Customer Service Automation: Best Practices and How to Get Started
Customer service automation creates a better experience for everyone. Your team has more time to focus what's important, while your customers get the answers they need, faster.
The speed at which you respond to customers is a high priority for businesses. The longer you keep customers waiting, the more likely it is they will defect to a competitor who can offer them a better level of service.
90% of customers rate an “immediate” response as essential or very important when they have a customer service question. But how can businesses keep up with the enormous pressure to provide instant replies to customers, especially when they’re receiving hundreds or maybe thousands of enquiries a day?
The answer is customer service automation, which can save your reps time and make their workflows more efficient. By automating customer service, you’re taking the bulk of customer queries and using technology to respond to them, which then frees up your agents to focus on the more complex cases.
What is customer service automation?
Customer service automation is anything that allows your customers to help themselves without relying on human intervention. Automated customer service operates properly when a customer is looking for answers to simple, repetitive questions, needs a status update, or to find a particular resource.
Automated customer service technology ranges from anything like an AI-powered chatbot, to a customer self-service knowledge base, to a recorded phone system (IVR), or to customer service software that uses machine learning to automatically answer customer questions.
In the past, companies had no choice but to build their customer service processes around a team of customer service agents who gave assistance through phone and email. As the business scaled, their only option was to hire more agents and increase costs.
With automation technology, the landscape has changed and businesses can now automate away more routine customer enquiries, allowing their support team to scale without adding more agents. Automated customer support allows businesses to provide a high standard of service while keeping costs under control.
The importance of an automated customer service
Businesses may be worried about losing the personal touch when it comes to customer service. Without personalized support, they may be concerned that they are missing out on opportunities to build customer relationships and provide an excellent customer experience.
But the reality is, the majority of customers would rather help themselves than reach out to human support – 69% of customers first try to solve a problem independently but less than one third of companies offer self-service options such as a knowledge base. When troubleshooting a basic problem, customers begin their search online and only reach out to the customer service team as a last resort.
It’s your job to provide customers with a means of helping themselves and that’s where customer service automation comes in really handy.
Why would we try to force customers to contact us when they are perfectly happy to deal with a machine? When you automate customer service, customers can get the answer they need without waiting on your customer support agents.
It’s your job to provide customers with a means of helping themselves and that’s where customer service automation comes in really handy. Customers would prefer to have a fast and accurate response rather than speak to a person. If your customer is desperate to contact a support rep, it’s usually because their problem is so severe they can’t resolve it on their own.
Automated customer service pros
Now we’re going to go through the benefits of using automated customer service and automated support.
Customer service costs are lowered
A live service interaction costs between $6-12 while an automated interaction costs 25 cents. The difference in cost is huge, and should be a motivating factor when considering automation.
Automated customer service interactions are far cheaper than employing a customer service representative to deal with the query. You can build your business and serve more customers without increasing the size of your support team.
You don’t need to spend time training your automation tools like you would your support agents. Once an automated processes are set up, they will keep working for you, forever.
Reduces the chance of mistakes
Unlike human agents, automation technologies don’t make mistakes. You can rely on your systems to provide excellent customer support without getting tired or distracted by other priorities.
Support automation can be relied upon to help your customers in the same way, every time. Your automated systems provide a consistent standard of customer service that enhances the overall customer experience.
Provides 24/7 support coverage
Customer service automation never sleeps. You can raise the standard of your service level by providing 24/7 customer support, even while your agents are off-duty.
Customers don’t have to wait for an answer from your support team and they can get help at any time of day. This is more convenient for them and ensures customers are getting the most from your products and services.
Automated support means you can support more customers globally without expanding your team. No matter what time zone a customer is in, you’ll always be on hand to help.
Support team is more efficient
Instead of customers waiting around in a queue for your support team you are resolving their queries with zero effort. Rather than customers calling or emailing your company, they get the help they need in a timely manner.
This means when customers do happen to contact your support team, their issue is likely to be resolved in a far shorter time because automation is handling the majority of customers. Customers don’t have to wait around in a long queue to receive help from your agents.
This allows your support team to focus on issue resolution rather than shortening their response times. They have fewer customers to deal with so they can focus more attention on each individual case. They also have time for other customer service tasks and focus on other important customer service interactions.
Improve the morale of your support team
Customer service automation is not meant to replace the human members of your support team – the goal of automation is to make their lives easier.
When support reps can rely on automation to deal with the more mundane, repetitive queries, they are free to focus on the big picture and devote their time to the more complex cases that definitely require a human to help solve it.
Agents will feel happy that you are investing resources into customer service and feel more motivated to do a good job. As long as automation is used in the right way, it improves the employee experience which then translates into better service for customers.
Automated customer service cons
Let’s go through some of the reasons that might be drawbacks in using automated customer service.
Lacks the human touch
30% of customers say that the most frustrating part of a bad customer service experience is not being able to reach a real human. Technology is still a long way away from being able to perfectly simulate a human interaction, and bots are still just that – bots.
Interacting with Artificial Intelligence is not going to perfectly simulate a human interaction, leading to frustration and annoyance for some customers.
Automated customer support can’t calm down an angry customer, or stop an unhappy customer from abandoning your service. There are some situations which will always require the personal support of a human agent.
Complex issues are beyond its reach
Customer service automation can still only deal with the most basic queries. If a customer has a problem with their billing or a service outage, for example, they are still going to require contact with a live agent to solve their problem.
Automation is valuable, but it can’t handle everything. There are limits to what technology can do and it may be frustrating for customers to find that their problem can’t be dealt with by your chatbot. They will see this as a hurdle to overcome rather than a legitimately helpful support channel.
Automated customer service requires technical investment
You’ll need to deploy a significant amount of technical skill to set up your AI chatbots and make sure it is capable of meeting the needs of your customers. Employing this kind of resource is costly and you have no guarantee that your chatbot will be effective.
If you’re investing in a self-service knowledge base, you’ll need to employ someone to write that content for your users, and keep updating the articles to keep pace with the development of your products and services.
Automation is not a set it and forget it kind of thing. It requires ongoing improvement to ensure it remains helpful for customers.
Enhances dependence on technology
Businesses risk getting lost in their love affair with technology and losing their connection with their customers. When you miss out on direct feedback from customers you can’t become aware of ways to improve your service.
Customers may be unhappy and feel you are putting up barriers between them and your customer support team. When you rely too much on automation, you miss those small moments where you can turn a customer into a raving fan.
Automated customer service examples
When a customer emails your help desk software you can set up rules to decide what to do with the email, saving time and effort. This allows you to easily automate customer support without a a lot of up front work.
In Keeping, you can automate repetitive tasks within your customer support software using workflows and simple logic to automatically process customer emails.
For example, you can automatically assign a ticket or apply a tag, or trigger a workflow when particular words are present in the subject line of your incoming support email.
Self-service knowledge base
A self-service knowledge base is a searchable database of articles relating to your product or service. When customers have a problem or issue, they can search your knowledge base for relevant content.
Knowledge bases are useful for customers because they can have both written and video content. Whenever they receive a repetitive enquiry, support agents can simply create a new knowledge base article to address that issue.
In this way, knowledge bases are an ongoing and constantly evolving resource.
Chatbots are in-browser virtual assistants that can answer a customer’s questions, refer them to a knowledge base, or direct them to a live agent. Chatbots work best when customers have simple questions that need answering.
30% of customers rated chatbots as “very effective” when dealing with customer service issues, and the technology is improving all the time. Chatbots can be your first line of defense when it comes to dealing with repetitive customer queries, and they can provide a response faster than any human agent.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is an automated telephone system using pre-recorded messages to engage callers. The system can interpret keywords spoken by customers and provide them with relevant information. If the system is unable to help the caller, it can then route them to the correct agent if necessary.
IVR systems are useful for cutting down on call volumes and reducing wait times, leading to an improvement in overall customer satisfaction.
Customer feedback surveys
You can send out automated surveys to gather customer feedback on your customer service quality. You can send a range of Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), or Customer Effort Score (CES) surveys to find out how customers are really feeling about your business.
If a customer gives your business a low rating, such as a one star, then you can schedule a follow up call with a live agent to find out why and hopefully save the customer from leaving.
The best automated customer service software
Here are some automated customer service platforms that will allow you to introduce customer support automation to your own team. A good automated customer service platform should integrate with your existing customer service process. You don’t want an automated system to completely change the way you have to work.
Take a look at these automated customer service tools:
Keeping is a help desk tool that integrates with Gmail to help you make the most of your shared inbox. Keeping lets your team manage emails directly from within their own mailboxes and all support emails are organized in a separate section away from your regular emails.
As we mentioned earlier, Keeping has the ability to automate email workflows so you save time on managing your email inbox. You can also easily save answers to common questions in Gmail and insert them into your responses with one click, considerably speeding up your support process.
Keeping is simple to use because it doesn’t require learning any new software. It works seamlessly on top of Gmail so you can manage all your customer support conversations in one place.
Intercom is a full-stack customer communications platform that includes a customizable chatbot. It is aimed at helping businesses automate customer service through conversational support.
Intercom claims that their Custom Bots can answer a third of your customers’ most common questions and send them to relevant help articles if the answer needs a little more explaining. They’re easy to create with no code required and they ask relevant questions to customers to automatically prioritize and route new conversations for more efficient support.
Their automated system will triage conversations and collect up-front information from customers, making support much quicker and more efficient.
Tidio is a combination of live chat and chatbot tools that help you provide great customer service. It’s easy to get started with and they offer high quality technical support.
Tidio comes with more than 20 templates to help you build your chatbot tool, or you can create your own. It promises to automate more than 40% of your customer conversations using the intuitive drag-and-drop editor.
You can integrate your live chat, email inbox, Messenger and Instagram into one multichannel communicator, so you can easily keep track of all your customer conversations in the Tidio interface.
It’s possible to answer the most important queries instantly thanks to views with assigned and unassigned messages. Ticket routing makes sure your customer concerns make it to the right person.
Helpjuice is powerful knowledge base software that enables you to create a self-service resource for your customers. It comes with dozens of custom-made themes, or the team at Helpjuice will support you to customize your own knowledge base – all part of the package.
It’s simple to get started and you can have your self-service knowledge base up and running within minutes. It includes a Google-like search that allows for easy self service support. Helpjuice’s knowledge bases are also optimized for SEO so customers can find your content when searching on Google.
Helpjuice offers robust analytics that help you identify failed searches, who customers are, which articles need improving, and more.
KnowledgeOwl is also knowledge base software which allows you to provide help content for your busy customers. It comes with a full-featured WYSIWYG editor that lets you view the code for the knowledge base articles you’re working on.
KnowledgeOwl’s built-in contextual help widget can be embedded in your application or website, suggesting relevant knowledge base articles to customers. This saves them time and removes the need to search for articles.
The software is fully customizable and comes with time-tested themes, layouts and category types so you can make your knowledge base look exactly how you want. You can assign tags and search phrases to your articles so users can find what they’re looking for.
Customer service automation works best when you combine it with excellent, real live customer support. The purpose of automation is not to replace the human touch but rather make it easier to provide support at the right time, for those customers who really need it.
Technologies like chatbots and self-service knowledge bases allow you to automate away the simpler queries and allows your agents to focus on the more complex cases that require human support. Customer service automation relieves the pressure on agents to get through huge numbers of customer queries and lets them see the bigger picture.
When implemented correctly, automating customer service delights your customers and raises satisfaction levels and loyalty. Your business can offer a higher standard of service and beat out the competition, allowing you to do what you do best – help customers.
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