For any business to be successful, a delightful customer experience is essential—the happier the customer, the healthier the business. Customer service is the key metric for more satisfied customers. It can make or break the chance to turn a potential customer into a loyal one and boost retention.
However, managing your customer service effectively is often tricky. One common challenge is enabling your employees to perform at their best potential. A report says that 90% of employees are saddled with repetitive and tedious tasks, impacting their productivity.
Leveraging customer service automation is one of the best ways to address the challenges of dull, repetitive tasks and create an efficient, high-performing, service-oriented organization. Given the scale at which businesses operate today, your business can grow only when you have a perfect blend of human touch and automation.
Moreover, modern-day customer service demands convenience, which can be achieved with the right amount of automation. It puts your support team in a better position to handle more queries, offers speedy resolutions, minimizes human errors, and keeps your customer captivated.
So let us dive deep into the what, why, and how of automation in customer service.
What is customer service automation?
Customer service automation is a set of technologies that help customers solve their problems quickly and effectively without any human intervention.
Each day, many customers have queries related to your product and service or have issues regarding the same. A significant part of these requests is repetitive.
Customer service automation eliminates the need for a human support center to deal with such monotonous tasks. It streamlines your operation, engages with your customer instantly, and provides round-the-clock support. To make the customer service experience better, companies have applied AI to automation. It allows users to interact with automated systems in natural conversations and get accurate answers to commonly asked questions.
Why is automating customer support important for business?
From putting an end to a manual process and dodging human errors to enhancing team potential and improving customer experience, automation brings a lot to the table. We list 5 benefits for you below.
1. Reduce staff power cost
Most customer interactions are repetitive, made of simple and direct questions—for example, on order status, shipping, pricing, etc. These queries do not take long to answer, but the number of such interactions is high.
As volume increases, so does the need for support staff to respond to them. And with it, the costs involved in recruiting, onboarding, and training the staff.
Automated customer service can be a great solution to do more with less. You can scale your organization to handle a much higher magnitude of support interactions and answer the questions instantly without keeping your customers on hold.
With automated customer service, the cost per call of the virtual agent (such as a chatbot) is significantly low compared to a human. And given it improves agent experience, there is lower attrition, and it will help you save thousands of dollars on the recruitment and onboarding process in call centers.
2. Provide 24/7 support
When interacting with a business that has an online presence, customers expect to be able to reach out at the time of their convenience, which might be outside regular business hours. And if you have a global reach, your customers will reach out to you worldwide.
Due to the above, it is essential to have 24/7 support that allows customers to get their questions answered at any time of the day. However, human support teams have inherent limitations regarding being available around the clock. Eventually, you’ll have to recruit more staff for different shifts or hire in other geographical regions, leading to added costs.
This is where customer support automation tools like chatbots or email automation can help. By leveraging AI to understand customer problems, and automation to fetch the correct answer, customer support automation can provide 24/7 support with accurate and instant responses.
3. Reply instantaneously
Customer satisfaction is paramount to retaining customers and having them vouch for your brand. To ensure that customers are pleased, providing solutions right away becomes crucial. And keeping the customer on hold is a leading cause of customer dissatisfaction.
According to HubSpot’s Research, 90% of customers rate ‘immediate’ response as necessary. And by ‘immediate,’ they mean less than 10 mins. The report also shows that 33% of customers are most frustrated by waiting on hold or repeating themselves to multiple support reps. Delays in responding to customers will likely motivate them to switch to competitors that promise better service.
Therefore, an automated customer service system is a must. Automation collects your customer’s feedback quickly and solves their issues rapidly, giving them a memorable experience.
4. Improve the efficiency of service interaction
When straightforward and common queries are dealt with by AI chatbot customer service, human agents are freed up and can focus on handling high-priority and complex problems.
In addition to working on critical issues, agents get customer history and context to resolve the tickets. Agent saves time from toggling between multiple databases and reduces the need for customers to repeat themselves. In other words, the interaction is efficient and leads to the swift resolution of queries.
5. Boost team productivity
When customers demand accuracy, it puts the support team under pressure. With too much workload, performance declines. Automating the service desk will remove blockers for employees, reduce burnout and maintain talent retention.
Customer service automation examples that boost team productivity include the reduction of FAQ, a 360-degree view of customers, a unified view of all tickets in one place, quick replies, intelligent routing, auto-synch from integrations, etc.
How to automate customer service?
You’ll need to deploy different customer service software according to the requirement to automate customer service.
Let us discuss some of the ways to automate customer service.
1. NLP-powered chatbots
NLP (Natural language processing) is a set of algorithms and techniques that can be used to understand the sentiment of a sentence. It is a discipline of artificial intelligence that concentrates on making the interaction between humans and computers natural and easy.
NLP can detect human emotions, deriving meaning from context and the user’s location. With this capability, it can simultaneously converse with thousands of customers and help resolve their queries accurately. It can be helpful in various automation tasks like speech recognition, information extraction, artificial translations, etc.
2. Ticket routing
Automated ticket routing assigns tickets to relevant agents, respective of their skills, knowledge, and experience. It speeds up ticket resolution time and reduces the number of transfers, giving customers a seamless experience.
The feature is one of the best automation strategies as it ensures customers get a skilled agent immediately who can answer their questions in the first instance. As for agents, they aren’t overburdened as the AI engine checks their capacity before assigning a chat to them.
3. Email auto-response
Auto-response emails are pre-designed replies for different incoming messages. It confirms to the users that their message has been received and shares a complaint number with them, allowing them to track it later.
The company must set up the response only once and define the criteria that trigger the email. It simplifies the process of sending generic email responses. It saves substantial time and effort without compromising accuracy and efficiency.
4. Extensive and interactive knowledge base
Let us talk about the time before the internet. The manufacturers used to ship products with giant manuals that resembled a book with hundreds of pages. It used to have all the instructions about how to use the product. Doubt anyone would even bother reading them.
Today those bulky manuals are replaced by knowledge base systems. It is an innovative way of providing answers to questions and guides related to products all in one place. The users must type a few words in the search bar, and relevant articles will appear. To make this successful, companies need to update their help articles regularly.
What are the channels that can be automated in customer service?
1. Website automation
Since customer interaction is increasing online, websites and web applications significantly generate revenue. Integrated automated websites with a top-of-a-funnel strategy will feed your database by helping you construct a subscriber base for your funnel by providing them with helpful content.
Automation works with an extensive database of contacts consisting of email, workflows, and social tools to nurture leads with highly personalized content and convert prospects to customers.
2. Mobile Apps
Similar to the web app, customers use your mobile apps and get stuck somewhere. It could be while purchasing a product or wanting to know more about it before completing the purchase. A chatbot within the app can assist users and guide them through processes they find tricky. It improves their experience and keeps them coming back for more.
3. Social media platforms:
As per a survey, around 42% of the world’s population uses social media, which adds up to 3.2 billion users worldwide. The growing number shows the opportunities of social media channels for customer service.
Another reason companies should consider social media for customer service is the rising trend of conversational commerce. Customers see products on the company’s social media platform and want to purchase and get support then and there. 33% of customers want a response from companies in less than 30 mins on social media platforms.
Automating customer service on social media channels allows companies to answer customer queries. Integrated systems provide a contextual experience, improving customer experience even further.
4. Phone support
The phone support option comes under an internet-related support service. Though many channels are available, people still love dialing toll-free numbers to connect with call centers. It brings feelings of empathy to a discussion. Besides this, the agent finds it easier to study a client’s mood and use a suitable tone of voice.
Automation in phone support comes into the picture by collecting query context and routing them to the right agent. It enables the ticket to be resolved in the first instance and allows the agent to take up more tickets in less time. Automation also plays a role in post-call activities such as updating information in customer databases in real time.
Best practices in implementing automation for customer support.
Consider the following practices to set up a successful customer service automation software.
1. Assess your needs
Who doesn’t like automation? Especially when you know that it’s a great way to help optimize your business process and help you provide a great customer experience. But does that mean automating everything possible will keep you ahead in the race? Well, NO.
Automation has a huge advantage and impact on your business growth. But only when you understand how much you need. Yes, you heard that right. You need to assess your needs before taking action blindly.
You need to first assess your needs. Are your customer service agents overburdened? Are you seeing a surge in customer queries only during specific hours and days or is it continuous? Are your customers reaching out to you on different platforms?
You’ll waste time and resources if you start automating before answering these questions. It will do more harm than good. On top of that, you might lose the human touch required in certain situations.
Automation is good for common, constant, and systematic tasks that incorporate a standard pattern. But taking it too far is a huge mistake. The customers will be frustrated and confused.
2. Select the right platform
No doubt, the presence of social media platforms is more common these days. The number of users is only increasing day by day. So it’s a massive opportunity for every business to serve their client on these platforms.
But the confusion arises when you see that there are 30+ platforms available with the potential market. And, it’s not a practical idea to be available everywhere.
Something as seemingly simple as choosing the right platform for automation can be more complex than you’d think. It can be daunting but not impossible to figure out which is the right platform for your business. The first step you should take is to prioritize your needs.
It helps to answer questions such as, where are your customers trying to contact you, where are your competitors connecting with their audience, whether a social media channel allows you to automate communication, etc.
Once you figure out what is important for your business, you should determine which platform will offer you the right exposure to the audience.
3. Identify use cases
Once you’ve assessed your needs and selected the channels you want to automate your customer service on, your next step is to identify what use case examples to automate.
For this exercise, list the most commonly asked questions and tasks that are simple and mundane. It could be tasks that your agents spend too much time on too. Once you have the list, you can plan how to automate them and create workflows accordingly.
Some common use cases that companies automate include answering frequently asked questions, scheduling appointments, booking tickets (movies, flights, etc.), tracking orders, generating leads, asking for feedback, sending reminders, sharing information, routing tickets, etc.
Customer Service automation examples
Now let us see some examples of customer service automation in detail.
1. Order management and status
Automation has a huge role in order management. It speeds up delivery time and reduces human error significantly, making the entire process more efficient.
A fully automated order processing system is integrated with online stores or various sales channels and then processes automatically. It verifies the order, updates the order status in real time, and then notifies the customer that their order has been delivered.
Providing order status keeps your customer in the loop. It makes them aware of the product’s progress at every stage from processing to shipping, eliminating the need to contact the call center and reducing the load on the agents.
2. Product troubleshooting
Customers want instant solutions when they face issues with their products or services. Today’s customers seek convenience: quick reply, 24×7 support, and omnichannel experience. Automated customer service allows your business to meet these requirements at optimal costs.
Some advantages that automated services bring include reduced load on agents, self-service options for users, and streamlined processes for companies. It improves response rate and resolution times and boosts customer satisfaction scores.
3. Account management
The outdated manual process of account management leads to more work and increases the possibility of error. Automation fixes the problem in one click.
For instance, if users want to update their addresses or change their phone numbers, they must do it manually in many places. But with automation, once updated on one channel, it gets updates everywhere the channel is integrated. This kind of integrated system improves customer experience.
4. Purchase assistance
AI-enabled chatbots simplify and facilitate purchasing experience in noteworthy ways. Chatbots can offer one-on-one conversations with customers and provide personalized suggestions and solutions according to their shopping preferences. According to a survey conducted by Epsilon, 80% of customers are inclined to purchase from brands that extend personalized assistance.
The shopping assistant chatbots can be stationed on several platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, email, etc, for immediate customer communication. The conversational AI attends to customer queries and resolves them without delay.
The shoppers highly appreciate the such low effort but swift service. The AI assists them in knowing about the current offers or discounts offered by the stores, gift vouchers, and coupons offered during festive seasons.
5. Return processing
Shopping online might be easy but it comes with its challenges. One such is not knowing the size or quality of a product. Because of this, many customers want to return the products they’ve purchased. But it has its difficulties, such as order pickup, sharing feedback on why the user is returning the product, and checking the money has hit the bank account.
Automated customer service improves customers by providing the right level of support at the right times. It streamlines the process; customers can easily return products, coordinate with the pick-up agent and check the status of their money.
Challenges faced in automating customer service
Today, more and more businesses prefer customer service chatbots for communication due to the tremendous growth and development of machine learning.
It can provide excellent customer service without increasing the number of employees. However, automating customer service is not as easy as it seems. There are various challenges throughout the process, some of which are mentioned below.
Lack of Education/Awareness
As soon as the company starts to scale, the team that lacks automation is the one that is left behind.
And many teams lack automation not because they lack skills, but because they lack education about its benefits. Due to this, they fear automation instead. Unfortunately, many employees are afraid of automation because they fear being replaced.
As per the research, 37% of workers fear that automation will leave them jobless.
They are unaware of the range of benefits that it brings to the table. They don’t see that automated solutions are designed to work alongside employees and make their jobs simpler.
As fancy as it sounds, customer service automation isn’t just about deployment. You can’t just deploy the automation and leave it to do its job. And expect a perfect outcome. It involves lots of training and updates throughout. And the employees need to learn how to adopt automation the right way.
The process takes a sufficient amount of time. Even so, you can’t guarantee success 100%. There’s a high chance it may work out when you’ve invested in continuous training and updates.
Just because you want to avoid being left behind by your competitors, including the automation in your business without proper planning and system will cost you even more.
Higher setup time/cost
Conversational AI for customer support does not immediately fit into your workflow after the deployment. It takes a decent time to set up. It has to undergo a series of trials and tests before it fits perfectly. As well as, employees have to be trained to adapt to automation.
The main objective of including chatbot customer care is to save labor and ensure availability at all times to serve several customers at once. To add to this, the chatbot needs to be programmed differently for each use case. As a result, the initial installation cost increases.
Therefore, it would be wrong to expect the result immediately. It’s a long process for AI customer support to adapt your brand voice.
The higher ongoing cost of managing chatbot performance
Since AI and machine learning are doing more and more of what humans can do, the craze for automation is only rising. One thing to remember is that conversational AI is evolving and becoming more sophisticated with each passing day. And with sophistication comes a high price tag.
And the cost keeps on increasing along with your project demand and requirement. Depending on your goals and use of chatbots, you’ll need chatbot features that add to the complexity and development scope of the chatbot.
Whatever the use cases, be it for lead generation, marketing, appointment booking, or customer support, you can enjoy the benefits from any of these, only when you pay a certain price.
Also, let’s not forget the continuous training it requires to bring the best out of it.
Limited integration capabilities prevent end-to-end automation.
Multiple channels maximize sales and exposure to customers. And one of the best ways to increase your chatbot engagement is by integrating different communication channels. You can reply to your customers through emails, SMS, social media, etc. And integration with customer databases allows you to pull and push information instantly for a holistic and personalized experience.
But limited integration makes the process impossible. Only a few companies provide all the right integration capabilities to make the best of your automation. Your customer communication remains isolated, making growth slow and impossible.
1. Will automating customer service help all types of industries?
Yes, opportunities are different across industries – B2C companies typically have more ticket volume and will find the self-service opportunities of Customer Service Automation more beneficial. B2B companies on the other hand have less volume, but higher ticket costs and tighter SLAs – hence ticket analysis, automated routing, and more interactive knowledge articles are more relevant here.
2. Do I need to prioritize automating customer service?
Yes, it helps you provide a better customer experience to your users if you prioritize automated customer service.
3. What is service automation in CRM?
Most CRMs have a basic set of automation capabilities built-in – usually limited to rules around managing tickets, escalations, and workforce management. For complete automation capabilities, one would need to bring in a dedicated automation platform that works with the CRM.
4. Do we need to test the CSA platform after implementation?
Yes, since you are working with workflows, you need to test it before going live so you can check where the flow is breaking and fix it before it interacts with your customers.
5. Can I rely on tools for automation?
Yes, if an automation tool is comprehensive and well-trained, you can trust it to improve customer experience and reduce the load on agents.