Every Sunday is meal prep day in my house. I spend a couple hours cleaning, chopping and roasting up meals and snacks for my family to eat on all week. Sometimes, if I’m feely really enthusiastic (and my kiddo’s cooperating) I even pre-portion out our servings.
But, before I can even start to prep, I have to get my groceries. A few years ago, this was a multi-day, several hour process. I’d write out each meal we’d have for each day. Then, I’d aggregate those ingredients into a (hand-written) list that I’d use to search for coupons. (What can I say, ya girl loves a deal.) Then, with the list and coupons in hand, I’d head to the store where I’d spend an hour or so looking for the items on my list, standing in line, checking out, and hauling my grocery load out to my car, drive home and finally, start cooking.
Now, I usually just whip out my phone on Saturday nights while my husband and I are hunkered down watching TV and order the same groceries to be delivered to my doorstep a mere 12 hours later (with the same coupons that are “suggested” when I add things to my cart).
What’s more, this level of spoiling has spilled over into pretty much every facet of my life. From movie rentals to opening an app to catch a ride in a matter of minutes, I can do it all from the comfort of my couch. And, without depending on another person. And, I’m not alone. Your customers are doing the exact same things. They expect the same lack of effort to carry over into interactions with every single brand they deal with – including you. That means, to keep up with their expectations and rising demands, customer service automation has to be at the forefront of your mind.
Automating pieces of the customer journey can improve your customer service (when you do it right).
Automation fuels efficiency in your customer service experience, so your customers get faster resolutions and take back their journey. In fact, automation done well can support strategic interaction routing, point customers to fast self-service options, and even guide a bot to answer simple questions. Modern customers like it when they can self-serve to solve their own problems. And when they get answers to their questions in a few minutes (without having to wait on hold).
But customer service automation doesn’t mean you have to throw out all the agent-customer interactions in your strategy. In fact, automation is much better as a supplement to your human service. It helps your agents stay efficient, eliminating steps and allowing them to focus on more complex issues. So when agents do talk to customers, they can be more helpful, friendly, and effective at the first interaction.
Here are four ways automation helps you improve your customer service (while still keeping the human touch).
1. Build consistency into customer interactions using cloud platforms paired with automation.
Customers value consistency in their customer service interactions. In fact, 87% of customers say companies need to provide a more consistent customer experience. And, over a third of customers expect to interact with the same agent across channels. Maintaining that kind of consistency might sound like a pipe dream for some of you. But automation and modern cloud platforms make your steepest call center dreams a reality.
Cloud contact center platforms typically offer more integrations than their on-premises counterparts. Rather than piecing together systems that don’t talk to each other, cloud call center tools were built with modern customers (and agents) in mind. They connect with cloud CRMs and ticketing systems seamlessly, allowing for an easy flow of information, so you can trigger automatic responses, like a screen pop, to surface relevant information to your agents.
Right now, in a six-minute call, agents spend 75% of that time doing manual research on the customer’s question. That means agents only have a minute-and-a-half to build rapport with their customers and solve their problem.
When you take the leap and adopt a cloud omnichannel platform with the ability to automate specific tasks (like coaching!), you cut down on the time agents spend digging for information. And, you make sure they always have resources on hand to deliver the personalized service your customers expect. They can track every interaction, purchase history, and personal customer data with a few clicks.
Platforms built decades ago, while adapted for the new-age customer and agent experience, don’t have the inherent flexibility of systems built in the cloud and for the cloud. So, when you migrate to modern systems, you’re saying yes to more seamless automation and less wasted time for your agents. Which in turn means more time to build customer-agent relationships.
2. Automate key tasks to establish reliable service around the clock.
Customers are loyal to their favorite brands, but only if the companies are reliable. Now that we have the promise of next-day Amazon delivery and Starbucks’ speedy curbside pickup, customers expect other companies to follow suit.
Automation brings a level of reliability to customer interactions that humans can’t match. It’s unbound by time zones, sick days, and geography. Companies that use automation in customer support can assist their customers around the clock, around the globe. So customers no longer have to wait for your office hours to get help.
Pick key pieces of your journey to automate, like call routing or after-hours live chat, so your customers get the service they expect with every interaction. Automation removes steps in the routing process so customer interactions take less time and get to the right answer every time. Customers are no longer left pressing buttons in a call loop that they can’t escape. And when they have a dire question at midnight, they can talk to the friendly bot on your website (like this one at FedEx) to solve their problem, without waiting until morning and losing sleep over it.
Plus, your automated chatbot doesn’t get mad at customers for complaining or asking the same question five times. And it doesn’t get its feathers ruffled if it’s having to work overtime or it’s had a bad day. As much as your agents may want to help your customers, they have their limits (which is okay!). Automating pieces of the customer experience relieves agents of the stresses of satisfying every single customer.
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3. Improve the speed of your customer interactions with automated live chat and self-service options.
Customers don’t like waiting. In fact, 80% of customers say speed of customer service is one of the most important parts of a positive experience. The pandemic caused customer complaints to skyrocket, which revealed many companies need to rethink how to speed up their service.
Trends show, live chat support is on the rise. Modern customers prefer live chat over most other channels, so investing in live chat support will help as younger, tech-savvy generations dominate the market. To meet demands, many companies are wisely turning to automation and triggered chatbots to offload some agent work.
When you pair automation with your current systems (like your CRM and knowledge management), you can create live chat automations that easily handle routine customer questions or point your agents on a path to the right self-service resources. That way, agents don’t have to juggle simple and complex customer questions back-to-back. That kind of workload leads to burn out for agents and long wait times for customers. That sounds like a recipe for grumpy to me.
And, turns out, more than half of customers actually prefer to use self-service channels for simple questions. When you give customers the autonomy to solve their own problems and don’t waste their time, they’re happier.
But, remember the kicker. While automated systems can help boost service levels, keep in mind that customers still value personalized service. It’s important that your agents are on deck ready to handle any live chat questions a bot can’t answer, and that your automations have an escape route to a live human. Bulk up live chat automations and train more agents to manage live chat full-time, too. That way customer questions can start through a chatbot, but if the customer requests a live person, or if the question is too complex, a live agent is ready to jump in at any time.
4. Offload low-effort agent tasks, so your agents have time to learn new skills.
When implementing new technology and automations, don’t forget the key to good customer service: your agents.
You can’t improve your customer experience without first improving the agent experience. If your agents are frustrated or overworked, your customers know. The agent-customer relationship is so important to your business, to the well-being of your agents, and to the satisfaction of your customers. In fact, 52% of customers stop buying after one bad customer service interaction.
Agents need to feel valued – especially when you’re introducing lots of new customer service automation tools. They need to know they’re not being replaced by robots! In fact, introducing new tech actually means your agents need to be more knowledgeable and skilled to handle more complex issues.
Your customers will appreciate the speed and efficiency of automated and self-help service, but some will still run into problems that even the best automations can’t fix. Train your agents in how your automation and self-service tools work. Invest time and energy into making every agent highly-skilled and knowledgeable so no customer question goes unanswered. Keep your agents informed on what pieces of the journey you automate to ease pains in their experience.
And, use customer service automation to your benefit as a manager and a coach, too. Automate coaching lessons after you leave feedback in-line on agent interactions. Stock your call center platform with pre-crafted coaching lessons on specific topics your agents struggle with, like how to handle an angry customer or how to tell a customer no. Then, trigger those lessons to send to agent queues after you review an interaction that needs attention. Automation isn’t here to steal anyone’s job. In fact, it’s your trusty sidekick. And your agents’, too. When you pour into your agents, everyone benefits.