Technology has advanced to the point where automation can sometimes be more useful than humans. Computers have instant access to unlimited data, old conversations and can recall any information on demand.
Let’s dive into automated customer service and review what it is, why companies are incorporating it into their support strategy, what benefits they’re seeing, the pitfalls to avoid, and the best practices for getting started.
What is automated customer support?
Automated customer support is the support that is provided by a system powered by a rule-based software programme or artificial intelligence.
The primary benefits of customer service automation software are:
Customer service automation can reduce the cost of human support representatives and help in providing an exceptional customer experience with less or no human effort.
What are the advantages of automated customer support?
Support interactions fall under 2 categories – responsive or predictive.
You’re either responding to a customer question or proactively helping a customer before they reach out to you. Predictive support is the newer and obviously preferred option, but it’s much harder to achieve. In fact, it has only become possible in the past year or two with the advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning.
New employees are hard to find, expensive to hire, and a task to train. On the other hand, artificial intelligence typically requires a one-time setup, configuration and training and then your everyday actions continue to teach the system. Once trained, your support automation system will never leave you.
Once programmed, computers act the same way every time. They don’t take holidays, they’re never sick, don’t have emotional breakdowns and don’t get tired.
This reliability makes a strong case for incorporating artificial intelligence into your customer support processes.
Automated customer service means that you will be able to provide real-time support to your customers. When someone chats with you with a question, you can respond instantly, any time.
Intelligent automation can be faster than self-service online knowledge bases. It is faster than human responses and they have the capacity to answer new questions, so they never slow down.
Chat support leads to easy adoption and use of chatbots. Think of customer support chatbots as digital assistants that chat directly with your customers to answer easy questions and escalate more complex issues to customer service agents.
Think about it this way.
This trend works well for automating support since it’s giving the customer exactly what they want.
It’s often thought that you can’t get more personalised than a human.
But humans can’t remember every conversation that any agent has had with a customer. They can’t memorise 100% of the answers in the knowledge base, either.
AI can do these things, and in real time. Using CRM data and customer context, automation tools like chatbots can often provide a more personalised customer service experience than a human can.
When you automate customer support the right way, you allow for personalisation at scale.
Historically customer service hiring was linear with new customer ads. Once you add ‘x’ new customers, you know you’ll need another person to answer the phones.
With AI, that changes. Due to increased efficiencies, teams can often add 10x more customers for each new agent hire. AI customer support really is a game-changer!
The advantages of automated customer support aren't limited to direct-to-customer conversations. It can work behind the scenes to suggest answers to agents, so they always have the knowledge they need at their fingertips.
It’s like having your best manager in every agent’s earbud at all times, suggesting what to say next. It increases efficiency, consistency, and reduces hold times and transfers.
Last, but not least, your AI gets smarter every time you use it.
Machine learning algorithms allow your system to gain knowledge and recognise patterns over time, improving its performance with each new data point.
Using this technology in a customer support setting enables the algorithm to run in the background of support related chats, emails, or calls and collect the data coming in to find patterns that may be present from these interactions that humans wouldn’t be able to catch. This not only enables more error free and accurate answers but also ensures extra personalised customer service.
Ultimately the question that arises is, how to automate customer support? What is the best tool to use? How to use it?
We shall dig deeper to know more.
Types of automation tools to consider
Customer service automation can come in many forms. You can find everything from complete platforms that do everything to specific features that solve one specific use case.
Here are a few critical systems to look out for and ways you can leverage these systems for automated customer service. Some of these may blend as they consist of features that can overlap each other, but this should give you a good idea of what’s out there.
Full-service customer support software has historically been focused on making sure inbound customer inquiries are routed to the best available agent. Most of these systems have now opted for an omni-channel approach to take all conversations from every channel and put them into a single queue inbox.
As this space evolves, the providers are often focused on the intelligence that goes into routing conversations more than solving conversations directly. Virtual assistants are common and they are often paired with an agent to create more powerful and efficient support agents.
We see a new wave of providers emerge that are built in the past few years on new technology. These software providers excel in providing a holistic support solution built around AI. If you have a large team or are looking for the best solution, these offerings are going to be right for you.
Leading platforms often integrate all of the features we are about to discuss in one seamless experience.
Chatbots are one of the primary and most efficient ways of automating support interactions today.
Simple chatbots are easy to integrate and deploy, and we believe that every company should leverage chatbots as part of their support strategy.
When you are looking for a chatbot solution, be sure to confirm which messaging channels can integrate with the product. An excellent chatbot platform will work across many messaging platforms, including native platforms, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, etc.
Agent Assist technology can often be found as part of a complete solution but doesn’t have to be. When we refer to agent assist, we’re talking about technology that makes agents more powerful and efficient.
This technology can take the form of ticket routing optimisation that sorts through skills and historical data to get tickets to the best available agent or internal chatbots and provides suggested knowledge that lives inside a ticket and guides agents on how best to answer a question.
This can even be as simple as automating note taking and ticket tagging within your system so that your agents don’t have to waste time on those mundane details.
Automated response technology sits between a rule-based knowledge base answering program and a fully automated chatbot. These are AI machines that can suggest specific articles or answers to a customer before they connect with an agent. The goal is to reduce the number of commonly asked customer requests that live chat agents have to deal with before a conversation starts. This type of technology usually morphs into chatbot technology in these AI-powered days.
Smart knowledge bases
We’re starting to see knowledge bases popping that are a bit more intelligent than your standard knowledge base.
These are online self-service knowledge bases that use AI to help direct customers to the best articles and also assist internal teams in identifying content that needs to be updated.
This hybrid system is pretty helpful for customer support automation but is most powerful for a team’s internal knowledge base.
What is a customer support chatbot?
A customer support chatbot is a bot that uses AI and machine learning technology to answer all frequently asked and business related customer queries in a conversational format. Chatbots in customer support must be the most prevalent use-case of the technology ever since its development. Right from the banking sector to E-commerce, chatbots are changing the customer support system drastically. Now instead of waiting online for hours together to get a representative on call to resolve your queries, you can directly get your issues resolved with a chatbot. Customer service chatbots enable customers to access information through the database stored in it. It uses artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to answer basic questions. These may be questions like “how do I add more users?” or “what is your pricing?”
To answer questions and offer help, AI-powered customer support bots use existing information and resources, such as pre-installed FAQs or online knowledge bases. They can recognise and respond to multiple forms of the same question using NLPs(Natural Language Processing) and can be trained with your ideal voice and tone to give instant answers. All of this combines to create an experience that models what a real person would offer to customers in a chat.
Moreover, Chatbots help your customer service agents take away monotonous tasks and let them do their actual job with more sincerity and increased productivity. One of the biggest perks comes in the form of time-saving features. Chatbots take care of simple questions quickly. This way, your team has sufficient time for more complex problem-solving.
What are the benefits of a customer support chatbot?
In addition to the efforts of your support team, using AI-powered chatbots does not just make you look smart: it also comes with some pretty big benefits. Here are some of the most immediately noticeable benefits of having chatbots in customer support.
A survey by chatbot developer Helpshift once found that 94% of the 2,000+ respondents “dreaded contacting customer support.” The older methods of handling customer support calls have done little to ease a customer's dread of reaching out to a vendor's customer service branch.
The survey also found that customers were welcoming of the use of chatbots to fulfil their specific needs. At least 70% of the respondents answered that they would use a chatbot if they could accomplish their tasks. This has reduced the time to get a customer service representative on the phone and streamlined the whole customer service process for all.
When a customer asks a chatbot a question, it doesn’t just offer a suggestion, it provides the full solution that is set up by using all provided source material, including knowledge bases and FAQs. The instant replies cut out the wait time that’s usually experienced with support agents. If your chatbot can't provide the right answer, it can easily direct the customer to live agents who can. . Customers can request agents and get the accurate response they need without turning to other channels for support.
Unlike humans, chatbots don't need to sleep. If your team is unavailable, a chatbot can easily step in and provide references to resources and respond to questions. But if they are unable to help, the chatbots can tell you when a human will be in touch within your available hours. Alternatively, if you find that your bots get a lot of complicated questions that almost always require human intervention, you can build a dedicated "off-office" bot to take over and answer them when there's no one around. This way, the customer is not waiting for an answer, and as soon as they are back, a member of your team can immediately respond.
Customer service chatbots are not only using AI to answer questions. They also use it to automatically learn and improve the level of service that will be provided in the future.
For example, if a chatbot is able to answer a question like "how do I add a different user? and "Where can I connect another user automatically?", it's the same thing. The same phrasing can be applied to your information bank automatically, so all questions are phrased in the same way. To provide better answers, businesses should actively train their bots.
By training your chatbot, you can enhance the chatbot's immediate responses. You also increase the likelihood of your consumers witnessing a self-service fix, ensuring that no one feels lost.
If there is an AI chatbot, why not use it? Clients who see chatbots on websites may be more likely to ask questions than to browse silently and remain an invisible lead. Your chatbot can collect and store their information in your system with that first touchpoint from a customer. When they contact you again, your agents can use the context of the previous service interactions, using omnichannel support to better understand the progression of a customer's journey and appropriately cater to their needs. This deep context on each customer and their customer journey can give you some ideas for ways to improve your chatbot’s responses.
Ultimately, automated support systems will help you create your customers' reliable on-brand experience. We can only reinforce this consistency via the accuracy of chatbots. With AI in charge, messages are not skipped by mistake, help emails do not go to spam, and there is no copy-pasting or mistyping that could result in a customer getting the wrong information.
Generally, companies engage in passive customer interactions. That is, they only respond to inquiries but don’t start chats.
AI chatbots can begin the conversation and inform customers about sales and promotions.
Moreover, virtual assistants can offer product pages, images, blog entries, and video tutorials. Suppose a customer finds a nice pair of jeans on your website. In this case, a customer support bot can send them a link to a page with T-shirts that go well with them. Also, proactive customer interactions increase engagement, ensure retention and create a seamless experience for customers.
When you look at the success of companies like Uber, Netflix, Amazon and Airbnb, you realize that people value convenience. And whenever possible, they prefer to avoid humans for a service.
All of these companies have replaced the most mundane customer service chores with automated support systems. For example, calling for a taxi or watching a movie no longer requires the hassles of physically going to or calling an agent for the completion of service, instead all your bookings are now one click away.
There are two pieces of information required from the customer that helps in modifying and improving the product. Customer feedback and customer complaints. The complaint tickets that the chatbots collect and store act as active feedback for your business. This feedback can then be used to fix the glitches in your products and services to modify and upgrade your brand closer to perfection.
For example, if there is an increase in customers complaining about a certain glitch in your product, your chatbot can easily notify you to prioritise fixing that glitch. Similarly, your chatbot can also reach out to existing customers for feedback and provide you with the required information to sufficiently update your services in favour of your target audience.
Pitfalls of customer service automation
Okay, but what happens when AI goes wrong? It can happen. Here are a few pitfalls to watch out for.
Yes, automation is exciting, but the goal shouldn’t be to replace your support team completely.
We’ve seen teams try this approach and fail. It ends up increasing customer frustration and can lead to churn. You can lose the human connection and personal touch with your customers if chatbots are not used appropriately You want customers to be able to get to a live human when they want to. Sometimes questions are hard, and a computer just can’t handle them. Don’t keep the customer in a frustrating loop, quickly pass them off to someone to help.
Spending insufficient time on the initial configuration
We’ve all heard someone say something along the lines of, “bad data in means bad data out.”
If you don’t set up your system correctly from the beginning, it will take a lot longer to learn and get to a place where it’s helpful.
Almost all intelligent customer service platforms will include comprehensive onboarding and training as part of their offering to make sure that you are set up correctly from the beginning. Once you’re up and running, ongoing training and learning are often a breeze.
Choosing the wrong channels
You can automate customer support across most communication channels. You want to find the channels that have the most volume in customer interaction and would attract more easily solvable questions on the product.
For example, if every one of your website visitors asks how late you’re open, that’s low-hanging fruit for automation. If every phone call ends up in a complicated troubleshooting session with your engineers, you may not want to try to automate that channel today. On the other hand, if you automate your socials and messaging platforms, customers can ask and solve queries as and when your products pique their interest, hence reducing your overcomplicated call times.
Best practices of customer support automation
Here are some of the best customer service practices to follow while automating your support function:
When you think about what channels to apply automation to first, consider your audience.
Young audiences often prefer chat-based communication and appreciate automation because it’s faster and they don't have to talk to anyone. In fact, 76% of millennials have said they don’t like to call someone to get help.
If you primarily serve an older audience, they are more likely to want to work with a real person.
You can quickly address both by providing options for automated help with clear and easy prompts to be transferred to a live agent at any stage.
Humans and machines should work together. Remember, automated customer service tools are here to enhance the experience, not replace employees. Your customer support agents should get as much value out of our conversational automation tools as your customers do.
Often the knowledge and systems you’re creating for customers are the same knowledge as what your customer service team is referencing. Look for a system that can use this knowledge both internally as well as for customers.
While technology and automation can be fun, don’t lose sight of the exceptional customer service you provide today. Automating should add to your overall support strategy, not detract from it. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
As much as we would all like it to be, automation is not exactly a ‘set it and forget it’ project.
Well-executed personalised automation requires regular reviews to ensure it’s up to your standards. Customers need change, new knowledge gaps are uncovered, and products change. While the system should get smarter on its own by continually adding new data, it still needs to be “trained” from time to time, with feedback so that it is using the data correctly.
Get in there every week and test out new scenarios to ensure it is as good as you think it is. Ask hard questions and test the limits. Your customers certainly will.
Don’t try to pretend that you’re not automating certain aspects of your support. Remember, a lot of customers not only like it but prefer it.
Be open and transparent about your automation efforts and constantly ask for feedback from the end-users to ensure that your customer experience is exceptional.
Don’t try to over-engineer everything in the beginning. Your system will need time to learn, and so will you. You will learn a lot from the data that you continually analyse.
Keep the options simple to reduce frustration and make it easy to reach a live agent whenever required. This will ensure your customers never get stuck or frustrated.
When you automate customer support, you need to focus on continuously training your systems. With Engati, you can track customer questions from your dashboards in three ways.
You can upload individual FAQs to the system. Alternatively, you could also bulk upload an entire set of FAQs.
The most time-efficient approach, however, is to train your bot with our DocuSense technology. After you upload the document, the bot parses through it, 12 pages every 8 seconds. Now, whenever a customer asks a question, your bot pulls responses directly from the document.
That was everything you need to know about automating customer support.
Now that you know how easy it is to automate customer service, it's time for you to leverage it. Register with Engati for customer support automation!
Want to know more about customer service? Here is an article on 16 customer service metrics that you absolutely need to track for you.