Service messages received via social media and messaging channels have increased significantly over the past years. But how do companies cope with the thousands of messages received on all kinds of channels at any time without significantly increasing service costs? For more and more organizations, customer service automation is the answer.

Companies don’t only have to deal with an increased number of messages but also with increased expectations. Today, consumers expect service where and when they want it and as fast as possible. A company that cannot live up to a consumer’s expectations risks that he will leave immediately. 46% of customers switch to another provider after a bad customer service experience (Accenture). Moreover, he might not leave silently. Complaints about poor service can go viral in no time via social media and cause damage to a company’s reputation.

Today, consumers have numerous ways to contact companies. In addition to the traditional service line and customer service via email, many companies now offer to send inquiries via live chat, messenger, and social networks. WhatsApp has become extremely popular among consumers, so more and more companies are deciding to offer services via WhatsApp.

Many organisations find it challenging to provide fast, personal, and high-quality service across all these different touchpoints. This is exactly where automation in customer service can help.

What is customer service automation?

The term customer service automation describes the process of reducing or removing human labour when it comes to assisting customers with their enquiries, needs and wishes. This is achieved by implementing AI technology and chatbots into the customer service processes. Acting as virtual assistants, chatbots can perform simple tasks, provide information and initiate processes. Common tasks that chatbots take over from their human colleagues today are:

  • The answering of recurring questions, such as simple questions on products and services, with low involvement.
  • Supporting the service agents by suggesting answers that the agent can approve or disapprove.
  • Preparing work for customer service agents, such as asking for missing information, such as an e-mail address or order number, that is necessary to handle the case.
  • Identifying conversations and routing them to the right person within the department or company

“You can see a chatbot as virtual customer service employees. The bot ‘reads’ the message, determines the intention of the questioner and ensures a complete set of (customer) details. His job is then about done; the complete set of details are handed over to another employer.”

Importantly, adding automation to customer service does not mean removing the human element completely. The best results are achieved when service agents and virtual assistants are working hand in hand together. You can easily automate routine and predictable tasks, but human-to-human interaction is still important when it comes to complex or ambiguous questions. To truly understand customers and respond to their needs, we need human empathy, creativity and sensitivity.

“The bot is there for efficiency; the employee for empathy. Because of this effectiveness, a bot creates a better customer experience.”

What are the consequences of automation in customer service?

Through intelligent automation in customer service, companies can reduce costs, provide better and faster service, and increase customer and employee satisfaction.

Reducing costs with automation

A chatbot can handle thousands of messages at the same time, so there is no need to hire new agents when the volume increases. According to an article by Chatbots Magazine, chatbots can save up to 30% in customer support services. After implementing a chatbot into their service team, a large Dutch e-commerce player managed even to reduce their service costs by 36%.

Better and faster service

Chatbots can retrieve information based on keywords much quicker than their human counterparts. In this way, they can answer simple questions instantly and thus speed up the service process significantly. The Dutch insurance company Unive has set a one-hour response rate as a target for WhatsApp and other channels. Due to an increase in volumes on all channels, this target was hard to comply with. However, since their chatbot was introduced, the average response time has been considerably reduced.

Moreover, virtual assistants never sleep – customers can reach out to them 24/7. With a so-called “After Hours bot, consumers are thus no longer limited by traditional service hours. Moreover, they receive answers quicker and don’t have to deal with waiting times. Nothing is as frustrating as hearing “You are the third in line, please wait”.

Happier customers and employees

While routine work and recurring requests are automated, customer service agents have more time to provide high-quality and personal service to customers. As their virtual assistants take over time-consuming routine tasks, customer service agents can focus more on the core of their job: Engaging with customers and helping them solve complex issues.

Not surprisingly, chatbots also have a positive effect on customer satisfaction. At the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, no less than 90% of users are satisfied with the bot.

What to consider before implementing customer service automation?

It is crucial to determine which parts of customer service are suitable for automation and what should be achieved. What are the goals, and what problems and challenges does it solve for your organization? Existing customer service data should be analysed to get a clear picture of where a chatbot would deliver added value and where it shouldn’t be applied.

Organisations also need to decide on who should be responsible for implementing service automation through chatbots. There are two options. You can outsource the development to a chatbot vendor or build your chatbot using a platform. Innovative chatbot platforms make it possible to build chatbots completely without coding. This opens doors for non-tech people, such as customer service agents, to dive into the world of chatbot development and improve existing processes without the help of IT.