How to Find Balance in Customer Service Automation
Customer service automation is not a new thing in business. Many brands have successfully implemented automation to streamline the processes and save costs. However, there are still many questions on how to balance automation with a human touch and worries about sounding robotic and impersonal.
But if done right, automation can boost your workflow, cut labor costs, and improve overall CX without sounding like a machine. So let’s cover-up how to do that.
I’ll start with the basics to make sure we are on the same page.
What is customer service automation?
Customer service automation is a process that reduces human involvement in customer interactions with your brand. Automated customer support helps to eliminate inefficient and unnecessary human touchpoints from the customer journey. Therefore, it improves the operational efficiency, speeds up the responses, and maintains team morale by reducing routine in their daily job.
Ways to automate customer service
Chatbots – a system that comprehends customer words or phrases and gives an instant pre-set answer.
Triggered emails – emails that are launched by specific actions taken by your customer on the website.
Canned responses – predetermined responses to common questions. It’s like a template.
livechatinc.com canned responses example
Knowledgebase – a self-serve online portal with information about your product or service. And did you know that 90% of consumers expect an online portal for customer service?
Call routing – a system that places incoming calls in a queue and then routes to a specific agent based on predetermined criteria.
Automated ticketing – a feature that routes tickets to specific customer service agent based on predefined rules or keywords.
Social media responder – a system that automates social media posting and responding. Don’t ignore social media as 63% of customers expect companies to offer support via social media, and 35% of customers prefer it to other channels.
Team inbox – allows a group of agents to access and process emails from one place.
Automatic callback phone system – allows your customer to leave their number and ask for a call back from you, if your lines are currently busy or not working.
Automated customer satisfaction surveys – allows sending surveys after a specific action taken by your customer.
These are the most popular types of customer service automation. You can use one of them or combine them all. Many customer service automation tools provide all those features in one place. If you want to know more about these tools, we’ve covered it up for you in this table:
Keeping the balance between human touch and automation
With all those tools available, it’s easy to throw customers to a fully automated system and make them feel alone and unappreciated. For sure, you don’t want that. So automating customer service is a risk. But those who risk wisely, get all the benefits like lower operational costs, happy management, grateful team, and being a leader driving a company through innovation.
How to find that balance and wisdom? There is a common ground of what you should do and avoid doing at any cost.
The Do’s of customer service automation
1. Automate routine, simple tasks.
FAQs like “how can I order this," “how to reset the password," “where is the closest store," “does this product have X feature" are the best fit for automation. About 75% of customers expect “now" service within five minutes of making contact online. And with such types of questions, people quickly get impatient.
Don’t make people wait. Those questions are simple enough for self-help. So chatbots and knowledge bases are great ways of tackling those kinds of requests.
When you create a chatbot to cover your routine requests, there are always two choices. You can go either with a chatbot builder or a chatbot development company. I’ll briefly explain the difference.
With chatbot builders, you can start small and launch a POC within weeks. It requires almost no budget. But you’ll need to figure things out on your own, and your solution will be limited. So if it works and you want to scale, you’ll have to start from the ground up with a chatbot development company at a particular stage.
With chatbot development companies, you have the flexibility to build what you need, and you can start with a POC as well. The company option is more complicated and expensive since you have contracts, kick-offs, maybe procurement, etc. But by paying more, you don’t need to do things on your own, and it’s easy to scale if the POC proves working well.
Speaking of the price difference, it can be around ±$5,000 for a custom POC solution instead of ±$500 for a builder.
Your customer service chatbot could look something like this:
The chatbot is simpler for customers, faster and more engaging. On the other hand, it requires more effort and time to create and maintain than a knowledge base.
Imagine a 100-page manual most of the companies have for their products, policies, branding, etc. Those documents no-one wants to read despite much valuable info hidden there.
A knowledgebase is a way to make those documents user-friendly and searchable. So instead of scrolling through the pages, you type your question and get the answer from the doc.
You can build your first knowledge base out of the FAQs from your customer support team and then expand. The software solutions allow you to analyze queries and grow your knowledge base by answering the most common requests.
Here’s a great article that will help you choose and guide you on building your knowledge base: https://herothemes.com/blog/best-knowledge-base-software/
Note: You can use the most common customer support requests for building a custom chatbot as well. The vendor can connect your list and train the NLP agent to answer those queries.
evernote.com knowledge base
2. Use sentiment analysis
Sentiment analysis is applicable mostly to chatbots when combined with live chat. During a conversation, sentiment analysis will understand the emotional state of a customer based on their language. So if I irritably ask about my shipping, the chatbot will understand my mood and redirect to a customer support agent right away.
Also, sentiment analysis can be used for social media mentions and brand mentions on the web. It can help to quickly track and analyze what customers say about your company on social media channels and act based on this data. There are many sentiment analysis tools like IBM Watson, Repustate, Lexalytics, MonkeyLearn, Critical Mention, Brand24, etc.
3. Provide a convenient way to contact human support
If a client wants to talk to a human agent, he should be able to do that. Look into live chat if you still don’t have it. Phone calls and emails become outdated. You should probably count more on them if you deal with an older audience. Yet, for a younger generation, it is preferable to use live chat.
From an operational standpoint, live chat is also more efficient. One customer support agent can cover about four live chat requests simultaneously, while over the phone, it is always one at a time. Plus, live chat solutions are quite advanced now and can be integrated with your CRM, giving your representatives a better understanding of the customer.
4. Test the system and ask for feedback
It may sound odd, but this point often gets neglected. And the need for testing grows with the complexity of the solution you implement. By testing your automation on a focus group, you can spot problems and make improvements early on. You will better understand where the automation works best, and when a human agent is needed. So don’t forget to add testing to your agenda.
5. Review and update your automation
Automation is never a “set and done" thing. I may be biased, but it is especially true with chatbots. From our practice at BotsCrew, the most successful projects are the ones that are continually iterating and improving their solution. That’s what unsuccessful projects don’t usually do.
Regularly review and improve your automation to keep it up to date with your company and clients. Analyze interactions, review analytics, and upgrade the system when needed.
6. Integrate all tools and services when possible
Make sure all channels and tools are connected. That way, you’ll be able to have a full client’s portfolio and interaction history to provide better support. Also, you’ll have all the data and stats in one place, which will make analyzing and reporting easier.
How to do that?
Some tools have native integrations. It means you can connect specific tools in a few clicks without coding. Commonly, small tools connect with giants like Salesforce, Zendesk, etc. But it’s not always the case that the giants connect with one another. For these cases, you’ll need a custom integration or a 3rd-party integration tool.
The systems that you want to connect need to have an open API (application programming interface). It is true for 90+% of the cases. However, you should think first about how you’ll use it because there is no need for every tool to be integrated with each other. Choose a hub where you want to have all the data, and then incorporate your tech stack with this hub.
There are 3rd-party integration tools like PieSync and Zapier. Still, with a large volume of data points, it is always more cost-effective to build an in-house integration (if native integration is not available).
7. Personalize you automation
Personalization improves drastically when your systems are integrated. Let’s say each client has their profile with personal, geo, and behavioral data fields. So each field you can use as a personalization point. The hard thing is having the data centralized.
For instance, if a customer left a washing machine in his cart, a chatbot can ask him if he needs some help with this purchase.
If someone’s asking for his order status via live chat, it is always better to know whom you’re talking to and what orders a person has. How exciting would it be if you don’t even need to tell the order number?
“72% of respondents expect agents to already know who they are, what they’ve purchased, and have insight into their previous engagements."
The Don’ts of customer service automation
1. Don’t automate everything
Review and understand which queries should be tackled by automation and which ones should be addressed by humans. If the customer’s question requires a unique approach, then don’t automate that.
It is also applicable to working automation. Regularly review the performance (Do’s rule #5) to spot answers customers are unsatisfied with. Improve or remove automation for those cases.
2. Don’t try to disguise the automation as a real person
You would never want your customers to feel dumb because they didn’t recognize they were talking to a bot. It would harm their loyalty severely.
– Don’t put a human face as the logo of a chatbot.
– Try to avoid giving a human name to your bot.
– Let your customers know they’re talking to a virtual assistant from the very beginning of the conversation.
3. Don’t force people to use automation
Don’t make it harder for people to contact support. While automation is a cost-effective support channel, it’s not profitable in the end to have a disloyal customer because he was unable to reach out to a human to assist with an issue.
Make contact options visible and available at any point in the automation flow. It can be done by “talk to a human," “live agent" or similar commands in a chatbot and a particular digit for live support via phone bot.
4. Don’t forget to user test and update the automation
Yes, those were in do’s. But do’s are optional, while everyone knows what happens when you neglect don’ts. Before entirely relying on automation to cover your repetitive tasks, you should do user testing. Check how your clients like automation and how it’s doing the job. You will receive valuable feedback that will let you tune the system to match clients’ needs the best. Then regularly review its results and upgrade the system.
The final word
Customer service automation is a powerful tool in the right hands. But, automation should never go over personalization and customer-centric approach. Using automation, you can make your customer service team more efficient and happier while cutting operational costs.
It takes courage to find the balance between human-approach and automation, but it is always rewarding when done right.