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Customer service automation is becoming a popular way to handle customer inquiries among companies looking to boost customer satisfaction and retention. As a new technology, customer service automation enhances customer care, but it has its limitations.

Understanding the pros and cons of customer service automation will help you determine how to incorporate an automated solution into your business to successfully handle a high volume of customer interactions without sacrificing customer experience

Pros of customer service automation

What are the advantages of integrating automation into customer support processes? Reduced costs, higher customer satisfaction, and increased productivity are a few benefits. 

Lower operating costs

Automated customer service reduces operating costs in many ways. Significant savings are achieved when fewer customer service employees are needed. Staff reductions and remote workers empowered through automation lower office space costs. 

Increased convenience for customers

Automation technology creates convenience for customers. Instead of having to wait on hold for hours in a lengthy customer support process, customers receive answers right away via automated chat. Customer service can happen 24-7 and on holidays. 

Less stress for customer service agents

Human agents can get overwhelmed with incoming tickets. Automation reduces stress by helping with customer triage. Automated customer service can complement human service by helping to prioritize incoming requests.

Enhanced human customer service interactions

Support-team members that are less stressed out can think more clearly. When more difficult customer service challenges arise, the increased mental capacity of human agents can help them find better, more empathetic, and more meaningful solutions for customers. 

Less confusion around ticket ownership

Manually sorting through incoming support tickets and delegating them to staff members makes it difficult for agents to track who is taking care of which ticket. Automating this process eliminates this confusion, saving the team from wasting time, enabling them to move faster on resolving issues, and encouraging better collaboration.

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More efficient support

Customer service teams can be bombarded with requests, from the mundane to the complex. Chatbots, conversational AI, and automated software can deal with simple customer requests, such as checking order status, giving human customer support representatives room to better respond to complex requests. This can vastly improve the customer support process. 

Increased support value

Ideally, intelligent automation streamlines customer support to enhance value for the customer while removing unnecessary stress on your customer support team. With the combined help of both virtual and human agents, customer needs can be addressed more quickly, improving customer satisfaction.

Cons of automated customer service

Automated customer service is quite powerful but cannot fully replace a human customer service agent (at least with the current technology). Implementing support automation is challenging, and success depends on the types of automation tools as well as overall technical capacity. 

Data integration challenges

Both human and virtual support agents need quick access to relevant customer data. In some cases, data stored on external or third-party systems, such as an analytical CRM, may need to be integrated with your automated system along with a relevant knowledge base. Extensive planning and technical knowledge will improve success in complex initiatives but include upfront costs.

Complexity of workflows

Once the data is integrated, automated workflows need to be established. A chatbot or auto-attendant is only as good as the workflow logic assigned to it. Make sure your virtual agent is programmed with the right workflows and dialogues to best respond to customer inquiries. 

Workflow integration across channels

Workflow complexity becomes more challenging if customers access support through multiple channels, such as email, text, chat, or phone. Make sure your customer service software adjusts for each channel’s nuances and integrates between them so that customer information is properly transferred when switching from one mode to another (such as chat to phone).

Appropriate support messaging

If your support strategy includes integrating chatbot software, you want to make sure your chatbots are asking the right support questions at the right times. For instance, you want chatbots programmed to ask and answer questions related to pricing on a product web page, not on a contact page. Review your customer support playbooks periodically to ensure that customers receive appropriate support messages.

Routing to human agents

Customers should have an easy way to connect with human support agents. The right automated tools should screen and route customers (especially unhappy ones) to the appropriate live support agent. 

Distrust of technology

Many customers have an inherent distrust of technology and automated agents. No matter how great your digital experience platform is, some customers simply bristle at automated software. Some customers simply don’t like it for philosophical reasons. Older customers may feel uncomfortable navigating artificial intelligence tools and often prefer speaking to a human.

Some customers may have a negative association due to previous bad experiences with automated agents. Getting sent down rabbit holes by poorly designed chatbots or automatic phone systems causes frustration. Therefore, developing a user-friendly automated agent with intelligent workflows is critical.

When are human customer service agents more effective than automated ones?

A live chat or call with a human agent will better serve a customer under the following circumstances: 

  • Volatile emotions: When customers are upset or angry, a well-trained live agent may be able to calm them down where an automation tool may just increase frustration. 
  • Complex requests: Sometimes customers have challenging issues that need to be resolved, and in these cases, a live agent is typically preferable.

Ideally, the best-automated customer support software will know when to route to live agents. When implementing automation tools, consider the unique customer service needs of your business:

  • Frequency of requests: Is your customer service team always busy responding to frequent problems such as password resets? Do customers frequently struggle to navigate your knowledge base? Automation can be quite helpful with repetitive requests. 
  • Information and data: What types of customer data do you keep? Do you need to integrate with other systems? Remember, privacy regulations may require a secure, strict handling of customer data. Keep this in mind when instituting an automated system.
  • Customer demographic: Certain demographics, such as technology “nerds,” may respond better to automation tools. Older clientele or those who value connection over technology may be less enthusiastic about customer service automation.
  • Type of product or service: Some industries require sensitivity, compassion, and human interaction. For example, a human agent may be better equipped to deal with a grieving spouse on life insurance matters.

How can you make the most of automated customer service alongside human agents?

In most cases, customer service software should not fully replace a human agent. Instead, it should supplement the salesperson or customer service agent.

The best automation software offers customers an obvious, simple way to request interaction with an agent in a live chat or phone call. At the same time, it should screen for repetitive ticket requests and other inquiries that don’t require human intervention. 

What common mistakes are made with customer service automation?

One common mistake is trying to completely replace a customer service team with automated customer service tools. When this happens, other employees tend to become the customer service team by default. Determined customers will find a way to connect with a real human, often via social media. Thus, a dedicated human support agent or team should always be available.

Another common mistake is to deploy a one-size-fits-all automation system. Good customer service should be personalized to some extent, so make sure your automated tools, knowledge base, and chatbot are responsive to your customers’ needs.

Choosing the right type of customer service automation for your business

With many automation tools available, a strategic plan will help in selecting a cohesive system that works for your business. Planning requires a full assessment of customer needs and business goals.

What types of customer service automation solutions can you choose from?

The good news is that a vast number of customer service tools are available: 

What should you look for in a customer service automation solution?

The right customer service automation tool varies from business to business. Consider the following factors to identify the best solution for your business: 

Transactional interactions

Businesses that depend on a high rate of transactions for revenue, such as ride-sharing services or online stores, need automation tools that can handle financial transactions and enable appropriate human interactions with customer service agents. Likewise, businesses that offer services, such as a spa or doctor’s office, benefit from an automated system designed to handle transactional interactions like appointment setting.

Customer engagement and personalization

If your customers want to feel connection, look for an automation tool that increases customer engagement. Some automated systems come off as canned and unfriendly. There are many ways to overcome this, such as using cute names for chatbots, personalizing the experience, or including warm messages of appreciation to customers. 

Related Read: What Is Customer Sentiment Analysis?

Customization and workflow design

Because each business is unique, customization in customer service automation is crucial. Ideally, your automation software will offer the ability to create custom workflows that match business and customer needs. 

How should you compare customer service automation solutions?

When choosing a customer service automation solution, consider the strengths and weaknesses of your customer support team and existing processes. Talk to your human support agents to identify their pain points and ask your customer support team for feedback on the responses they get from customers. Use this information to identify the most important features in an automated customer service solution. 

Learn more about customer service automation with the CX Lead

Automated customer service tools have a huge upside for many businesses, provided they are implemented carefully and strategically. With an understanding of the pros and cons of customer service automation and the right deployment, automated customer service software reduces costs, boosts productivity, and enhances customer satisfaction.

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By Hannah Clark

Hannah Clark is the Editor of The CX Lead. After serving over 12 years working in front-line customer experience for major brands, Hannah pivoted to a career in digital publishing and media production. Having gained a holistic view of the challenges and intricacies of delivering exceptional experiences, Hannah aims to help CX practitioners 'level up' their skills by amplifying the voices of today's thought leaders in the space.

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