That dirty word that people use to mean that a machine is replacing a human. But as the world gets faster and businesses go lean, automation is the way to go. But is it true?
Yes. Even when it comes to customer-facing processes or customer service.
Here’s the thing. When done right, automation should HELP humans - not replace them. Automation takes on mundane, repetitive, time-consuming tasks and completes them.
Human workers are now free to do more meaningful work.
That’s especially true for customer service. Customer service automation is about getting the technology to answer simple, repetitive questions.
Your human agents are then free to handle complicated questions, build relationships, and be brand ambassadors.
And that’s only one of the advantages of customer service automation solutions.
So, the following article is designed to show you:
So, we know that automation is when you take a repetitive task and let technology do it.
Automation is a no-brainer in most cases. Plus, there’s a ton of technology that automates without you having to pay attention.
But what about customer service automation? What does that look like?
Let’s start with the basics:
What is customer service automation?
Customer service automation is when technology offloads traffic from your customer service team. In most cases, by delivering automatic responses to customer requests. The main advantage of customer service automation is the reduction of agents’ workload.
Customer support agents become free to deal with delicate issues that need a human touch. The technology takes care of answering the simple, repetitive questions.
Examples of customer service automation solutions include:
Here’s what that looks like in action:
A customer goes to your website or social media for customer support. Without automation, they’d find your phone number or email address and try to reach out to an agent.
With automation, they engage your chatbot. They see a series of clickable options - things like “Order Status” or “Tracking Link.” These options are a form of triage or the prioritization of more complex questions.
Good triage is the first step to customer service automation. The chatbot weeds out basic questions by allowing customers to click and receive the information they need.
In a similar fashion, customer support software gives human agents the option to create templated answers for a variety of channels. Let’s say a customer reaches out via email. Having templated emails frees up agents to address more complex issues.
Let’s say the customer asks a more complex question. One of two things can happen.
First, your AI chatbot will recognize the topic of a question or conversation. The system then transfers the customer to the correct customer service agent or department. That saves time by making sure the agent knows how to address their issue.
Second, your AI chatbot is advanced enough to read questions and provide answers by itself. Obviously, having an advanced AI chatbot is the ideal scenario. Customer service triage goes from good to great when your chatbot can handle more complex questions.
Even the most basic customer service automation benefits your team by lightning their workload. Plus, it benefits your customers by providing them with faster, better customer service. Let’s take a look at more benefits of customer service automation.
Customer service automation lightens your team’s workload. Great! But what else can it do? Why is it something you need?
Well, here are 4 more advantages of customer service automation:
So, customer service automation is important because of the many advantages it provides. But here’s the biggest reason - customers are moving online.
By 2023, e-commerce will command 22% of total global retail sales. Billions of people are shopping online. And with the advent of COVID-19, online shopping has only accelerated. In the US alone, there was a 40% net increase in online shopping thanks to the pandemic.
Experts believe that the trend will continue even after the pandemic ends.
And what about online customer service?
If your customers are shopping online, they’re going to expect service online. Across the globe, 88% of customers expect online self-service options from brands. AI chatbots are the most sophisticated version of online self-service options. The most basic option would include FAQs.
Having an FAQ is important. But adding a chatbot to the mix is even better. Who wants to sort through information on an FAQ page when they can simply ask a question? No one. Chatbots are natural. Type question, receive answer.
And that’s great because customers moving online are expecting more from customer service.
Here are a few things they’ve come to expect:
The good news? Customer service automation and chatbots help you provide all that and more.
When you’re getting started with support automation, there are a few things to take into consideration. The first is making sure that whatever tech you choose, it’s powered by AI.
Artificial intelligence (AI) can inform a range of automated processes and technology. Here are a few examples:
Let’s look at chatbots.
Chatbots are a self-service option that most customers already understand. You type in a question and you get an answer. Yet, chatbots have a bad reputation for not doing what they’re built to do. They frustrate customers by providing wrong answers or they reroute simple questions to live agents.
So, the key to automating with chatbots is finding one that’s heavy on the AI.
Here’s what your AI chatbot should do:
An advanced AI chatbot can self-learn and understand what customers are asking. Older chatbots looked for keywords. AI chatbots don’t need special keywords.
That’s a huge step up from old school chatbots. First, keyword-based chatbots only answer questions if the customer uses the right words. Second, the chatbot can only provide a correct answer if the customer doesn’t use the keyword in a nuanced way.
For example, let’s say the keyword is “order status.”
Customer asks: “What is my order status?”
Chatbot answers: “Your package arrives on Monday.”
So far so good. Now, let’s add some nuance.
Customer asks: “Why does my order status say delivered? I haven’t received my package.”
Chatbot answers: “Your package arrives on Monday.”
That’s not helpful.
AI chatbots use natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to read customer questions and answer them. That’s why they are far superior to keyword-based chatbots. The best AI chatbots can automate over 80% of all customer requests!
Now, let’s take a look at customer support software. That’s where AI automation augments human service. When considering customer service automation AI, look at customer support software.
Here are some things such technology can automate for you:
Customer service triage and smart ticket distribution allow you to better manage your resources. IBM noted that customer support agents spend 75% of their time doing manual research during 6 minute calls. Now, imagine if the agent receiving the question was an expert on the topic?
AI can help route customer service requests to the best agents for the resolution of a particular problem. Automating ticketing also reduces cannibalization of tickets. That way customers don’t receive overlapping communications trying to solve the same problem.
The most important feature of your customer support software should be omnichannel syncing.
Let’s say Matt reaches out via Facebook Messenger, your website’s chat channel, and finally email. Your customer support software should keep track of Matt’s interactions across all channels.
That allows Carrie to continue the conversation she had with Matt on Facebook via email. Carrie keeps the conversation going without asking Matt to repeat himself. Matt gets personalized service and feels like he’s an important customer.
So, the key to customer service automation? Choose technology powered by AI.
Pro Tip: It is possible to combine several technologies. For example, Zowie can power support automation through customer service tools like Zendesk. The important thing is to decide which combination will best meet your needs.
Let’s take a closer look at the advantages of customer service automation:
As mentioned above, workload management is the first benefit of customer service automation. The machines pick up the repetitive tasks and human agents handle the more meaningful work.
That leads to:
But how does it reduce costs?
Let’s say 1 customer service manager can handle 20 tickets per day. You’re seeing about 6K tickets per month. To make sure that your support team can handle the traffic, you need about 14 agents. Otherwise, you’re deferring tickets.
To calculate your current cost per ticket, you can plug your numbers into the following formula:
# of Agents X $ Per Agent / # of Tickets = Cost Per Ticket
14 Agents X $3K Per Month / 6K Tickets Per Month = $7
Let’s say support automation handles more than 50% of those tickets. You can reduce the number of customer service agents by 50% as well. Plus, you don’t have recruitment costs when your traffic surges.
( # of Agents X $ Per Agent + Cost of Automation ) / # of Tickets = Cost Per Ticket
(5 Agents X 3K Per Month) + $3K Cost of Automation Per Month / 6K Tickets = $3
Yes, cost reduction is always a big plus! Yet, the two greatest advantages of customer service automation are:
Let’s take a closer look at how they work.
As mentioned, customers have high expectations for a digital customer service experience:
Here’s the thing - 73% of businesses believe that customer service automation will increase customer satisfaction post-COVID. That’s because automation provides everything listed.
Over 80% of customers want fast service and even more want self-service options. Most customers use 3-5 channels for customer service support. And 83% of customers want personalization despite having to exchange their data for it.
By automating customer service with the help of AI chatbots and customer support software you can achieve everything listed. So, it stands to logic that customer service automation will increase customer satisfaction.
What are some ways you can make sure? By keeping an eye on the usual analytics:
And customer service automation doesn’t just impact the satisfaction of your customers. Your employees should also see increases in their satisfaction.
Pro Tip: If you’re getting started with customer service automation, consider an FAQ or Knowledge Base. Let’s say you’re not getting enough traffic to justify investing in an AI chatbot just yet. You can still give customers the self-service options they want with an FAQ.
Want to know about more ways to increase customer satisfaction? Not sure you’re doing everything you can to provide the best customer experience? Check out our article: 5 Tips - How to Increase Your Customers’ Satisfaction
Customer service is still the number one bottleneck for growth for most businesses. As traffic rises and customers increase, it is hard to keep up by hiring alone.
An average customer service manager in the US makes almost $47K per year.
Hiring that person costs an average of $4K and training costs almost $5K. Total recruitment costs? Almost $9K. Plus it takes more than a month to make the hire.
Now, let’s say you lose that person. Employee turnover is high in most customer service contact centers. Annual employee turnover sits at 60% on average per year, with the best companies seeing 20%. Customer service managers who are not engaged leave.
And what does that cost?
SHRM estimates the average replacement cost of the employee is equal to 6-9 months of their salary. Other studies suggest it’s closer to twice as much as the employee’s annual salary. So, for a customer service manager making $47K, you’re looking at a range of $23K - $94K in extra losses due to attrition.
So, the total cost for hiring a new customer service manager?
Around $13K in the first 2 months.
And if you lose that person?
Replacement costs sit around $20K minimum.
For a grand total of:
$33,000 to hire and replace one customer service manager.
Now, when you’re growing and experiencing bottlenecks do you have spare time and money? Do you have $30K and a few months to hire one person? And what happens if you experience growth that demands multiple hires?
Customer service automation handles traffic surges and growth by scaling with you. As volume increases, support automation continues to offload the same percentage of traffic. When you do have to make new hires, you’re less likely to experience turnover. That’s because you’re offering meaningful opportunities.
Employees want to feel engaged. They want to do meaningful work and have room to grow. When you automate mundane and repetitive tasks, you engage employees with meaningful work. That, in turn, is how you reduce employee turnover in customer service positions.
How do you give customer service managers room to grow?
Customer service managers with support automation at their disposal can act as brand ambassadors. They can also work across departments helping inform UX, Marketing, and Sales initiatives.
In both cases, they can help provide better:
Cross-department cooperation is important for customer service. Your customer service managers are the frontline contact with your customers. They have the most first-hand knowledge about how your customers think and feel. And they should be sharing that knowledge with the rest of your team.
Pro Tip: Customer service automation takes the pressure off managers. Now, they have time to listen and collect feedback. Creating space for feedback loops is important. You now have insight that informs all brand efforts. And that helps you build a brand your customers want.
Want to find out more ways to cut customer service costs? How about how to cut costs by 50%? We got you covered! Read our article: How to Cut Customer Service Costs by 50%
Customer service automation is necessary for providing an excellent customer experience. It’s necessary for retaining customer service managers and giving them meaningful work.
Plus, there are many advantages of customer service automation. Among them, reduction of costs and bottlenecks. Customer service automation is the number one way for businesses to grow and scale.
The important thing to remember is that good automation doesn’t replace employees. Good customer service automation lifts them up while making customers happy.