Today’s customers have a variety of new and changing expectations. However, one fact has remained the same: when a customer contacts an organization, they want to access the information or service they need, quickly and easily.
When leaders design customer service systems and processes around the customer’s needs, businesses can achieve the core goal of serving a customer. The same remains true for automated or self-service systems.
Do People Really Hate Automation?
People often claim that they hate automated systems. However, what they most likely mean is that they hate it when automated methods do not work for them. For example, customers have no issues using an ATM to withdraw money from a bank because they are convenient. Nor do customers avoid online banking because it is both easy-to-use and secure. These are both examples of automation and self-service. These are examples of systems that are simple, well designed, and targeted at reasonably discreet tasks.
There are times when customer service is more complicated and more difficult to resolve. However, when the customer is central to the design, even the most complex systems and processes can provide the customer with the information or service they need, quickly and easily. Ironically, though, the customer often gets forgotten when these functions are designed. Instead, organizations tend to focus on ensuring the systems meet their requirements rather than their customers’ needs.
When customer service is sophisticated, an organization must rely on well-designed routing and automation and utilize those factors as a strategic differentiator.
What is Automation in Customer Service?
In customer service, automation represents the convergence of technology and processes to create a series of tools that allow for customer self-service.
There are two main components. The first is automated routing, which merely helps customers get to the right place or talk to the right person. The second is full automation which allows customers to complete tasks without interacting with an agent.
Well-designed routing will quickly identify the reason a customer is reaching out to a business. It will then take them to the right automated service or live agent. When they need or request a live agent, customer-centric automated routing will ensure that they reach someone who is specially trained to handle their issue or question or possibly the same agent that has helped them in the past. This type of routing will also provide the agent with all the information they need to address the reason for the customer’s outreach.
A fully automated interaction will allow the customer to access a service or information or resolve an issue without engaging with an agent. Whether it be answering a frequently asked question, providing troubleshooting steps, or suggesting a purchase, there are many customer queries that no longer require agent involvement.
The key to success in this type of automation is to design the interaction around the customer’s expectations, making it feel effortless. Furthermore, if there are problems, or the customer prefers to talk with a company representative, it is essential that the system immediately connects customers with an agent who has all the information already gathered.
While both of these types of automation are often associated with phone calls and IVR systems, there are many other types of automation services that can satisfy customers and resolve issues.
For example, chatbots allow for digital communication with a customer or client, usually via text or messaging apps. A live chat is powered by a customer service representative or agent. Alternatively, Artificial Intelligence (AI) powers a chatbot with the intent to carry out various tasks and to communicate with users. A customer-centric chatbot will provide customers with guidance, information, and resolution without engaging an agent and also allows for swift escalation to a live agent using live chat, cobrowse, and/or video chat.
The Business Case
Businesses view the type of automation described above as a cost-saving measure. Not only is it less expensive to complete a task with an automated system than with a live agent, but it is also easier and less costly to scale support alongside the business. However, if not designed appropriately, the negative impacts on handling time, retention, reputation, cart abandonment, and average customer spend easily outweigh the benefits of automation.
When designed and implemented with the customer in mind, automation can improve customer service, make the best use of agents, enhance the brand, and provide crucial insights about customers - all while saving the business money.
Automation allows companies to optimize the impact of the contact center by providing a smart mix of self-service and agent interaction. As a result, businesses can deliver a higher level of service for the same investment. Spend can then be targeted at customer segments that offer the most significant return.
In addition to improved customer experience and diverting of spend, the cost savings can be significant. The containment rates are the proportion of calls that are completed via automation as opposed to being transferred to an agent. These rates are often reported above 60% with some as high as 90% over 5 years.
Customers use automated services every day. From banking to appointment scheduling to troubleshooting - automation is now a part of the life of a consumer. While many customers dread talking or texting with a machine or chatbot, when the experience is designed with the customer in mind, and there is a seamless path to agent interaction, customer service is improved and scalable. This improved service not only benefits the customer, but automation also makes financial sense for businesses.