How to Find the Balance Between Automation and Human Support

AI and automation keep infiltrating business areas, and customer service is no exception. But can you really afford to lose the human touch?

Customer service is experiencing a revolution, driven by the rise of mobile messaging, AI, machine learning and bots. Expectations are quickly shifting, and companies are being forced to rethink their practices.

Gartner has estimated that by 2020, 85% of customer interactions with a company will be handled without human involvement. In the meantime, chatbots are quickly spreading. Reportedly, 69% of consumers interact with a virtual assistant or chatbot at least once a month. Does this mean automation will completely take over customer support?

Perhaps it will, perhaps not. As messaging is on the rise as a channel for support, businesses are using automation to connect with customers in a more personalised way, while saving time and money. However, before deciding whether automation is the way forward, companies should really understand that it shouldn’t be just about covering the basics of customer support — but always aim for customer satisfaction.

With a plethora of reports online and research pieces analysing if robots are outperforming humans in customer service — it seems that we are sometimes missing the point: Business is built on relationships.

Customer satisfaction largely comes from establishing good relationships — these relationships are essential to the success of every business. But without human interaction; there can be no relationship in the first place. As engaging as robots can be, customers still bond with people.

Indeed, as more and more consumers demand quick answers and seek self-help options, AI and machines are presenting viable solutions. A major point in favour of using chatbots is response time, because — unlike humans — bots can manage thousands of interactions simultaneously.

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But just because we can automate something, doesn’t mean we should. The reality is that robots have their limitations too. Make a chatbot your primary customer touchpoint, and there will be a very limited number of queries he’ll be able to handle. If you truly value your customers, you have to ask yourself if it is worth the risk.

People expect quick service, but they also want their interactions to be (or at least feel) “human”. So, businesses should provide customers the option of whether to interact with a bot or a human — or a hybrid of both.

What does the future look like for customer service?

Machines are here to make things easier for both agents and customers; but humans must be present to step in when something goes wrong. Hence, the best solution for managing customer relationships would seem to draw from combining both; the efficiency of automation with human engagement.

The important thing for companies implementing automated processes is to recognise when a person should take over — and find the right balance of automation and human interaction for delivering the right customer treatment.

The role of automation is becoming paramount to deliver a seamless customer experience. While it cannot fully replace humans, it super-charges them; making it infinitely easier to attend multiple queries, deliver and respond more efficiently.

Mastering the art of automation

Automation can help businesses to save time and money, but when it’s not used thoughtfully it can end up hurting engagement and retention. How can you make sure your company is automating the right way and for the best?

Here’s a few things to factor in:

Automate where it makes sense

Think about the problems you’d like to solve and be selective about the areas where automation can be useful, for both your agents and your customers.

If you want to incorporate automation for customer service, consider implementing it for repetitive tasks and simple queries. When it comes to messaging, automation usually works well for responding to questions that are frequent and simple to answer; this helps to free up some valuable time for your agents to focus on more important tasks.

Contextual data makes the difference

Contextual data is incredibly important when automating communications with customers — in context lies the power to deliver personalised, relevant content. This is crucial, especially when as much as 83% of consumers now expect a personalised experience.

Customer profiles should feed into your content strategy to provide an understanding of each customer. Companies should integrate this data into automated processes such as drip campaigns and general marketing communications, in order to send the right message at the right time.

Whether it is an auto message in live chat or an automated response via email — a little bit of context to tailor your communication can go a long way in making the customer feel that it’s not just another machine-generated message.

Timely follow-ups

One of the best uses of automation is the power it gives sales and service agents to follow up with both prospects and customers.

Workflows allow you to automate parts of your business that are essential to marketing, sales and service. From customer messaging to internal processes, automation can help organisations to increase productivity, drive sales and boost customer engagement.

Automating internally

The ability to streamline internal processes with automations cannot be underestimated. In addition to running communications, some automation tools allow you to automate lead scores, contact statuses, tasks for your team and more; to easily manage your data and stay on top of every action required to convert leads, up-sell and retain customers.

You can trigger notifications for your agents based on your contacts actions and generate tasks automatically for your team to follow up. The possibilities to drive productivity are endless.

Be receptive to feedback

It can take time and effort to find the right balance for automated processes, so it’s important to gather feedback from your customers. Make sure you take their opinions into account and make adjustments in order to keep your customers happy.

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