In this day and age of technological speed and convenience, people have come to expect helpful connections to customer service in a timely manner. No longer is waiting on hold for hours to ask a question that can be simply resolved considered acceptable. For this reason, businesses around the world have chosen to automate their customer service, meaning they convert it to a largely automatic process where digitized responses can address the majority of users’ needs. We asked successful business leaders and CEOs their advice on the best ways companies can automate their own brand’s customer service experience, and their responses are both informative and helpful. Keep reading for smart suggestions to keep in mind as you move forwards in this process.
It’s All About Flexibility
The co-founder and creative director of performance clothing company Western Rise points out that automated customer service can address the simpler questions to free up the line for those with more urgent needs.
“Automating your customer service is a fantastic choice for addressing customer’s frequently asked questions. I recommend you definitely use an automated attendant on your phone line in order to free up more of your customer service representatives for the questions that need deeper assistance. With automated service, oftentimes callers won’t need to make it far past the voice menu, as their needs are addressed or they’re redirected to the correct website or step of action. Overall, it allows your customer service workers to be freed up to address the customer concerns that need further help than the automated menu,” says Will Watters, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Western Rise.
Head of marketing at home listing site Homelister, Tommy Change, says sometimes automated contact options are difficult for companies to offer, in which case informative content is a wise time investment.
“Offering the customer different ways to contact you via chat, email, telephone or even social media goes a long way towards improving customer service. In our line of work, it’s hard to automate customer service because real estate transactions are complicated and most people have questions – but creating informational content and guides to help them feel more confident in the process helps things run more smoothly,” says Tommy Chang, Head of Marketing of HomeLister.
Hayley Albright of stylish workwear brand Xena Workwear reminds that automated customer service programs free up more time for the real team to utilize.
“Businesses can improve their automation strategy around customer service as long as it does not interfere with the customer experience. An after hours live chat automation can be effective at answering common questions quickly, 24/7, even during holidays. Live chats offer fast-to-market solutions that can be customized in a professional way without compromising the brand, that way customer service teams can focus on tackling the more challenging inquiries that come in,” says Hayley Albright, Senior Brand and Customer Experience Manager of Xena Workwear.
Use Digital Platforms to Help You Stay Organized
The co-founder and CEO of how-to guide site Minerva Knows recommends that businesses use a CRM system to keep their que organized.
“When customer service requests pile up, it can be difficult to follow up with them in a timely manner. One way you can alleviate the stress of managing your time in responding to customers is to set up reminders in a CRM system such as HubSpot. You can link the emails sent to a particular email address to this CRM system and set up reminders in this system for you to follow up with these emails within a certain amount of time. You’ll get the notifications in your email when this time period passes and this will help you to stay on top of helping out your customers sooner rather than later,” says Joaquín Roca, Co-Founder and CEO of Minerva.
Ted Toledano, founder of contemporary furniture company Modloft says that implementing chatbots to handle after hours questions is a strategic move.
“Customer service is at a technologically advanced place right now where it is more convenient than ever for customers to receive assistance. If you’ve ever wanted to consult a business with a question after hours or on a holiday, or ever been looking at an hours long phone wait to speak with a customer service representative, you yourself understand the immense relief of realizing that company has a chat feature. 24/7 bot chat boxes are 100% a bandwagon your company should jump on. Sometimes customers don’t want to consult your Frequently Asked Questions page but will feel a thousand times better after the chatbot tracks down the correct answer for them. The bots don’t have to do much, usually just lead customers to the correct page, but the more communication options you offer, the more accessible your brand is,” says Ted Toledano, Founder of Modloft.
The CEO of Salesforce mentions how her company has used one of their analysis offerings to pinpoint why the majority of callers were contacting their customer service team, and then implemented an automated service to help customers avoid calling for that specific need to save time for everyone.
“Every call center struggles with the volume and unpredictability of calls that flood in. And as consumers, we’ve experienced this, right? When we are put on hold for many minutes or even hours, it’s because a call center is feeling overwhelmed. With our new Einstein Conversation Mining, we’re able to listen to all of the reasons why callers are calling in and identify which of those really should have been self-service opportunities. And recently, in a large organization that we work with, one of the largest contact centers in the US, through working with them, we found that a lot of customers were calling in just to update their mailing address. That’s not a good reason to call in. The customer doesn’t want to call in for that reason, the company doesn’t think that’s a good reason. And so by being able to optimize and analyze that data, we were able to identify that use case.”
And then the company with, again, a few clicks, they were able to expose updating your address in their mobile app, on their website, through their bots. So that customers going forward, if they wanted to, they wouldn’t have to call in for that reason.
“This is such a pivotal time for customer service right now. Instead of an agent, opening a legacy application, waiting for the system to load up and looking up a piece of data, all of that can happen pretty much instantaneously with full automation,” says Clara Shih, CEO of Salesforce.
Nathalie Walton, co-founder and CEO of Expectful, a one-stop location for current and expecting mothers, says to choose your automation software carefully and with thought so it can fit your business.
“One of the most important steps for using automated customer service to improve your customer’s experience with your business is choosing the correct automation software that fits the needs of your company. There are many successful options available, so I suggest you do some research while keeping your needs in mind to choose wisely. Your team will need to be retrained on the new system, so you’ll want to pick the right choice off the bat to save on training time and expenses. A few good options are Olark and FreshDesk which both offer integrated live chat features,” says Nathalie Walton, Co-Founder and CEO of Expectful.
The founder of audio entertainment travel app Hearhere says that customers expect speed and self-reliance when they do their online shopping, so your automated software should meet these requirements.
“People are independent these days. This pertains to many areas of life, including the way we interact online. It comes from having such technological advancements that now we expect a certain degree of self sufficiency when we shop. Why else do so many of us gravitate towards the self-checkout line at the store? There’s a belief we all hold that the best person to get the job done is yourself. Online shopping is popular today for many reasons, including the way customers can complete the whole process independently. But without any store attendants to ask, if customers run into any problems they will turn to your customer service team. And they’ll expect a speedy response so as not to tamper with their independent shopping momentum. Customers also anticipate speed in their shopping and other digital interactions, which is no surprise considering how rapid communication can be in 2021. In the same way we are used to quick responses from our friends online, we also want to get help quickly. This is why having chatbots as part of your customer service offering is crucial. In order to improve your customer service, make sure your automated responses are quick and helpful. Ensure your site is running at an effective speed and that there are no tech glitches in your automated systems,” says Woody Sears, Founder of Hearhere.
Don’t Remove Your Employees From Customer Service Entirely
Lindsay McCormick of Bite, the brand of popular toothpaste tabs, reminds that customers do want to know they’ll be able to speak to a real person if needed.
“Although automated customer service really helps businesses, and customers have come to anticipate a certain degree of automation when they call your help line, some customers find it really frustrating when they can’t figure out how to get past the automated attendant, especially if they’re in a big rush. Because of the immense benefits automated assistance will have on your business, I don’t recommend you do without it, but rather that you make it clear in your automated menu that there is an option to speak with a customer service representative. Including this as an option quickly de-escalates customers who are beginning to feel frustrated when none of the menu options properly meet their needs. After all, not all questions can be addressed in an easy to follow phone menu. But luckily for businesses, many can be, saving your employees time on the phone,” says Lindsay McCormick, Founder and CEO of Bite.
The CEO of Korean beauty product company Kaja Beauty suggests businesses outsource their live customer service representatives if they can’t offer the service in-house.
“While chatbots offer 24/7 support and help reduce customer wait time, many people still prefer to talk to someone on the other end of the phone. This is especially true with a customer who is upset or in need of urgent assistance and may become frustrated by the lack of human connection. But if your business cannot offer a direct line to customer care personnel, outsourcing that responsibility to a call center is a practical way to provide this service. Doing so keeps the lines of human communication open between your business and your customers,” says Dino Ha, CEO of Kaja Beauty.
Don’t forget to encourage and train your live customer service employees because they need to know they are still valuable to the team, remind the chiefs of healthy soda brand OLIPOP.
“Although customer service robots can significantly help your business in the long run by offering quick responses to frequently asked questions and filtering customers to the right place, your real customer service agents are the heart of your company. Therefore, make sure they feel valued and that they understand they are not going to be replaced by all the new software. Instead, you need your employees to be extremely knowledgeable about the automation process, as they’ll be the ones making adjustments when systems fail. Take the time to deeply train your team so they feel confident and competent about the tasks at hand,” says Melanie Bedwell, E-commerce Manager of OLIPOP.
Girish Mathrubootham, the CEO and founder of tech building company Freshworks addresses the dilemma businesses encounter with finding the fine line between live and automated customer service representatives. He recommends businesses find that line for themselves in a way that pleases the customers and the team.
“Today we are seeing this pattern where every company is struggling with the need to automate. The fundamental nature of, say, IT or customer support is that it is viewed as a cost center. And sometimes it is not linearly scalable. If you are a small company and you get, say, a thousand calls in a month and let’s say you have 10 people. Now if your business scales to 10,000 calls, should you hire 100 people? And what if it becomes 50,000 calls? The business is growing but you cannot linearly scale the number of support reps just to handle the increased volume because sometimes what happens is the volume may drop, it could be unpredictable, but the cost escalates more than the cost of the support ticket. The cost of a person is much more. Fundamentally every business understands this.”
“There is a business driver to automate the repetitive aspects of customer support or service, so that we can get customers what they want in a consistent, fast manner, but still be able to do more with these same people where you don’t have to actually keep hiring more and more people. The problem is, there’s only so much that the bots can do. Customers want to talk to real people. Not automating it may not be affordable for the business. Fully automating it may be bad for the customers, so the fine line is to automate what is automatable but then fall back,” says Girish Mathrubootham, CEO and Founder of Freshworks.
With these pieces of advice from top business leaders, you should now understand how positive an impact automated customer service can have on your business, from reduced customer wait times, and less cost spent on your customer service employees hours, to increased revenue from the timesaving measures. Be sure to choose the right automated CS software program for your business, and always reassure your workers that they are more valuable to the company than the automated attendants. Happy automating!