It’s thumbs up if customer service automation is genuinely human-friendly!

15 August 2016 12:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Customer service automation is increasingly becoming non-negotiable for companies today. Without it, contact centres would be overwhelmed with calls, emails and social media posts, with no way to filter and sort them so they get answered quickly. 


Agents would have no screen pops with information on the customer contacting them. Customers wouldn’t get automatic order and shipping confirmations, or be able to automatically view updated account data. Shipping and fulfilment would likely be paper-based and it may take days, not hours, to send a package. Customer service automation maybe quite appealing, yet, there’s a very important thing to consider first. Remember - In customer service, we automate processes, 
not relationships.


To your customers, your support team is the face of your company. If you’re doing customer service right, these agent-customer interactions are building relationships, cultivating loyalty and adding tremendous value to your bottom line over time. Relationships are a deeply human thing, and trying to automate them can easily risk turning your customers off.


For that reason, it is not advisable to cut down on the number of conversations your support team has with your customers. Each of those conversations is an opportunity to build a better relationship with them. On the other hand, there are many behind-the-scenes processes that can be automated to save you time, reduce the amount of work your customers have to do in order to get help, and let your support team build better relationships with more customers.
 

Knowledge base
When you need to walk a customer through a process, you could write out a thorough guide in an email. But not only is a long email hard to follow, adding images makes it even clunk, and adding video it will make clunker. Nobody’s going to read that email until end. 
That’s when a knowledge base can be useful.


Note, however, that a knowledge base is not a replacement for personal support. Don’t let a knowledge base be a wall between you and your customers.Instead, think of it as a tool to help your customers understand your product better in concert with your support. As a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, a knowledge base can give customers easy access to information that would otherwise require contact with an organization’s staff; as a rule, this capacity should make the interaction simpler for both the customer and the organization. A number of software applications are available that allow users to create their own knowledge bases, either separately (these are usually called knowledge management software) or as part of another application, such as a CRM package.
When used properly, a knowledge base can add a layer of richness to your support that makes life easier for you and your customers without sacrificing the human element of your customer relationships. It is found out that 80 per cent of customer queries could be satisfactorily answered by the knowledge base. 
 

Common replies
Sometimes, you don’t need an entire knowledge base article to answer a common customer question. And sometimes, a knowledge base article isn’t appropriate (for example, if the question deals with sensitive account data or billing information.) That’s when saved common replies come in handy.Rather than wasting time typing the same reply over and over again (probably the single most time-consuming repetitive task that support professionals have to do), common (sometimes called “canned”) replies let you insert frequently used messages with a click.You could create something as simple as a shortcut to save you a few keystrokes typing your email address, or something as powerful as a shortcut for an entire paragraph-long email.
 

Rules
Sorting through incoming support emails is another ridiculously time-consuming task, but it needs to be done in order to: (a) Route emails to the right agent or team, (b) Spot any urgent or higher-priority requests so that you can tackle them right away, (c) Label each email properly for organization and tracking, (d) Rules help you automate this process. For example, sometimes all emails containing certain keywords (e.g., billing, credit card) are handled by a certain department. You could spend time reading and manually forwarding them each time, or you could set up a rule or filter to never have to do that task again.Most help desks have some way to set rules, and if you’re a Gmail user, then filters do much of the same thing.
 

Going wrong? 
Going automated can save your company a lot of employee time and money, but only if it’s done right. Here are the five best ways to automate customer service and keep your customers happy.

1. Automate to your audience
If your company targets young adults who are tech savvy (such as selling the latest mobile phones), you can bet that they’re going to be comfortable with an online approach. However, if your business is selling life insurance to seniors, they probably want to be able to talk with a “real person” 
right away. 
Choose your customer service approach wisely, and consider: (a) Offering live chat options on your website if you target a younger audience, (b) Offering very simple touch-tone phone options for senior markets and make it easy to reach a live person, (c) Develop an app that includes easy text or 
email messages

2. Practice the golden rule
Sometimes touch-tone phone systems are great. If they’re easy to use, there’s an option to speak with a person, and you don’t have to listen to a robotic voice for over 60 seconds, this can help speed things up. However, if it’s really a messy web of a puzzle, you can bet your customers will get frustrated. For touch-tone phones, remember: (a) Don’t have any more options than necessary (five is usually enough), (b) Skip the directory, (c) Always include an option to speak with a live person, (d)  Carefully consider the “speak” function since it can be notoriously frustrating

3. Use it as a tool, not a substitute
It’s simple to emotionally short-change your customers when you rarely have to talk to them. The purpose of automated customer service is to enhance the experience for everyone, not replace employees with technology. Don’t rely too heavily on automation, but instead utilize it as an accoutrement for genuine service. Strike a balance by: (a) Offering equal parts live and automated support, (b) Keep your audience in mind at all times (remember younger audiences are more likely to utilize automation), (c) Keep up with training 
your representatives

4. Test, test, test
Test out the automated system regularly to see if it still works, if it needs update or if there are kinks? This has to be done by a senior officer. Some rules for testing include: (a) Have a team of people in charge of managing testing (not just one), (b) Test at least once per week and ideally once per business day. Keep up with tech maintenance requirements

5. Ask for feedback
There will be some growing pains no matter how great your system is, but be open to feedback from both employees and customers. You can’t please everyone, but if you notice some trends in complaints or concerns, it’s time to look close. Turning a blind eye is the worst thing you can do, and will likely lead to lost revenue and customers soon enough. To receive good feedback: (a) Offer an anonymous approach, (b) Don’t take things personally, and assign an unbiased person to handle feedback if necessary, (c)  Make sure that whoever provides feedback feels their voice is heard

(which means actually following through and responding publicly, even if it was originally an anonymous source).
There’s going to be a learning curve with automated customer service, and everyone will get on the bandwagon in their own good time. Don’t force it, and introduce any big 
changes slowly.

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