Aug 6, 2020 8:17:00 AM
Automation gives consumers what they want (4 insights from customer service leaders)
The sales team here at Solvemate talks to a lot of people: customer service representatives, operations managers, business executives... the list goes on.
From all of these discussions, there’s something we’ve noticed. The companies that provide great customer service experiences and have the highest Trust Pilot ratings are also the ones that come to us, looking to automate parts of their customer service, so that they can stay ahead of competition. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Companies that use their service quality as an effective selling point have higher CSAT scores and enjoy greater consumer trust—and they generate quality through a mix of automation and strategic thinking.
Full disclosure: Solvemate is a customer service automation platform with a focus on chatbots. The businesses we’ve been talking to have been interested in offering their customers self-service options, particularly chatbots.
Why should you automate anyway?
We believe that empathy is the main reason why these top performing companies are interested in automation and are getting in touch with chatbot vendors. They care deeply about their customers and appreciate the time and effort that goes into every customer enquiry. This sentiment is evident across all levels, from the executives to the individual customer service representatives.
This is also a very business-savvy approach, given that buyers increasingly expect 24/7 support. They want answers and support when and where it suits them: on the train, in a taxi, during their lunch break, on the weekend, after hours… Catering to these expectations requires a great deal of empathy.
It seems that the top performing companies and their service leaders have correctly identified the potential of customer service chatbots in this equation. Offering effective self-service channels that can provide instant resolution shows customers that you value their time and effort.
Being in the customer service business, we naturally care a lot about service quality and the service experience companies offer. I want to share with you the key insights my team has gained from talking to all these top performing companies (many of which also became our customers). If your company is struggling with CSAT scores and the overall customer service experience, maybe these little nuggets of insider advice will help you turn it around.
Insight 1: The “human touch” is overrated
There is this persistent idea that people prefer to talk to other people when they have a problem with a product or service. While there is some truth to it, it’s mostly a myth that needs busting.
More than anything, people want fast answers. The most important attribute of a positive service experience is a fast response time.
People want to interact with other people when they encounter overwhelming, complex situations and when they need someone to empathise with them.
The companies we talk to don’t treat “the human touch” as an absolute value. And remember: these are companies with amazing service ratings and great reputations. They’ve come to the conclusion that putting too much emphasis on it is a mistake that results in unhappy customers who leave and end up with the competition.
Industry research clearly supports this approach. Recent surveys conducted by Nuance Communications and TechSee revealed that two-thirds of consumers prefer self-service over speaking to a human for customer service enquiries, and 60% prefer to make a company’s website the first stop when attempting to solve an issue. In addition, according to a study published by Usabilla in 2019, 54 percent of respondents said they would always choose a chatbot over a human customer service representative if it saved them 10 minutes.
As technology develops and we have the possibility to apply more and more self-service solutions, consumer behaviour also changes. For instance, people are now perfectly comfortable using self-checkout machines at supermarkets and digital-only banks.
Insight 2: Customer service is a strategic tool that should be prioritised
Countless business executives have taught us that if you want to differentiate and stay ahead of competition, you need to invest in your customer service department and make it part of your business strategy.
Time and time again, our customers have shown us that when there is a strategic focus in the service department, the company starts to see almost immediate results.
Especially in the past, customer service departments haven’t received the attention and appreciation they deserve. Today we know that if your customer service department isn’t performing well, it can significantly hinder the growth initiatives of your business. Of course, most companies don’t offer “bad customer service” on purpose, but they may lack the knowledge and tools to set strategic goals in order to improve it.
So how can you invest in and prioritise customer service?
- Implement a strategy that serves your business goals
- Hire an appropriate number of customer service representatives—an understaffed team is bound to underperform
- Provide adequate onboarding, training and continuous professional development opportunities for the service staff
- Build career progression trajectories within the company that include the customer service department
Insight 3: Self-service options are a must
In our experience, companies with 5-star customer service focus on delivering a “self-service first” customer service experience. They deliberately guide customers towards well-written FAQ pages and use chatbots to handle all the easy, repetitive customer requests, so that their service agents can work on the more complex cases.
This approach should be a no-brainer, as 81% of consumers will try using self-service customer support channels, while just 27% actively seek a live human interaction to solve their problems.
This strategy is known as the customer service funnel: if a customer’s problem cannot be resolved through self-service options like chatbots, they will move further down the funnel and be connected to the service team.
That way, easy requests can be solved immediately and agents will have more time to work on the more complex, consultative requests. Pretty intuitive, right?
The thing is, if companies don’t offer that convenient self-service layer and don’t automate the responses to those simple requests, they make themselves heavily reliant on the headcount of their service team—and the cost per contact is bound to increase. We’ve also heard many times that it’s almost impossible to adequately scale up a service team during heavy peak times, or to respond to quick growth (for example, when companies enter new markets). In many cases, the training of new service employees alone can take weeks.
Insight 4: Forget about trying to “delight” your customers
This is the most interesting phenomenon we’ve observed, because it seems so counterintuitive. For years we’ve been hearing business consultants talk about the need to “delight customers”—but according to actual customers, it’s not very sound advice.
If you want to improve your service experience and create loyal customers, you need to decrease the amount of effort it takes to get an answer or resolve an issue.
Acting deliberately on this insight can help improve customer service, reduce customer service costs and decrease customer churn. Most customers just want a simple, quick solution to their problem. Instead of providing a series of bells and whistles in customer interactions, companies should focus on reducing the amount of effort customers need to make.
The seemingly simple goal of “reducing effort” goes deeper than you would imagine. It makes companies faster and more convenient to deal with than the competition, enabling them to outperform the current benchmarks for customer service response and wait times. As a result, those companies become the new benchmark that consumers use to inform their purchasing decisions. Companies that reduce customer effort become the industry leaders.
Regardless of whether the companies we talk to end up using our products, we’re always very impressed by the dedication that top performing businesses put into their customer service departments.
To make the most of these insights, start by empathising with your customers and their frustrations. Evaluate what kind of customer service automation initiatives could fit your company’s use case. Think about the ways in which self-service could benefit your particular service offering and your company’s overall appeal, then take action!
A stellar service experience is trending across industries and your customers will thank you with their business and their loyalty.
Kelly is an account executive at Solvemate. She’s extremely passionate about customer service and improving customers experiences. When she’s not helping companies improve in those fields, she’s out exploring wine bars, restaurants, or a new city. Originally from North Carolina, she really misses the beach here in Berlin, but loves being close to Spain where you can find her at least twice a year.