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The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.
– Bill Gates
If we see the way Customer Support has evolved, it is easy to say that technology played an important role. Earlier no one felt the need for providing customer support or to have customer interactions. But in the last few decades, it became clear that now customers will have the power to change business trends.
However, without technology, the growth of customer support would have been prolonged. From telephones to emails, the technological advancements have boosted customer support like never before.
The latest addition of technology in the business world is automation. By providing the ability to automate tasks, technology gave wings to the support staff. It not only increased their speed but also maintained the accuracy of the agents.
But then businesses decided to misuse it. Automation was meant to help support agents, not replace them. It won’t be long till everything starts running on automation. There is a need to find the thin line that prevents a blessing like automation from becoming a curse.
This article will cover how technology changed customer support with automation. Further, it will help you find the right balance while automating customer services.
First, let us see what difference automation makes while handling customers.
Benefits of Automation
From a business point of view, there are some things which define quality service. They include things like speed, accuracy, efficiency, etc. By automating customer support it gives a company an edge over its competitors.
Here are some benefits of automating tasks:
1. Smart Investment
The first thing that automation brings to a company is a smarter way to invest. Customer support is a field where more investment doesn’t really mean more results. One has to be smart enough to invest in it.
So when things start running automatically, few people can achieve the same result that a number of support agents used to get. This means the amount that a company was investing in increasing the quantity of support agent can now help increase their quality. In other words, by providing better training or suitable tools to the support agents.
2. Improves responsiveness
A support agent’s responsiveness can never be compared to that of an automated system. From fast replies to automatic notifications, the time taken to complete these tasks with human effort is way more than a system.
To provide responsive support to the customers there are only two options, either hire more support agents or automate the whole process. And generally, the focus is on investing less and getting the most out of it. Hence, automation can be your savior in that case.
3. Self Evolving
Unlike support agents, where experience equals the quality of service they can provide, automation works differently. The concept of Artificial Intelligence makes it self-evolving.
There is no need to train the system. All you have to do is configure it accordingly, just once. Thereafter, the system will automatically learn with time. No further investment or special attention is needed to train an automated system.
4. More Reliable
By automating customer support, you can ensure that the support you provide will be unbiased. Automation doesn’t get emotional. So automated customer support is not affected by emotions such as sympathy, anger or sadness.
We talked about the importance of efficiency in customer support. What better way to achieve it than through automation?
With accurate computational and multi-tasking capabilities way ahead of a support agent, no one can deny an automated system being more reliable.
5. 24*7 Availability
The best thing about automated customer support is that it is not bound to time-zones or hourly shifts. Also, it does not get tired by solving customer issues 24*7. So the customers can enjoy always-on support anywhere anytime.
This reduces customer’s waiting time from days to just a couple of hours, and even less. In return, you can gain customer’s trust and loyalty.
6. No need to Worry about Scalability
Just a basic mathematical question:
Consider that you can provide support to one thousand customers with five support agents. How many support agents do you need while providing support to one Million customers?
No need to even answer that. An automated customer support is not bound by the scalability of the company. It can manage the surge in customers any day.
Since there are so many benefits of automation, there is no denying the fact that automation makes a lot of difference. But the real question is, “Do you know what to automate and what not to automate..?”
Let us get answers to both of these questions.
What to automate?
Automating a customer support is not necessary. Still, there are some things in customer support where automation can give a real boost.
1. Multi-channel Merging
Providing customer support is no longer bound to telephonic conversations only. Other channels like emails, social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. and even messaging applications such as WhatsApp, are now becoming the top preference of customers. Hence, there is a need to merge all the channels so that it can benefit both the company as well as customers.
But it requires a great deal of care to properly maintain the flow of support tickets from each channel. Otherwise, the customers will be confused and frustrated that no one is listening to them. They will have to report their issues again and again on different channels just because your system is not capable to categorize them properly.
Not to mention, the support team members will also get annoyed if there is so much confusion. In the end, the customers will have to escalate their requests which will not be good for the business.
In such a scenario, automation can offer a lot. By automating the process of merging different channels, you can have a streamlined workflow. It will give you the ability to address and solve customers issues from all the channels, on a single interface. It will also decrease the number of customer engagements by speeding up the solution phase.
By automating the process of merging different channels, you can have a streamlined workflow. It will give you the ability to address and resolve customer’s issues from all the channels, on a single interface. It will also decrease the number of customer engagements by speeding up the solution process.
2. Ticket Assigning & Categorization
One of the most important processes in customer support is assigning customer’s requests to a support agent. This task is among the top priorities when it comes to addressing customers.
For a customer, the process of assigning requests may seem simple enough. But when it comes to the customer support agents, it is a bit complex.
Sometimes assigning alone can take a long time and if not done properly, it results in increased first-response time for the customer requests.
Further, categorization of customer issues is also another task which should be done perfectly. Be it on the basis of the channel, product, priority or any other factor, who doesn’t prefer a well-categorized customer support.
Automating the task of ticket assigning and categorization can assure both the customers as well as the support staff about speed, accuracy, and reliability. This means customer issues will automatically reach to the right support agent, making the process fast and easy.
3. Solving Customer’s Frequently Asked Questions
Most of you may think, answering frequently asked questions is an easy task. Yes, it is..!
On a small scale, it can be the easiest task for a support agent as there is nothing much that can go wrong. Support agents can even compromise on the time by answering each issue themselves.
But as soon as things escalate, handling customers and answering these questions can become quite tricky. At that time support agents may need more than just a helping hand.
Consider an example where a support agent received over a hundred requests by customers. Almost half of the customer’s requests were about the same issue.
In that case, there are only two options with the support agents. Either they can answer each issue manually or they can try to copy the solution and then send it to every customer. In either case, it is a very tiring and inefficient task.
So in such cases, automation can give third and the best option to support agents. With automation, all the requests made by customers frequently can be automatically categorized and resolved as a single issue. Another way to resolve these issues is to make a template solution to these questions and answer them in one go.
4. Suggestions from Documentation
It gets very annoying for the support agent when customers keep posting requests which are already mentioned in the documentation. Most of the time documentation serves as the complete guide to any product. But customers either don’t know how to access the documentation or they simply don’t want to access it themselves. Sometimes it is even difficult for customers to find what they are looking for in the documentation. Automation also enables support agents to suggest solutions to customer issues directly from the documentation.
These answers are specific to customer issues and generally don’t cause any confusion.
Similarly, in some automated systems, customers themselves get automatic suggestions based on what they type. There are certain keywords that are associated with the content in the documentation. As soon as a customer writes one of those keywords while submitting their requests, they get an automated suggestion.
This can prove very significant in decreasing the number of customer interactions related to frequently or very easy questions. It also affects the customer satisfaction to a huge extent as customers don’t even need to submit their requests to get a solution.
It is very important for the support agents to know about those requests which are assigned to them. It keeps them updated about their work and helps to plan them better.
In the case of customers, they need to know the status of their request. Customers can’t keep on checking the request status themselves, every now and then.
Automation allows you to set up a notification system. Both customers and support agents can get automated email notifications about requests. In the case of customers, they can get an email notification about the request status or the solution to their issue. And for support agents, that email can contain details like the number of requests assigned to them.
This can help increase productivity and decrease the time taken by a support agent to solve customer issues. These notifications can also play an important role in customer satisfaction, as customers will be automatically notified of any updates in their requests.
6. Feedback surveys and Performance Reports
Customer feedback surveys are the basis of customer satisfaction and also shows how well the support team is performing. These surveys help companies understand customer needs in a proper manner. It also gives an idea about where their support team is lacking.
Based on these surveys, and other factors such as total requests assigned to a support agent and resolved issues, this data can prove helpful in generating individual performance reports.
Manual report generation is more of a tiring and unreliable task. Besides, keeping a track of daily, weekly and monthly performance reports is not feasible in a scenario like this.
Most of the automated support systems can generate these reports automatically. By performing periodic analysis, a support team can eliminate all their weaknesses to provide outstanding customer experience.
What Not to Automate?
In the above section, you saw which things can strengthen your customer support team with the help of automation. But there are many other aspects of customer support which require human assistance. Without automation, these aspects give a personal touch to customer support. This helps customers to relate with the support agents as well as the company.
1. Welcome Emails and First interaction with the customers
Whenever a new customer buys your product he gets an access to additional services that you promise to provide. With all that he also receives a Welcome Note in the form of an email. This email is a very important part of a Business-Customer interaction.
How will you feel if you receive your very first email from a company in the form of an Auto-generated Email..?
This email forms the basis of customer’s expectations from the company. In such a case, sending an automated email can be a bit disappointing for the customer. You don’t have to send huge paragraphs, but just a couple of lines stating how delighted you are to welcome new customers.
Just like welcome emails, if a customer approaches the support team for the very first time, he doesn’t expect an automated reply from your side. This particular customer may contact regarding some clarifications before investing in you or your product. Sending an automated response at that time is a really bad idea.
2. Interaction with Priority Customers
One of the key things in a business is to identify your priority customers. You can set the priority of a customer based on many factors. Some of these factors can be:
- Length of the relationship with the customer
- Sales volume
Based on these factors you can categorize your priority customers.
But one should not risk their relationship with priority customers just for some automation based actions. Because sometimes customers are very selective about their choice of brands. If they do not like something that you decide to automate, they will simply switch over to a better option.
3. Response Templates
Most automated customer support systems provide predefined response templates. These can prove very helpful in maintaining a healthy relationship with customers.
But if handled in a wrong way, this can be a disaster for the support team. Especially during certain conditions, for example, when a customer is angry, he needs someone to listen to him. A human interaction is the best option at a time like this. Because only a human can understand human emotions. No automated response can match that level of understanding.
The best thing to do in these situations is to avoid automated responses and if needed, provide personalized responses to the customer.
This will not only help the customer to calm down but also help in building a strong bond between the customer and the support team.
4. Solution to complicated issues
Earlier we talked about a scenario where automation helped in suggesting answers directly to the customers. These answers were generally related to frequently asked questions or straightforward issues. These issues do not require a human mind to think about possible scenarios or outcomes.
But what about those issues where you have to think of possibilities..?
Automation can provide relevant solutions from a pool of answers, based on keywords. But when it comes to real-time problem solving, automation is still evolving.
The only thing that can help in solving these problems is the involvement of a human mind. In doing so, you will provide customers with a personal companion to find a solution for the much-complicated issues.
Balancing Customer Support Automation
Automation surely helps a lot in increasing customer support efficiency. But as we discussed, it lacks the personal touch of human understanding. We have already discussed all the scenarios where automation can prove to be both a helping hand as well as a disaster.
But the question still remains, “Is there a way you can actually balance between the two- Automation and Human involvement, in a Customer Support..?”
The answer to this question is Yes..!
All you need to keep in mind are these things:
- Automate customer support to improve customer experience, not to avoid interactions
The idea behind Automation was to help support agents provide best customer experience. But most of the companies see it as an alternative to human interaction. At this point, customers do not want the human aspect of customer support to go away. As a result, automation may be more efficient but it is not an alternative to a support agent.
- Test, whether your automation suits your customers
In some cases, your customer may demand accuracy and reliability instead of a human effort. Automation can then prove to be the missing part of the puzzle.
You can test your automation models with your customers. Talk to them about automated customer support. Take their advice and ask them for suggestions to make it better. In this way, you will be able to make a customer support system that works around the customer business cases.
- Train your support staff well
One of the most important thing which many companies neglect is customer support staff training. As automation and artificial intelligence is evolving, most of the businesses see it as a waste of resources to train support staff.
But it is not true. Technology evolves over time. And it needs human efforts to have a proper configuration and to ensure smooth working. As a result, advanced automated systems will not be the solution until there are well-trained humans working with it.
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