Customer service automation: How to put your software to work
When it comes to business, efficient customer service is essential for long-term success. But keeping up with demand and consistently providing quality support can be challenging.
That’s where customer service automation comes in.
In this guide, we’ll dive deep into the world of automation in customer service, exploring:
- What it is.
- How it works.
- Its advantages and limitations.
- Top automation tools.
Let’s start by going over what customer service automation is.
What is customer service automation?
In today’s modern landscape, automation is pivotal in streamlining every business operation, from accounting to customer service.
Automation in customer service reduces human involvement in solving customer inquiries. Businesses automate customer service using:
- Self-service resources.
- Proactive messaging.
- Simulated chat conversations.
Traditionally, companies use a team of customer service agents to resolve customer issues. But as a business grows, so does the need for support.
Customer service automation provides a cost-effective solution to scale support without compromising quality.
How does automation in customer service work?
Customer service automation uses technology to simplify and optimize support processes. It helps you provide faster and more efficient customer assistance.
To automate customer service, you can use tools such as:
- Live chatbots.
- AI-driven self-service portals.
- Automated email responses.
- CRM software solutions.
The aim is to manage customer interactions and resolve issues with minimal human intervention. By automating routine tasks, you free up your support teams to focus on more complex cases and improve customer satisfaction.
Is your business ready for customer service automation?
There are some factors you must consider before automating your customer service:
- Identify areas that could benefit from automation, such as repetitive tasks or frequently asked questions.
- Ensure your team has the necessary skills or resources to handle the automated tools. Automation in customer service often requires technical expertise or training.
- Understand your customers’ support expectations and preferences. Will they be receptive to automated solutions? In which areas would they prefer more personalized assistance?
- Research and select the right tools that align with your business.
- Set measurable objectives and performance indicators to track the success of your automation efforts.
The benefits of automating customer service
When you’re ready to automate customer service, you’ll unlock powerful benefits for your business. Below are some of the main ones.
One of the main benefits of customer service automation is that it costs a fraction of a live representative to engage with customers.
Businesses can save up to 40% on service costs using systems like customer service automation.
As your company grows, you can also reduce your need for new hires while lessening your office footprint and increasing your customer lifetime value.
Meet your customer needs anytime, anywhere
There are only so many hours in the day that humans can work. But when you automate customer service, you can offer 24/7 support, regardless of a customer’s location or time.
Of course, there are queries that automated systems can’t answer. Intelligent chatbots can collect and escalate information for a human agent to resolve.
Reduced human error
Even the most skilled service agent isn’t immune to making mistakes, especially when doing repetitive tasks.
Stress and fatigue are factors that cause 48.8% of human errors. And over time, errors accumulate and lead to high costs for your business.
Automating customer service is the most effective way to minimize the risk of errors.
For example, automated customer tools like chatbots are programmed to develop muscle memory for customer inquiries. By taking note of each user’s query and retaining a high quantity of knowledge, they solve other queries without errors.
What are some cons of support automation?
While customer service automation offers numerous benefits, it’s essential to keep its limitations in mind.
Technology can’t solve every issue
Sooner or later, artificial intelligence will evolve enough to solve most business problems. But we’re not there yet.
Bots are currently unable to solve complex issues that need human intuition. Most AI-based customer service systems address simple concerns such as billing date queries and “How do I…” questions.
Lacks human touch
No matter how well you dress them up, artificial intelligence systems tend to feel robotic. They lack the personality and emotions that come with human interaction.
For example, chatbots lack the required empathy to de-escalate a frustrated customer. At best, customer service automation systems can direct customers to solutions.
However, less sophisticated systems might point customers to the wrong resources and create a dissatisfactory experience. This results in tarnished brand trust and further escalations, requiring human intervention.
What are some examples of customer service automation?
To better understand customer support automation, let’s explore its real-world applications.
Sometimes the best way to help people is to help them help themselves. A self-service portal gives customers access to various services without contacting the business directly.
Customers are empowered to solve their problems rather than relying on an agent.
Automating customer service this way is like having a library with resources available 24/7. From FAQs to knowledge base articles, a self-service portal puts the power in your customer’s hands, freeing up your team’s time to work on complex issues.
Customer data centralization
Imagine trying to solve a puzzle with pieces scattered across multiple tables. Sounds frustrating, right?
The same goes for customer data that’s spread across different platforms.
Centralizing customer data in a single system makes it easier for support agents to access and understand a customer’s history.
Agents who can quickly identify patterns and past interactions provide more efficient support.
Instead of flipping through multiple tabs or asking customers to repeat information, agents can resolve issues swiftly, creating a more satisfying customer experience.
Live chat and chatbots
Chatbots are one of the most common forms of customer service automation today. These clever tools provide fast and accurate answers to customers’ questions.
When used correctly, they don’t replace humans but take some of the workload of human agents. They use pre-written responses for common inquiries or crawl existing sources like manuals or previous interactions.
This kind of customer service automation saves companies hours per resolved ticket. Support teams can handle more complex queries while the bots handle the rest.
And when a customer query is too complex for bot to handle, it connects customers with available agents.
Steps to automating customer service
Now where do you start? To successfully implement automation in customer service operations, follow these strategic steps.
1. Find improvement opportunities in your processes
Before you automate customer service, you must analyze your current support processes to find areas that could benefit from automation.
Start by evaluating:
- Response times.
- Ticket resolution rates.
- Number of recurring issues.
Look for bottlenecks, repetitive tasks, and opportunities to simplify your workflows. By understanding your pain points, you can prioritize and implement the most impactful automation for your business.
2. Get the right customer service software solutions
Once you’ve identified areas for improvement, it’s time to find the right software.
Research and compare various customer service automation tools that cater to your needs. For example, some customer relationship management (CRM) solutions include:
- Help desk features.
- Self-service portals.
Consider factors like ease of use, scalability, and integration capabilities with your existing systems. And remember to involve your support team in the decision-making process, as their insights are crucial in selecting the tools that will work best for your business.
3. Continue adjusting the customer journey and measuring success
Automating customer service is an ongoing process, not a one-time event.
Monitor your customer service automation regularly to ensure they deliver the desired results. Gathering customer and support agent feedback can identify areas you can improve and personalize.
Use customer satisfaction scores, first contact resolution rates, and average handle times to measure success and make data-driven decisions.
You’ll stay ahead of the competition by continuously refining your customer service automation strategy.
Best tools to automate customer service
After taking steps toward automating customer service, you’re ready to look at the best tools available. The following platforms each have unique features that suit different business needs.
Method sits at the top of the list with its seamless integration capabilities and powerful two-way sync with QuickBooks or Xero.
This software provides a tailored experience for each customer while streamlining all your business processes.
- Customizable, online customer portals.
- Instant estimate, invoice, and payment sync with QuickBooks or Xero.
- Automated customer workflows, such as lead collection via web-to-lead forms.
- 360-degree view of contact information and interaction history.
Method is currently only available in English and is best suited for QuickBooks and Xero users.
Method offers three pricing plans:
- Contact Management: $25 per user per month.
- CRM Pro: $44 per user per month.
- CRM Enterprise: $74 per user per month.
Method also offers a 14-day free trial with no credit card required.
Freshdesk, a feature-rich platform, simplifies customer support by unifying all channels in one place with a personalized approach.
Image credit: Freshdesk
- Customer service portal configuration.
- Ticket management system for easy collaboration.
- Pre-built templates for various communication channels.
- “Freshchat” merges all of a customer’s messages across different channels.
- Customer service portal configuration requires customers to write some code.
- CRM functionality needs improvement (i.e., poor contact search and management).
- Recurrent performance issues with weak customer support.
- Limited reporting options.
Freshdesk has four pricing plans:
- Free: $0 and up to 10 users.
- Growth: $18 per user per month.
- Pro: $59 per user per month.
- Enterprise: $95 per user per month.
Freshdesk also offers a discounted rate on annual subscriptions and a 21-day free trial.
TeamSupport stands out for its collaborative customer service approach that allows support staff to resolve issues efficiently.
Image credit: TeamSupport
- Collaborative customer support, including shared conversations and task assignment.
- Visual support tools such as screen recording and image annotation.
- Automatic support ticket routing, assignment, and escalation.
- Knowledge base with self-service options.
- Some users report that the extensive number of features are overwhelming.Mobile experience is less intuitive and slower compared to the desktop version.
- Limited flexibility and granularity in creating custom reports.
TeamSupport offers two pricing options:
- Support Desk: $50 per user per month.
- Enterprise: $69 per user per month.
Creatio Service offers a dynamic, low-code CRM platform that empowers businesses to automate customer service processes easily.
Image credit: Creatio
- Comprehensive knowledge base for customers and agents.
- Omnichannel communication for customer service by phone, email, live chat, and more.
- Custom workflows to automate routine tasks.
- Some users find the interface overwhelming and less intuitive.
- While customization is possible, it requires some technical knowledge.Some users have reported issues integrating with existing systems.
Creatio Service offers three pricing plans:
- Team: $35 per user per month.
- Customer Center: $45 per user per month.
- Service Enterprise: $50 per user per month.
Creatio also offers a 14-day free trial.
Zendesk shines as a comprehensive customer support solution that scales with your business. The platform offers a seamless experience across multiple channels.
Image credit: Zendesk
- Customizable self-service portals.
- Help center page builder that builds self-service knowledge bases through AI.
- Email marketing features (i.e., syncing, alerts, templates, and tracking).
- Pre-built dashboard with reporting options and company metrics.
User reported a steep learning curve, particularly for customization and recurrent performance issues.
Zendesk has three pricing plans:
- Team: $19 per user per month.
- Growth: $49 per user per month.
- Professional: $99 per user per month.
Zendesk also offers a 14-day free trial.
Hubspot Help Desks integrated marketing and sales approach stands out with a unified platform to enhance and simplify customer support.
Image credit: Hubspot
- Ticketing system to track and manage customer issues.
- Knowledge base with a self-service portal.
- Detailed metrics to monitor and improve customer service performance.
- Seamless integration with other HubSpot tools and third-party applications.
Some users report that customization options are limited compared to similar platforms and a steep learning curve Also, email automation features could be more robust.
HubSpot’s Service Hub, which includes the Help Desk, has three pricing tiers:
- Starter: $45 per month (billed annually).
- Professional: $360 per month (billed annually).
- Enterprise: $1,200 per month (billed annually).
7. Zoho Desk
Zoho Desk excels in delivering a context-aware helpdesk solution that connects customer information and support interactions for improved service quality.
Image credit: Zoho Desk
- AI-powered assistant, with automated customer responses and predictive insights.
- Ticket Peek feature to quickly preview ticket details.
- Social media posts to ticket conversion.
Some users feel that the interface customization options are limited and that the mobile app’s functionality and user experience could be better.
While Zoho Desk integrates with other Zoho products, the number of third-party integrations is more limited than similar alternatives.
Zoho Desk offers four pricing plans:
- Free: For up to 3 agents, with basic features.
- Standard: $12 per agent per month, with additional features such as automation and custom reports.
- Professional: $20 per agent per month, including features like live chat and contract management.
- Enterprise: $35 per agent per month, offering advanced features such as custom roles and data encryption.
Promote repeat business and foster customer loyalty with Method
Method is the ideal choice for nurturing customer loyalty. With its powerful two-way sync, Method ensures that your customer data is always up-to-date and accessible.
The platform’s user-friendly customer portals empower your clients to:
- Access their account information.
- Track orders and make payments.
- Submit support inquiries.
And it’s all on their terms! Method strengthens relationships with your customers by simplifying communication and providing consistently seamless experiences.
Build long-term customer relationships and start your free trial of Method today.
Image credit: Prostock-studio via Adobe Stock