effects, and iterate. If you need help automating your customer service, let us know, and we’ll take it from there.