Customer Support Automation. If you are a business that’s looking to improve customer support experiences by streamlining support processes and improving response time to customers, I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of this term.
It all comes down to customer experience. There’s a great quote by Jack Ma that goes “Forget about your competitors, just focus on your customers.” Rightly so, customers are the true drivers of any business, and you can “shoot for the stars” when you know what your customers want or how they feel about the current services offered by your company.
And to do just that, companies introduced their own customer support teams, who would gauge customers’ needs, provide them with the necessary information, help them with any and every issue, and provide a solution quickly.
But with the growing size of the customers, it becomes difficult to respond to them on time or even get back with the appropriate response. Plus, the idea of providing proactive support starts to grow distant.
This is where Customer Support Automation steps in.
In this article, we will help you get clarity on some important aspects of customer support automation, including
- Why is there a need for change?
- What is customer support automation?
- How do you automate customer support?
- How is automation making customer service better?
- Are there any disadvantages of customer support automation?
- What are some examples of automated services in customer support?
- What does the future look like for automation in customer support?
The need for change
A couple of statistics that make us understand the true importance of customer support and why and how they propel a business forward:
- 1/3rd of consumers say they would consider switching companies after just one instance of bad customer service – American Express
- 67% of customer churn is preventable if firms resolve issues the first time they occur – Ameyo
- 52% of consumers say they have made an additional purchase from a company after a positive customer service experience – Dimensional Research
Over time, the value of providing top-notch customer service reduced due to the following drawbacks:
1. A huge backlog of tickets.
This is a common problem as customers reach out to the company as soon as they have an issue or need advice. In most cases, it’s outside working hours, because of which the agent is greeted with a pile of fresh tickets every morning. And it becomes difficult to resolve all of them quickly and efficiently.
2. Low-resolution rate.
A huge influx of tickets and more customers affects the resolution rate massively. Plus, agents typically use emails and calls to reach the customer. But with the average open rate of emails being ~21.33% and how everyone considers phone calls spammy, even when they do reach out to them, it becomes futile.
3. Irregular lookout for feedback.
Customers drive a business. Hence it’s essential to get as much feedback from them as possible and plan your next steps for the business accordingly. But with a vast array of customers, it becomes impossible to keep an eye out and collect their views on time.
4. Inability to provide stage-wise information.
This is understanding the information a customer might need at a certain stage in the buying process. Eg: Mr X purchased a shirt from an online store and he wants to know how far the package is. Faltering at that point and not having that information handy affects the satisfaction level of the customer.
To combat the above issues companies reached out to their friend in need – customer support automation (CSA).
Suggested Reading: Automation Is The Next Big Thing In Customer Support
Coming to what is customer support automation (CSA)?
CSA is a form of customer support that is provided to customers using automated technology such as voice assistants, AI chatbots, voicebots, etc.
It’s basically a streamlined process that reduces or eliminates the amount of human involvement while delivering advice or assistance. Customer services that can be automated include booking a ticket, responding to general queries, answering refund-related questions, etc.
For example, a customer wants to inquire if a shoe they like is available in a certain size. Instead of waiting on the customer support agent, they get an automated response in minutes on, let’s say, a chatbot saying that “The shoe is available in Size 9.”
This solves three things-
- Agent productivity; Support staff didn’t have to focus on redundant and repetitive asks like the above mentioned. And instead, get to spend undivided attention on their other KPIs.
- Quick resolution; The customer didn’t have to wait further to get the required response.
- Customer satisfaction; With the prompt and accurate response, it leaves the customer very happy, increasing the NPS and CSAT scores.
With Machine Learning algorithms, Natural Language Processing and Natural Language Understanding, you can understand what the customer wants and how to respond. Moreover, the idea of customer support automation is not to replace humans but to make their life simpler and easier.
It is to be noted that automated customer support can be provided 24/7 and used to both assist and reduce the cost of human support representatives.
Explore: Customer Support Automation eBooks
How do you automate customer support?
To automate customer support, you need to identify processes that don’t need (or require minimum) human involvement. These could be simple repetitive tasks such as answering FAQs, triggering status updates, synching information between databases, etc.
Another aspect of customer support automation is adopting a few processes that’ll improve customer experience. Such as, adding new channels of communication, equipping agents with tools for efficient support, etc.
You can automate customer support in 5 steps:
- Identify processes that don’t need human involvement.
- Build your knowledge base for self-service.
- Implement tools to enable automated customer support.
- Integrate with channels and customer databases.
- Track and amend processes for performance.
1. Identify processes that don’t need human involvement.
Customer support, like any other business function, works on the Pareto principle. Or more commonly known as the 80-20 rule. Over 80% of all customer queries stem from a 20% data set of questions.
To automate customer support, you need to identify this 20% of repetitive queries. These could revolve around onboarding users, verifying customers, pre-purchase and post-purchase questions, level 1 tech support, booking or rescheduling appointments, etc.
In addition to customer queries, there are some processes too that can be automated. Such as routing customers to a support agent, updating customer details in databases, pulling customer information from databases, checking product availability, sending reminders for renewals and offers, etc. Identify as many processes and queries that don’t require human interaction and automate them.
2. Build your knowledge base for self-service.
Once you’ve completed step 1, you need to build your knowledge base. Make a list of these questions and answers. Use AI to help you come up with variations of it (different possible ways your users can ask the same questions).
For example, at Zerodha, Dinesh Pai says building a knowledge base is an important aspect of customer support. In his own words, “All of our customer support team is actually very proactively looking at all the support articles. Every time we get a call or a ticket through our support portal, we kind of make sure to see the support article and say, hey, you know, is this information already there, if it’s not there then why is it not there and we answer those questions, we put that information out there so that the next few clients who come to this product will, can probably use it and not reach us, don’t have to spend time on calls and tracking tickets, etc. “
To build a holistic knowledge base, you also need to understand the customer and their behaviour. In addition to knowing what kind of queries your customers ask, identify
- when customers are seeking support from you,
- what channels are they reaching out to you on,
- are they speaking in different languages, etc.
The best customer support is one that focuses on solving for customers.
3. Implement tools to enable automated customer support.
Now comes the most important aspect of how to implement automated customer service. You need to identify tools and frameworks that’ll help you achieve it. It could be simple templates and workflows in some cases. In others, it could be a software solution that helps you implement these templates and workflows and interconnect them seamlessly.
Conversational AI (for example, chatbots, voicebots, and virtual assistants) is one such tool. It uses the power of automation and AI to automate processes and allows users to communicate with machines in natural language. We won’t go into details about what to look out for when buying a conversational AI solution in this post, but if you are interested in it, check out our blog: 10 things to look for in conversational AI.
4. Integrate with channels and customer databases.
For automated workflows to work, you need to integrate tools with one another so they can speak with each other without human intervention. Integration, you can say, is the heart of automation. It helps you speed up processes and reduce errors that creep in through manual work.
What tools to integrate? Integrate any software services you use to support customers.
- If your customers are buzzing you on WhatsApp or Facebook, integrate your tool with it.
- There is a particular CRM you use as your customer database? Integrate it.
- Integrate the ERP tool you use to track your product procurement.
- If you are using a Martech platform to communicate with users, integrate it.
- There is a loyalty program software you use? Integrate it.
- Integrate the ticketing platform you use to track customer queries.
Integrations allow you to achieve complete automation by streamlining manual and repetitive tasks.
5. Track and amend processes for performance.
Now that you’ve automated a whole bunch of processes, track them to measure their performance.
- Are the customers happy with it?
- Are they asking for support agents?
- Is the process breaking somewhere?
- Are there still any processes that can be automated?
Measuring the performance of your automated customer service is important to make it better. Most importantly, you need to check if it’s making a positive difference in customer satisfaction.
Has their experience elevated? Are they leaving positive feedback? You can also be proactive and ask customers to leave feedback on the new changes. Based on this, make amendments.
How can automation make customer support better?
Customer support solutions are picking up speed and people are realizing the number of things they can be used for. Mainly, how they can enhance customer support.
Here’s how customer support automation makes things easier:
- Provide contextual and personalised experiences during the customer journey by collecting customer data such as page visits, past purchases, etc. Thus understanding your customer better to recommend better.
- Many customers associate quick resolution time with good customer experience. Thus, with automation, agents can get real-time data to assist customers quickly.
- Innovative technology like CSA is available 24*7, 365 days a year. It can help deliver A-grade services at a fraction of the cost. As surplus staffing and outsourcing support to call centres are additional overhead costs that can be avoided.
- Provide proactive support by understanding what the customer needs and what they’re looking for before they come to you with the problem. This could significantly lower cart-abandonment rates and increase the satisfaction level.
- It allows businesses to scale rapidly by including various features in the support platform. Like, incorporating the Arabic language within your AI bots, will help you expand your customer base, thus helping you grow.
Further Reading: Customer Support Automation: Benefits and Results
What are the disadvantages of customer support automation?
Automation is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it tries to automate processes to improve customer experience. But the truth is that a one-size-fits-all model can lead to disappointment and bad experiences for some.
Here’s how automated customer services can go wrong:
- If a workflow doesn’t lead to the desired result or if a wrong path is triggered through automation, it leads to bad experiences. For example, the chatbot doesn’t understand the user and repeats the same answers again and again. Or it doesn’t move forward in the flow. Sometimes it could also be pulling wrong information from the database. To overcome this challenge, you need to thoroughly examine the workflows and what paths they take.
- Automation is meant for simple and repetitive tasks. But sometimes, companies automate complex questions too. The customer support automation tools aren’t able to handle the complexity involved and end up breaking processes. For example, when a user asks the chatbot a complex (multi-intent) question, the chatbot either does not provide an answer at all or gives a wrong answer. A big no-no for an already frustrated customer. Overcome this by automating simple tasks only and monitoring them closely for customer experience.
- Automation removes human involvement from simple and repetitive tasks. It removes the personal touch which people are so accustomed to. And that’s why this point is considered one of the biggest disadvantages of automated customer service. To overcome this, in customer-facing processes, always provide the option to connect to human agents. This way, if the user doesn’t like the automated answer, they can always choose the other option and talk to an agent, the old-fashioned way.
Customer service automation examples
Automation comes in all shapes and sizes. It could be to reduce the load of high volume or remove redundant tasks from the human agent’s purview. Or simply to streamline the process and make it more efficient.
Here are some automated customer service examples:
- Chatbot – a self-service messaging tool that empowers users to find answers to FAQs and complete tasks at their convenience.
- Voicebot – a self-service voice-based tool that enables users to talk and find answers on their own.
- Smart routing – an intelligent routing system that understands users’ needs and connects them to an agent who is best suited to resolve their query in the first instance.
- Canned response – a pre-defined answer to a repetitive request or task that can be used by an agent to reduce time to type.
- Unified customer profile – a 360-degree view of customer details that removes the need to toggle between tools to get information.
- Channel integrations – a unified view of all tickets being created on different channels so that agents can provide instant answers to user queries irrespective of the channel the query came from.
- Email automation – an auto-reply service that shares the next steps detail with the sender.
- Outreach campaigns – a proactive communication technique that sends templated messages to users based on specific trigger actions.
- Robotic process automation – an automation technique for high volume low complexity back-end tasks such as data entry.
What does the future look like?
The main idea of incorporating a customer support automation platform is to automate simple tasks and give more time to the agents to focus on selective and productive tasks.
Also, messaging applications are a new trend to provide CSA, as millions of people are available on messaging channels such as WhatsApp and Instagram. This makes it easier to communicate with the agents for everything in a one-stop platform.
Moreover, users are inching more towards self-service platforms, and parting ways with emails and phone calls. So, companies will have to tend to their requirements and provide platforms with FAQ bases, interactive diagnostics, virtual assistants, etc. This is also to ensure that companies are up to date with the latest trends and user requirements.
Mahendra Mane from Vonage opines that real-time self-service and AI assistance in customer service will bring huge opportunities to brands. Real-time responses will soon become an expectation. This can be achieved with CSA platforms, where customers can expect on-time and quick responses.
So, we can see how automation platforms are the way to go to maintain a balance between agent productivity and customer satisfaction.