Nov 19, 2020 7:30:00 AM
Why Automation and Personalization Are the Perfect Match
Customer centricity has been a trending topic in the business world for a while. As a result, most companies have realised the importance of their customer service departments and have shifted to seeing it as a revenue, rather than a cost center.
That’s great news for everyone, because in this model support agents can focus on delivering great, personalised service experiences with the goal of making customers happy. And happy customers are loyal customers which, in turn, delight the whole company.
At first glance, 1:1 telephone conversations with agents might sound like the only solution to create personalised experiences in real time, but technology has come a long way. Today, automation can provide very personalised experiences, at scale.
It’s not always easy to provide great personalised service - especially when there are tons of requests to process and only little time for each individual customer. We have all felt the down side of an overworked service department: being on hold for hours, waiting several days for an email reply, or talking to stressed and brusque agents.
In this article we want to give some food for thought on how to achieve a personalised service experience for your customers, while at the same time creating relaxed and happy support agents. How? With the power of automation.
Where to start?
Customer expectations have changed a lot over the last decade. Sure, many consumers still favour the good old phone call - usually a quick and easy way to answer their more complex questions. But especially younger people, which are starting to gain more spending power, are a lot more independent. Both, Millennials and Generation Z are used to fixing problems themselves - at least where possible. Therefore, the expectation is high for self-service options when it comes to customer service. Of course, some problems can’t be fixed through automation, so there is still a very important role for service agents in this new world of automation.
When a query is complex enough to be elevated to a customer service agent, there are a couple of things most service departments can improve: agents need time to adjust to a customer. No one can pick up a conversation and immediately adapt and pick the right tone, especially when they don’t know the details of who exactly they’re talking to. Giving agents the time to get up to speed on customer requests is crucial. It also helps to provide all available information about the customer, which can also be done with the help of automation. A well structured CRM is key. Agents are in the picture and customers don’t need to constantly repeat themselves. It’s a win win situation.
But you can start the personalised experiences for your customers even before they speak to your agents. User authentication and other automated personalisation efforts can go a long way. Want to learn more? Read on!
1. Funnel your customer service requests
Customer service departments are usually crowded around the year. Automation is a way to handle some of the heat and give your agents time to breathe. To achieve this, while at the same time giving your customers what they want, you need to make sure those inpouring requests are valid. If you are using a lot of different communication channels, you most probably need to rethink your omnichannel approach.
Yes, we know - the idea of an omnichannel approach is loved and celebrated by many. But having to work through a never ending mass of requests on a variety of communication channels, many of which were possibly sent by one and the same impatient customer - takes up a lot of time. We’re not suggesting to abandon all those communication channels you have built over the last years, but rather funnel your customers through them in a way that will free your agent’s time. Provide guidance and the right help at the right time by using the customer service funnel.
Rather than displaying all available channels at once, offer self-help options first and only open up the way to a human agent if things can’t be cleared up in the first instance. What could this look like? Here’s an example: your customer comes to your website to find out about the delivery time of their order or details on their contract. Your support page can be found easily, but of course only general information is given on the mentioned requests. Another solution is to have a chatbot popping up on your support page.
Good quality chatbots are far more than a static resource (like an FAQ or help page). They can handle various types of requests. From answering simple questions about your product or letting your customer know their order status, to more complex queries, such as changing personal account details directly through the bot. But let’s say the customer still wasn’t able to find the solution they were looking for - a chatbot could seamlessly handover to an agent via live chat, email, or phone.
While many customers will be happy to have a super quick and easy way to figure out problems by themselves, agents will have a whole lot more time to spend on requests that require them to really go into detail.
As mentioned before, self-help resources don’t necessarily stand for generic support. There are ways to personalise and enhance the customer experience. This will become more and more important with the shift of generations. Generation Z, especially, is known for paying close attention to self-service options, user experience and user design topics. Plus, study has shown that they won’t do business with companies that don’t provide a great service experience.
2. Know how to address your customers
With the customer service funnel in place, the next thing to look at is creating a personalised experience. Nowadays, most consumers expect some extent of automation, interactivity and being provided with answers to their questions instantly, at any time of the day. That’s where the well structured chatbot comes into play. Even digital immigrants can be convinced if the service is structured in a clear, yet personal manner.
In fact, there are different levels of personalisation. Customers could log in and the bot will be able to ask highly individual questions. With a security token in place, to exchange data between website and bot, there is no need to worry about security issues. All data is transferred encrypted: names, addresses and other personal details of your customers can be fetched from your existing database. And even for customers that are not logged in, there is a way to personalise even before a customer is handed over to your support agents. Some data, such as your customer’s geo-location, device or on-site behaviour are known to your system and can be used to personalise your customers’ experience. Pre-select the shipping country or usage plans, it’s all possible! Just make sure you don’t overdo it. Some people might perceive “too much” personalisation as an invasion of their privacy.
So there you have it: self-service, especially a chatbot doesn’t have to be an anonymous conveyor belt to dispatch customers. Especially, when you train the bot to use your companies’ tone of voice - for a coherent CI throughout all your communicating channels. Think of a chatbot as an online concierge who caters to your customers’ needs and questions in an individual way through personalisation or user authentication - by already knowing their background.
3. Empower agents AND customers
Customers that are provided with easy to use (cue: UX design) self-service options are likely to at least try to resolve their issue themselves. Most people can’t resist the satisfaction that comes with independent problem solving - as long as the experience is engaging and promises success. Hour-long tinkering, on the other hand, will lead to frustration and churning customers. If consumers can’t find the solution they’re looking for through self-service, the whole trick is to hand them over from self-service to a human agent before annoyance arises.
Accordingly, a well set up customer service funnel will result in a reduction of tickets, as a bunch of customers will be able to help themselves and through the saved time, your agents will have a chance to focus on the complex cases the bot can’t handle, with a lot more attention to detail.
As mentioned before, some customer queries can’t be handled in an automated way and require a human touch which can be achieved by handing over from chatbot to agent seamlessly. While there are tools that will help your agents draft better replies more quickly, or save their time, there is no point in aimlessly implementing processes and tools that in a worst case scenario will overwhelm the service department and end up costing more time than they save.
It is a lot more important to give each agent a certain extent of freedom to make choices based on what requests and customer history look like. Your agents are the ones who know the company and customers inside out - they might find pride in coming up with creative solutions to customer’s troubles - that is, if you let them. Agents that have the time to adjust to and handle each customer individually will show your customers that you truly care. As for the tools and processes - don’t drop the ball on reliable third party integrations yet - pick the ones that empower your team.
When it comes to your customers, they don’t like to repeat themselves. Agents, too, don’t want to ask customers about the same information that might have been provided before. It’s a great practice to store all information on customers in one place and hand it over to the agent at the same time a customer is handed over by the bot. With well structured information at their fingertips, agents have a chance to provide superhero customer service.
The best thing about this: data privacy and security concerns are not an issue, as long as your website applies to the current security status quo. Good quality chatbots can retrieve all the needed information directly through your website, hence provide great personalised service.
Companies like Zappos have become famous for their outstanding service. They are a great example of why it can go a long way to make employees happy and establish flexibility in decision making. Of course, some companies go above and beyond: agents are authorised to and have the budget to send letters, cards and gifts to customers, which in turn increases customer retention.
Regardless of how exactly you approach customer service in your company - the key takeaway of this story is that happy, empowered agents make for happy, loyal customers.
It might seem daunting to restructure your service department and put a stronger focus on automation. It might even seem counterintuitive when a personalised customer service is your goal. But personalisation is possible even for automated self-service options. This is especially important in view of the generation shift currently taking place. Millennials and Generation Z are digital natives and strong believers in self-service around the clock - which can only be provided through automation.
Implementing a chatbot can be as easy as copying a few lines of code to your website. Of course, the chatbot training and maintenance also takes some time, but that’s not even close to how much it can save. Once self-service options are in place, a customer service funnel will be installed in no time. Where FAQs and chatbots don’t do the trick, agents with a range of options to work with and enough time per customer should be able to deliver a stellar service experience. Who knows, with the time savings you achieved, you might even be able to send out flowers to those extra complicated cases.
Anna is part of Solvemate’s marketing team. She enjoys being creative, but has always had a weak spot for science and nerdy stuff, too. In her free time she loves expanding her horizon through travelling and many other opportunities that come her way.