Automated customer service can save you a ton of time, but does it keep your customers and agents satisfied? Read on to find out.
Jessica Collier is VP of Growth Marketing at Assembly Software, developers of practice management software and cloud-based solutions for the legal sector.
Automation is increasingly present in our lives, from appointment scheduling to self-service checkouts—but does it really improve customer service? Apart from saving time, can it also help keep customers and employees satisfied?
In this post, we’ll talk you through the different types of automated customer service, along with their benefits and challenges.
Automated customer service refers to customer support systems and processes that are performed by computers or machines. It reduces (or removes) human involvement in customer queries, enabling consumers to solve problems themselves.
Automation takes care of lots of simple and repetitive tasks, freeing up human agents to handle complex inquiries or high-value clients. It’s used by many businesses, especially those that are growing rapidly and need to streamline their support operations.
Thanks to technological advancements such as machine learning and natural language programming (NLP), automation is able to deliver personalized responses and understand the nuances of customer requests. One example of automated customer service is the use of AI text generators, such as chatbots, to provide instant support to customers.
Automated customer service may cover both inbound and outbound support. Some common examples of automated services include:
You might give customers the option to start a chat with a virtual agent, or program a chat widget to pop up on the screen when they visit your website.
IVR (interactive voice response) menus use voice recognition technology to guide callers to the right agent and can also direct them to your online knowledge bases, FAQs, and tutorial videos.
As well as templated chatbot responses, you can set up autoresponders for email and social media messaging, and send auto-updates about customer orders or opening hours.
When a human touch is necessary, automated call routing saves time by pairing customers with the best agent to answer their queries. Other examples of this include auto call-back and call/video transcription.
Automated tools can capture information from all your channels and store it in your CRM. They can gather and analyze customer feedback too.
Automation brings plenty of benefits for agents and customers alike, including:
Automation improves productivity by handling tedious tasks for agents, such as creating support tickets, verifying user identities, and gathering customer data. Plus, automated systems can support multiple callers on multiple channels simultaneously.
Thanks to data capture, customer information (such as contact details, transaction history, and previous issues) is instantly visible in your CRM when agents interact with customers in person. This means the agent doesn’t have to waste time asking for it again.
With simple queries and daily tasks taken care of, human agents are free to deal with other things, such as handling more serious issues or offering proactive support. When an inquiry gets passed up the chain to a human, the customer has already gone through the basic questions and troubleshooting steps, so the agent can immediately start resolving their problem.
Automated help desk software works 24/7 all year round. Machines don’t take sick days or vacations, and they always stay on brand. They’re also more cost-effective than using an entirely human team, as you don’t have to hire extra staff or pay people to work unsociable hours.
Customers hate waiting on hold or being passed around between departments and having to tell the same story over and again. Automated tools help them figure out issues on their own instead of waiting for an agent.
Even at night or on a weekend, when there are no human employees available, chatbots and auto-attendants can invite the customer to send an email and alert the support team to respond ASAP.
Customers expect to communicate with you via their preferred method and to switch channels without repeating themselves. Automation helps you provide a wider range of support and sync data between channels.
For example, a customer could start a chat with a chatbot on a company's website, and then later follow up on the same issue by sending an email. Thanks to data syncing across channels, the customer's previous interactions with the chatbot would be visible to the support team handling the email, allowing for a seamless transition between channels and a more personalized customer experience.
Self-service also offers convenience, as customers can seek answers in their own time. Instead of having lengthy phone conversations, they can multitask while using chatbots and FAQs.
Automated customer service software can collect feedback throughout the customer journey, so you can monitor satisfaction by customer or channel. As well as recording and storing interactions, you can program a quick survey to pop up automatically after customers contact your support team.
Automation also enables proactive customer service. For example, if you know there’s a delay in shipping orders, your OMS systems can send messages to apologize and update customers with their amended arrival dates.
Self-service automation reduces the number of basic queries and repetitive tasks that your human agents have to deal with, which gives them more time in their day and reduces their stress levels. It’s more rewarding to handle complex queries and VIP clients and to see an improvement in service metrics and customer feedback.
When employees experience less stress and more reward and are empowered to meet their personal and team targets, it leads to improved engagement and retention. In an industry with high turnover, that’s something to be prized (especially since established support teams are more knowledgeable about their customers).
The benefits listed above should result in increased revenue for your business. With loyal customers and staff, you’ll spend less on recruitment and acquisition, and you’ll receive referrals from people who were impressed by your service. Improved productivity saves you money as well as time.
Automation also makes it easy to scale your support provision to meet demand. You can handle higher contact volumes without sacrificing quality and respond to more customers with less staff. You could also launch a virtual contact center with everyone connected by the same system.
Alongside the benefits of automated systems, there are a few challenges you need to be aware of.
Here’s the thing: not all customers are excited by automation. Those who aren’t tech-savvy may prefer to speak to a human, and if you don’t offer that option, you risk losing their business. For small firms especially, personalized customer service may be one of your main selling points.
Solution: Make sure customers can get in touch by whatever method they prefer, even if that’s a good old-fashioned phone call. Don’t make your number hard to find on your website. For out-of-hours inquiries, enable them to leave a message and try to get back to them quickly.
It’s frustrating for customers who can’t find the resources to solve a problem themselves and still have to get in touch after going through your automated options. This could be because your chatbot didn’t understand their query or because your knowledge base isn’t comprehensive enough.
Solution: Look for the most common queries. If you know customers frequently ask about an aspect of your legal software, for example, add that to your automated responses. You should also use chatbots with human-like communication abilities and train these to pick up on frustration.
It can be tempting to think your shiny new tech can solve all your problems, but if you leave everything to the machines, you may not notice other issues until it’s too late.
Solution: Think carefully about your reasons for introducing automation, and make sure there’s no underlying problem with productivity or engagement. Check regularly that tools are working as they should, and take feedback from customers and employees.
Finally, when you implement automated customer service, your employees may have concerns about losing their jobs to robots.
Solution: Reassure your agents that you won’t be eliminating the human element completely—good customer service will always require some human input, such as when a smart chatbot escalates a complex inquiry. Provide robust training so everyone gets maximum benefit from the technology.
The key to successful customer service automation is knowing when you should automate and when you shouldn’t. For example, there are some types of interaction that are better taking place in person, such as handling returns, complex technological problems, and VIP customers.
The same is true for customers who struggle with technology or prefer traditional forms of contact. It’s best to offer a range of options that combine automation with human input and to look out for situations where it makes more sense to use a particular method.
You should beware of wanting automation simply because it’s available too, rather than because of a real business need. Don’t go overboard with implementing multiple new systems if you’re not ready to use them. Start by introducing one or two, and see how your employees and customers react.
Done right, automated customer service will help you boost productivity, improve customer and agent satisfaction, and increase revenue. Be careful when choosing which aspects to automate, and measure results and feedback to ensure the system is working for you.
Don’t panic about the rise of robots either; whether it’s used in restaurant customer service or retail returns, automation should ultimately enhance the very human aspect of good service rather than replace it.
Jessica Collier is VP of Growth Marketing at Assembly Software, developers of practice management software and cloud-based solutions for the legal sector. Her passion for digital innovation and agile marketing has led to significant success in innovative tech marketing, client collaboration, and driving conversion results. You can check out her Linkedin here.