The Complete Guide to Customer Service Automation 2022
Automated Customer Service: The Road to Revenue and Great CX
Simply put, automated customer service enables customers to meet their needs without live human interaction. But automated customer service is a far larger concept than creating armies of clever chatbots. It’s a revolution that is linking essential human language and communication with Artificial Intelligence. And the business potential is limitless.
As companies race to digitally transform, the golden apple is still building a customer-centric brand and high customer affinity. Achieving superior customer service through automation is key to revenue, profitability, longer-term relationships and lifetime value. Automation sweetens the customer experience in the form of higher customer spends, repurchase, up-sell/cross-sell, and reference ability.
Customers may purchase initially as an outcome of the sales process, but loyalty and repurchase depend on the customer experience (CX). So how does automation work to deliver a 360-degree view of the customer, optimize touch points and raise CX?
It’s not just the act of purchasing, but customer willingness to remain in a relationship that delivers the greatest value. In today’s landscape, with automation key to customer-centricity, companies seeking the right partner in the automation process. So let’s explore where automation and AI fit into customer service, enabling delivery of smart, fast, and personalized response.
Automation to the rescue in a crisis
The Covid-19 pandemic put customer service under powerful, unanticipated pressure. Trends and new directions that were gradually emerging suddenly exploded to the forefront, as companies raced to meet urgent customer needs in a massively distributed workscape. Suddenly businesses needed unprecedented deep language skills that only AI could deliver. Out of the ivory tower and into practice sprang new communication technologies. We will look back on this as a time of accelerated innovation and progress—not only in medicine and science, but in scalable, responsive customer service automation.
As companies large and small struggled to adapt on the fly to spiking demand, they not only had to manage a remote agent workforce, but support customers who were themselves working remotely. It was a time of great opportunity for agile and fast-moving startups who could make remote customer support function smoothly for employees and customers alike.
If you’re seeking a way to streamline and scale your customer service, automation is beckoning. This comprehensive guide explores the various issues around customer service automation, with the goal of helping you make the best decision.
The benefits of Automated Customer Service surpass just ticketing
Automating customer service brings so many benefits it’s difficult to quantify them. But let’s start with efficiency, responsiveness and quick resolution for customers who need help.
Reactive customer support is certainly necessary. When something goes wrong or a customer is dissatisfied, they seek out customer support to explain and effect speedy resolution. Fortunately, much of this activity is fairly simple: issues of delivery, size, and other aspects of an order often don’t require human intervention. In fact, it’s highly cost-inefficient to dedicate a trained customer service agent to routine matters. So automating the basics of customer service accomplishes correction without the necessity of a human on salary and on the clock. Bottom line cost savings can be enormous.
Save trained agents for key touch points on the customer journey
A customer support team dedicated to troubleshooting common, simple issues or rerouting calls and tickets is not optimized. These trained agents could—and should—be working on more complex, higher-value concerns. Empowering customers to self-serve and troubleshoot issues via an AI chatbot delivers major benefits to both the bottom line and the all-important CX.
McKinsey states that businesses using automation to guide the customer experience can save up to 40% on service costs. But the benefits don’t stop there. The OpEx costs of hiring humans to deal with routine matters is not a best practice.
Using automation to anticipate customer needs before they arise is excellent customer service. Automation lets you triage and divert customer service inquiries to human agents—when needed. These employees can demonstrate their skills and empathy on problems that call for more training and capacity. Infinitely scalable, automation relieves costly hiring and onboarding of new employees to address spikes in holiday demand, fast-arising new niches, competitors’ messaging, and other challenges.
Your chatbot or virtual assistant is on the job 24/7/365: no sick time, vacations, coffee breaks, benefits or personal conflicts. Automation works outside regular office hours without overtime, and it lowers OpEx around salaries and training. Plus, your chatbot remains patient and courteous when dealing with difficult customers. Since most customer service interactions are mundane and routine, training your chatbot to handle popular use cases is simple. Your system can also automate handoff to a human agent before frustration sets in (more about that later on). Meanwhile, professional human agents can tackle complex queries while building out their resumes.
Pleasing customers through smart, productive engagement
Working across the omnichannel, businesses can increasingly provide real-time responses to their end-users and limit long wait times. A properly trained virtual assistant can offer upsell and cross-sell opportunities—improving conversion rate from lead to purchase. By asking tested, tailored questions, it can arouse customer interest and support sales teams through the funnel. If you are tracking customer service metrics like First Contact Resolution (FCR) or Average Handle Time (AHT), automation can help your teams meet their goals.
Automated customer service solutions support collaboration and eliminate confusion over ownership of support tickets. Internal wiki functionality enables agents to trade insights. Help center software can dynamically suggest relevant articles from its knowledge base. Intelligent chatbots can collect contact information from leads and then escalates to a sales agent for prompt follow-up.
Automation also enables your company to project a consistent message and voice that are on-brand, including slogans and new sales campaign themes. You can also create unique on-hold music and messaging that support your brand.
With automation, agents can access real-time customer data. Service teams can view this easily and learn customer needs without tools, tabs, or spreadsheets.
Automated customer service enables feedback along the entire customer journey. A chatbot can find out whether a customer is satisfied with your brand, and enable the customer to share any issues. Brand metrics like Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Service Satisfaction (CSAT) are quickly available.
By offering automated service, your customers can:
- Meet needs quickly and accurately—up to 80% of customers will go to a competitor after just one bad experience!
- Communicate via preferred method—whether phone, Facebook messenger or other social media channels, including email. They can also move among channels conveniently
- Integrate with your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform—ensuring that every support rep has a complete and current view of that customer’s history with the company.
- Help people help themselves—by handling simple tasks without needing third parties. They can also multi-task and read answers between meetings, or get a link to a helpful article at their own convenience.
- Reduce human error—Route some questions instantly to the right person and team, limiting confusion over who handles what or which questions have already been answered.
- Improve efficiency—Support more customers at scale without growing your headcount and allow trained humans to handle emotionally-charged complaints, VIP queries, complex troubleshooting, and tricky installation walk-throughs.
Watch for these cautionary concerns when you automate customer service
The personal touch of human-to-human communication can be approached, but not truly duplicated by automating customer service. So human interaction is irreplaceable in some instances. However, the latest conversational AI technologies can resolve complicated problems without impacting CX. That’s why it’s important to escalate a quick, smooth handover if a customer is unable to resolve their issue with self-service. If customers can’t reach a human representative ASAP, that can impact their takeaway impression.
Example of frustration: A customer who has unsuccessfully searched a knowledge base and FAQs for a solution turns to your AI chatbot—and gets referred right back to the knowledge base!
You’ll want to watch for and correct the following concerns to ensure customers are comfortable with using your AI-powered customer assistance:
- Lack of the “human touch”—a robotic, flat response is one risk of an AI-powered system, but improvements are arriving every day. The ability to empathize is being built into AI to de-escalate such frustration. Pointing customers to irrelevant articles also has a negative impact.
- Inability to address complex issues—As AI evolves, it reaches for better comprehension of abstract concepts. Again, escalation to a human agent at the right point to respond to a customer who asks more than a simple billing query will pay off in positive outcome.
- Perceived threat to customer service jobs—The fears among staff that they will be laid off or displaced by AI is real, and you want to address this in your planning. Reps must be reassured as to their ability to provide personalized support; they should seize any opportunity to elevate their unique value, such as offering proactive alerts to emerging policy changes or cost-savings opportunities.
- Cost issues for AI deployment—Financial concerns over the ability of a new AI customer assistant to execute cost-effectively are real and need to be addressed. For chatbots, look for high language capabilities (NLP and NLU). Before Conversational AI can emote like a human, it must recognize speech and text and comprehend the intent and mood of human utterances.
- Slow-or-no escalation to a live rep—This leaves a customer stewing in limbo. If your current chatbot can’t interpret information to make the appropriate routing decision, automation becomes a blocker rather than a resource—or a valid support method.
- Excessive reliance on technology—Never let automation distract attention from your focus on delighting the customer. Because reliance on AI may potentially weaken the customer bond, ensure your customer service team understands best practices in in communicating with customers, even when the toolset is readily available. Use data accumulated by chatbots to improve your service team’s familiarity with customer concerns and people skills.
How to optimize customer service automation to increase customer satisfaction
If you’re embarking on customer service automation, consider where the effort will have the greatest impact and deliver the highest advantages. There may be an area where the need is obvious. Perhaps people waiting in phone queues outpace your email inbox. That’s a signal you may want an IVR system. Think omnichannel, because people are accustomed to “Alexa-level” response and intelligence. If people are avoiding your online chat resource, it may need some improvement.
This is why it’s vital that you choose a platform that has high functionality and responsiveness. As you determine the best way to incorporate your software into your company’s workflow, keep in mind that it should be powerful enough to keep pace with changes.
For example, say you’ve installed a sophisticated AI chatbot onto your website. An integrated customer service platform allows your agents to transition easily to wherever demand is highest. What customer service tasks should be automated? Your automated customer service software is your first line of defense. What are the high-volume, simple tasks that your support representatives spend their hours on?
See how enterprises are succeeding with customer service automation
Automated customer service can be simple or complex, depending on your industry and business’s size. Perhaps all you need your customer service software to do is assure customers that you’ve received their message and will get back to them. Or maybe your support team has enough volume to merit a sophisticated AI chatbot that can learn and problem-solve on its own.
Depending on your needs, you could set up any one of the following systems:
- Knowledge Base or FAQ page as a searchable database.
- Canned greetings that assure customers the team is working to resolve the issue.
- Pre-written responses to common customer questions and greetings
- Gathering customer data (like account numbers) to populate future forms
- Reset password prompts
- Account verification
- Basic troubleshooting procedures
- Triaging tickets to relevant agents
As more businesses acknowledge the striking advantages of automation, they explore these available resources to enhance the customer experience, including these:
The popularity of chatbots is growing in customer service; you can choose solutions of varying sophistication—from handling routine questions such as upcoming deliveries, balances due, order status and other information.
o Agent assist
Contact centers are increasingly using advanced omnichannel agent-assisted AI technology to understand customer communications and interpret the issues; they can quickly search knowledge articles for an agent and display them while the agent is engaged with the customer. This saves time for both agent and customer.
Self-service is an ideal way for customers to locate the support they need autonomously, without the need for a customer service agent. Customers would much prefer to do their own research and solve issues themselves, if the process is well designed and offers them the proper tools and information.
o Robotic process automation
Robotic process automation (RPA) is a hot technology that automates numerous simple tasks that used to require agent participation. Bots can now update records, manage issues and proactively remind customers of beneficial new resources, sales, and programs that align with their interests. RPA has proven it can dramatically lower costs while boosting efficiency and cutting processing time.
o Machine learning
Machine learning (ML) is at the heart of processing and analyzing large data streams and gaining actionable insights. When it comes to customer service, ML can provide predictive analytics to agents that identify common questions and responses. It can also remind an agent of missed opportunities or relevant new facts. ML can also assist chatbots and other AI resources in applying results to a situation and supporting self-service problem solving.
o Natural language processing
Customer service AI relies heavily on NLP for interpreting customer feedback and deriving useful insights. Customer service agents use NLP to understand customer feedback and interactions across the omnichannel—phone, email, chat and SMS. Today, NLP cuts through tedious redundancies to create better customer satisfaction.
o IVR automation
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems are not brand new and have automated simple transactions for decades. However, now AI is used in new, conversational IVR systems to deal with tasks. New IVR can verify users by means of voice biometrics and can use NLP to explain to the IVR system what needs to happen. This simplifies the customer experience.
o Sentiment and advanced analytics
Sentiment analysis actually registers and identifies the emotional tenor of a customer, and it’s becoming a part of the customer service measure. The utility is flagging a customer who may be upset and then alerting a team leader or agent to interject and de-escalate the situation.
o AI training
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and employees working remotely, training teams turned to AI for simulations that assess employee ability to handle assorted situations. This takes the place of training that involved classroom, self-paced learning and final assessment.
o Smart speakers
Smart assistants such as Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri provide a new level of personalized service. Customers appreciate an organization communicating in their preferred platform, which may be via their smart home device and smart speaker.
Proven best practices to guide your successful automation strategy
When you automate customer support, these processes can help you succeed with your audience:
Include a “bolt hole” that enables customers with urgent concerns to sidestep your automated system and reach a human directly. Also, offer a way to leave a message for immediate human attention.
End the interaction with a means that allows customers to deliver feedback, such as a survey to express their satisfaction (or lack of satisfaction). You might implement starring for reviews. These can alert you to concerns that need to be fixed.
Audit everything frequently, including your Knowledge Base, pre-written responses, phone menu, chatbot responses, etc. Your automated support should evolve to reflect new information and customer feedback.
Add live chat to foster instant engagement and let you monitor the conversations. This gives you an idea how your team responds. Also, offer an automated chatbot to handle inquiries outside of business hours. You might hesitate to entrust your entire customer experience to a bot, so live chat software provides a middle ground. Once you see how your team handles live questions from visitors, you can institute a scripted approach to chat queries.
Provide multilingual support to personalize the customer experience. 70% of customers are more loyal to companies that support them in their native language.
Update announcements on your phone system. It’s often the first form of contact that your customers choose and can provide notifications for incoming support calls. Customers appreciate that you’re addressing their situation, so include a proactive notification on your phone system.
Promote self-service via an enriched, current knowledge base. This keeps your customers from bypassing self-service for in-person customer service if they find your support articles to be outdated or irrelevant.
Audit your support content regularly to ensure accuracy, readability, and discoverability. Quality assessments can alert you to articles that need updating or revision.
Include videos to drive customer interaction. Also, invite your support team to review the content often for relevance. 68% of people would rather watch a video than speak with a support agent.
Use templated responses to help handle customer requests that proliferate and pile up. Editable responses help your team save time and personalize customer care. Create pre-scripted responses for top call drivers and provision your team to support customers across the omnichannel.
Integrate CRM software to trigger automated sequences along the customer journey. If a user stops visiting, you can check in with an email or even a phone call to proactively reach out. It might simply be a lost password!
Survey customers after every interaction to measure your performance, and include real-time customer feedback into your service strategy. A one-star rating or angry comments may merit a personal call from the customer service manager. Showing you care can reduce churn and generate insights for improvement.
Let Aisera support your customer service automation goals
Discover the many ways that Aisera takes the weight off your shoulders when it comes to automating customer service. After a quick, simple integration, we help you offer the response, empathy, and intelligence that add up to a delightful customer experience.
Aisera’s next-generation AI Customer Service solution is a scalable cloud service used by millions of users. AI Customer Service automates requests, cases, tasks, and actions for Customer Service, Support, Sales, Marketing, and Finance.
Aisera’s Customer Service works with existing service cloud products (Salesforce, SAP, Oracle, Workday, Zendesk, and ServiceNow) to deliver a revolutionary end-to-end service experience for users—improving customer satisfaction, NPS, and drastically reducing support and operation costs. Enterprise customers using Aisera’s AI Customer Service automatically resolved 65-80 percent of customer service requests and support cases with self-service. Aisera’s unique AI Customer Service solution delivers 10x ROI in 3-6 months, reducing support costs by 90 percent.
Do these FAQs speak to your own concerns?
Q. Is customer service still a cost center?
A. In the past it was, but the trend is rapidly changing. Customer service can raise a brand’s competitiveness and empower customer retention. Customer service teams are adapting to answer that call, by investing in the gent experience and the resources agents need to effectively improve the customer experience.
Q. What direction is customer service moving in?
A. Now that AI has made real-time support a revenue resource, integration with social media platforms has expanded and achieving a positive customer experience is now considered an enterprise-wide target. Technology enables agents to take a more proactive role in raising revenue through upsell and cross-sell, customer retention, and other activities. This empowers customer service reps to be more effective and efficient when Conversational AI releases them from the burden of routine activities.
Q. What are ways to improve automated customer service?
A. Leverage your data to inform your automation and make it smarter and more relevant. Monitor your automated customer service by collecting and auditing your data frequently. Additionally, check in on your support queues to ensure people aren’t waiting. And check every channel of support for bugs, broken links, outdated information, or any other issues. .
Q. Where can customer service automation deliver the most value right now?
A. Focus on simple, repeated tasks that eat up the majority of your support team’s time. This includes troubleshooting for defective products, verifying user accounts and identities, gathering customer data, and other tasks that automation can handle.
Is the time right for you to gain the benefits of automated customer service?
Do you receive volumes of customer requests every week that swamp your agents with routine, low-level interactions? Automated customer service can solve these and free up resources for your skilled staff. Also, if you have a remote workforce across different time zones, automating can save time and frustration.
However, if you have only a few customer service interactions per day, you may actually turn off customers by automating. The right chatbot can certainly make your company look larger and ore substantial, as well as preserve contact after business hours. Make sure that customer service automation empowers your team to improve and polish a customer experience to excellence. With a high volume of customer contacts, you might even devise a chatbot whose responses speak to top call drivers.
Aisera’s Comprehensive, Automated Customer Service Solution
Addressing customer queries and concerns can now be dramatically quick and easy. Aisera’s seamless automation allows service agents to focus on higher value work while enabling customers to self-serve on repetitive requests like order status and cancellations, order refunds, and loyalty program status.
Conveniently available over the omnichannel with full support for voice, chat, and text, Aisera uses forefront Conversational AI, NLU Search, unsupervised NLP, powerful ML and other innovative technologies to speed ticket and request resolution. By automating responses to customers, and enabling self-service, Aisera can boost CSAT and NPS scores and empower both agents and customers to enjoy a dramatically improved and streamlined communication experience.
Ready for Automated Customer Service?
In the past, customer service was traditionally seen as a cost center, so it didn’t receive the attention it deserved as an attractive—let alone a vital—technology investment one. But those days are over. Opportunities to enhance customer service and turn it into a source of new revenue streams abound. Increasingly, today’s customers expect self-service, automation of tasks, and shortened response times.
Next-gen omnichannel tools are enriching customer service as they quickly gain sophistication and agility; it doesn’t take a crystal ball to foresee how they can cut operational and other costs while raising efficiency and paving the path to more satisfied users and customers.
Businesses that gain the ability to resolve customer requests autonomously can look forward to achieving 80 percent MTTR, up to 50 percent increased CSAT/NPS scores, and cost reductions reaching 90 percent. Even if you already have data from service and sales reps, social media, Net Promoter Scores, and Customer Effort Scores, you may not have optimal insight. Use AI to categorize, organize, and analyze customer data. You may have a trove of valuable customer information, such as historic emails, call logs and past social care messages. Find out from Aisera how to fully inform your metrics and ensure that every customer journey generates satisfaction and loyalty.