Customer experience is more important than ever. In fact, one in three consumers (32%) say it only takes one bad experience for them to walk away from a brand they love. Expectations are high — too high for human-only customer support centers to handle.
Traditional customer support centers experience fluctuations in call, chat and email volume that lead to long response times and the kind of negative experiences that compromise relationships. You can probably recall a time when you were placed on hold for too long while waiting for a solution to a stressful issue, and the resulting frustration. Maybe you felt irritated with the company, or maybe even ended the business relationship. It’s a situation that every company wants to avoid.
As AI and other technologies continue to develop, some organizations think they can automate their way out of resource shortages to avoid these long wait times. In 2017, IBM made the claim that 85% of customer support interactions would be completely automated by 2020.
The reality is that while automated support is widely used, it is not a total substitute for human customer support, and humans will not be replaced any time soon. There’s no substitute for human empathy and genuine human <> human interactions.
One trick for improving CX with customer support automation is this: Use automation to enable human workers, not replace them.
What is automated customer support?
Automated customer support systems limit the need for humans to handle repetitive, tedious tasks in order to streamline customer support. Here are a few examples of common automated customer support technologies:
- Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
- AI-powered chatbots
- Back-end operational solutions
- Voice-recognition systems
- Predictive response technologies
To provide the best experience for customers, automation must be supplemented with actual human support — there’s nothing more frustrating than being trapped in an IVR menu when your question hasn’t been answered.
The ultimate goal of using automated systems should not be to eliminate the need for human representatives altogether. Rather, it should be to optimize the support process and improve customer experience across the board.
If a customer simply needs to check their account balance, track an order, or change an address on file, automated solutions like IVR and chatbots can speed up the process and handle common requests before they get to an agent. This frees up human employee time and reduces hold queues, so customers with more complex requests can speak to a human agent as soon as possible.
Automation can also improve the quality of customer service interactions. In a 6-minute customer service call, agents spend 75% of that time doing manual research, and only 25% interacting with the customer. Automated systems can improve that ratio by retrieving information while the agent maintains or builds that customer relationship through small talk, personalization, and other human touches.
Automated solutions can push the customer experience from multichannel to omnichannel, so customer data is continuous across chat, SMS, email, and phone conversations. With this kind of data syncing in place, customers don’t have to repeat themselves, and it saves time for everyone involved.
For example, if a customer tries a solution proposed in a customer service email, then calls the next day to follow up, the agent who answers the call will be able to access the email thread and get the full context behind the situation, without having to ask the customer for a play-by-play.
Omnichannel automation helps reduce average resolution time and allows agents to communicate with customers according to customer’s preferences.
Most companies are familiar with email workflows for the purpose of lead nurturing and inbound marketing. But automated workflows can also be used to pre-empt common requests following particular actions.
For example, the purchase of a new service package could trigger a follow-up email with a package guide and FAQs, so the customer can easily find the information they’re looking for without having to speak to a service agent.
Similar automated communications like SMS notifications can serve the same purpose, notifying customers of things like delivery status updates and service interruptions so the call centers don’t get flooded.
Automation with a human side
No matter how much AI or automation you install, there is still a great need for humans in the loop, and automation alone cannot solve high call volume or understaffing issues. Especially when it comes to customer experience, 100% automation doesn’t cut it — human support is still necessary. For that reason, automated systems work best when used in conjunction with solutions like remote staffing to fill in the gaps.
The best way to scale out your customer support automation programs is with the right team of humans to design, curate, and refine the processes over time, so your automated systems simply assist your customer support team in delivering stellar customer experiences.