Automation is a part of everyday life.
Automated self-checkouts at large grocery stores are a regular part of the modern food shopping experience. You can even automate your social media pages by scheduling out future posts in advance.
The same is becoming true for customer service. As customers rely more and more on automated technology, they expect the same when it comes to customer support.
There are some huge benefits to using artificial intelligence (AI) in your customer support strategy. But if automated systems are doing some of the work for your agents, will they become lazy?
How Automation Can Improve Your Support Strategy
Automation has become a regular part of our daily routines, impacting everything from the management of daily activities to mundane tasks like taking a trip to the hardware store. Automation has advanced to the point where it is smooth and seamless.
Customer service automation is no exception to this rule.
In fact, as customers have become more accustomed to advanced technology automating their lives, they have become more demanding of the companies that they do business with, particularly in the realm of support.
Their greatest concern in terms of service is speed.
Customer service automation can prove tremendously helpful in addressing many of these important concerns, however, the practice has a bad rap in some circles.
In order to decide for yourself whether or not automation makes your support staff lazy, you’d have to weigh the benefits of this support strategy against the negatives.
There are a great number of benefits to be had. Implementing support automation takes human error out of the equation, protecting against wasted efforts and redundancy in the same breath. Automation also operates 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days out of the year, never tiring or stopping. It is the most cost-effective route to around the clock customer support.
However, managers are often concerned with the impact AI will have on their staff. Most notably, there is a fear that automation and outsourcing could put hard-working people out of a job.
In a 2017 survey on agent perception of chatbots, Aspect found that 79% of agents felt as though AI gave them the opportunity to address more complex customer issues rather than every day frequently asked questions which once crowded the phone lines. This, in turn, gave the support agents an opportunity to improve their skills and make way for career growth.
It was Charles Myers, the VP Customer at Answer IQ who said that “Implementing automatic answers and routine task automation actually improves the agent experience by giving them more time to deliver amazing experiences at every interaction. This helps empower your team to do what they do best – be human.”
The best way to ensure that automation does not replace support personnel is to not try and replace human workers with machines. Instead, utilize the automation software to enhance the customer support experience by handling some of the more mundane and commonplace issues, freeing your human staff up to address more complex concerns and grow in their roles.
Automation Cannot Replace Human Agents, But it Can Support Them
By 2020, experts have predicted that more than 85% of customer interactions will be handled through automation and artificial intelligence. While many people fear the replacement of human workers with machines, a move toward embracing automation does not negate the need for support staff.
When used correctly, automation actually supports the opposite.
Rather than replace human beings in their roles, automation and artificial intelligence can act as another member of the team, available at all times to step in and supplement the support staff’s efforts.
As of now, there is no technology that is advanced and capable enough to simulate human behaviors. Any attempt to do so would be instantly detected by a customer.
Automated tech tools, chatbots, and artificial intelligence can free up time for support staff by addressing the mundane repetitive tasks that plague a support staff day in and day out. This way, the human support staff can focus on tasks that require more brainpower and some human finesse. Also, having a good knowledge management system can reduce the number of incoming support tickets. Customers can solve their queries on their own without having to wait for an agent to solve the issue. This also prevents customers from raising tickets for common queries.
An automated chatbot cannot talk an irate customer down from canceling service. Only a level-headed trained customer support representative has the ability to do that.
Think of automation as the first line of defense, meeting issues head-on in an attempt to fix an issue before it becomes larger. It is a tool to help stave off customer frustration and abandonment. What’s more, automation programs can often solve these problems in less time than it would take for a human agent to address such concerns. There are no hold times and most issues can be resolved quickly and easily.
A report stated that 73% of customer support professionals cited time management and an increased workload as the biggest issues that they face in their jobs. Automation lightens the load and creates a more positive working atmosphere for them.
Easier to Set Ticket Priorities
The term analysis paralysis describes the uncomfortable feeling of not knowing where to begin when faced with a task. You might be looking at a mountain of work and you have no idea how to start digging into it.
This is a feeling that is shared by customer support agents who are facing a long list of tickets. Prioritizing these incoming issues can be a stressful horror show. This is especially true when answering email support tickets. Someone with a major issue might send you a kindly-worded email, while someone with a simple question might be writing in all caps with a million exclamation points.
That’s why it’s a great idea to set ticket priorities. This is a process that can be undertaken by automation software. Natural Language Processing guided by human input can work along with computer algorithms, which can identify urgency in the emails that your staff receives. The system will then let you know which emails are a high priority and which can wait.
Using Natural Language Processing is a more reliable system than allowing customers to select their own level of urgency. You can combine ticket priorities with Service Level Agreements to ensure that agents have the ability to plow through their emails quickly, knowing that their most important issues have already been marked.
This could stand to save your agents up to 30 seconds per ticket, which is a ton of time when applied to an entire day’s worth of responses.
Human Agents Cost More
By using automation software you save a ton of time and money by cutting back on the number of staff you’ll need to hire. Hiring a call service agent costs around $4,000, plus another $4,800 for their training.
Call centers often have a hard time with staff attrition, so they’re constantly replacing workers and paying out the nose to do so. Automation platforms, however, can create a more stable working environment, providing your staff members with the tools that they need to be successful. This should lead to a decrease in staff turnover, meaning you’ll be saving money in staffing fees.
Some programs even come pre-programmed with knowledge of your industry and domain. Consider programming your automation platform like you would train a new staff member. The only difference is you’ll only have to program the system once.
Company process changes are also easy to implement with an automation system. Instead of retraining the entire staff, you only have to slightly tweak the automation platform once. This also frees up your existing staff to continue addressing complex concerns while the automation platform implements your changes.
Agent-Facing Bots Can Help Reduce Churn
A lot of people assume chatbots exist solely for the sake of the customers, but chatbots can also be used to interact with support agents. Some of the benefits of using an automation platform that your agents could access would be quick-reply templates, immediate searches of knowledge base articles, and support in operational steps.
These bots would have no direct interaction with buyers, but their presence helps to enrich the customer experience by helping your staffers provide more efficient support.
This is a service offered by Microsoft AI as part of its Dynamics 365 solution. Microsoft’s internal departments utilize agent-facing chatbots, and so do other large companies like HP and Macy’s. All three of these teams have been able to improve their customer satisfaction scores and increase their ability to handle more requests in a shorter amount of time.
The above image showcases an agent-facing chatbot at work. The bot assessed the situation with the client, realized that they have had multiple negative experiences, and authorized the representative to add an incentive to their solution to keep the customer from abandoning the brand.
Automation Provides Support on Social Media Platforms
Brands that rely on a heavy social media presence might need some automation help in keeping up with their audience interactions.
The key to social media success is engagement, but if you have a large global brand, that might be a difficult task for even a team of social media professionals.
For example, if you’re providing customer support on Twitter, some of the tweets that customers send to you might be urgent and require immediate action. An automation platform can isolate the most important tweets that need a fast response, bringing it to the attention of social media support staffers.
Much like our earlier email example, it becomes a daunting task for your social media team to sift through countless tweets and rate them in order of importance. An automated system could filter these questions and concerns instantly, arranging them so that your social customer support staff can easily respond.
Freshdesk features a number of Social Signals which utilize artificial intelligence to automatically weed out relevant tweets in a quick and efficient manner. This helps your social media staff cancel out all of the noise gumming up your account.
Social Signals are powered by a machine learning algorithm and learn to automatically differentiate casual tweets from important attempts at engagement. The algorithm is also constantly learning from all of the feedback given to its predictions. It determines urgency by examining the brand’s overall activity from hundreds of tickets and learns to adapt to that specific company’s style.
A tweet that is converted by Social Signals into a ticket might end up being a spam mention after further observation. By marking the ticket as such, Social Signals gets a better understanding of what spam looks like and its filtering program becomes more refined for the future.
Alternatively, if there is a tweet that Social Signals does not convert into a ticket that is actually a problem worthy of immediate response, it will see that the agent marked it as a ticket and learn that these are the kinds of tweets that should be converted in the future.
Social Signals also has the ability to read tweets that include the handle of your company, automatically recognizing relevant mentions through its built-in algorithm. A program like this can also filter tweets off to the right people within your organization. You can specify whether you want Social Signals to send tweets pertaining to certain subjects to specific individuals on your staff.
The ongoing fear within the customer support world is that increased reliance on automation will either replace skilled workers or make the current working staff lazy. In fact, the opposite has been proven to be true.
Automation platforms free up time and energy from the plates of human agents in order to give them an opportunity to respond specifically to more complicated matters that require a genuine human touch. What’s more, the presence of an automation platform helps agents to accomplish their tasks more efficiently by removing some of the most stressful aspects of their jobs from the equation.
By embracing these automation platforms, brands of all sizes can enjoy increased success, customer attention, awareness, and loyalty throughout their industry.