When most people think of customer support automation, they usually think of chatbots. And the AI-powered chatbots of today do an incredible job of understanding natural language and responding appropriately. But there’s an unseen side to support automation that is moving the needle behind the scenes: intelligent process automation.
So what is intelligent process automation anyway?
Intelligent process automation (IPA) is the automation of certain business processes using technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms. It differs from robotic process automation (RPA) in that RPA operates on a rules-based system whereas these smart technologies enable the system to learn and improve as time goes on.
Essentially, it is the automation of many behind-the-scenes business processes — especially processes that are routine and repetitive, like routing a customer service ticket — using AI to understand what needs to be done and automation to automatically follow a workflow of what should happen next.
Why is intelligent process automation useful for customer service?
Intelligent process automation can help customer service teams by relieving agents of tedious or manual tasks. Everything from looking up an order status to routing requests to the right rep can be done by a bot or a virtual agent instead of a human one. This reduces the workload for your agents and gives them more time to work on more complex and rewarding cases instead.
This can also radically improve customer support because it simplifies interactions and speeds up processes for your customers. Overall, between lower operational expenses and faster response times, process automation can easily be the unsung hero of your support team — especially in times of economic uncertainty.
“Brands who have already automated behind-the-scenes processes are reaping the rewards in these challenging economic times. They’re seeing efficiency gains, streamlined operations, and faster customer resolutions at lower cost.”
- Reetu Kainulainen, CEO & Co-founder, Ultimate
How to add intelligent process automation to your customer support team
Getting started with process automation doesn’t have to be complicated. Some automation platforms have a tool — like Ultimate’s Automation Explorer — that can review your historical support data and determine your automation potential. Basically, AI analyzes all the conversations you’ve ever had with your customers and determines what requests and tasks can be entirely taken care of by the virtual agent and which ones it can assist with. It’ll then estimate how many agent hours you could save and even recommend what to automate first.
In addition to responding to customer requests like any AI chatbot can, Ultimate’s automation platform includes a ticket and intelligent process automation solution. So if you choose Ultimate’s platform, you can rest assured your bot is triaging your support tickets, routing them to the right rep, and even enriching them with data it pulls from your back office systems to make your customer service as efficient as possible.
“Where Ultimate shines for us is in automation. The bot doesn't simply talk to the customer about what they need or just provide self-service resources, it can also access data, integrate with our systems, and actually solve issues for customers itself. The automation also helps simplify and automate processes on our back end to reduce agent effort and remove rote tasks.”
- G2 Review, Verified User in Enterprise Computer Software
How intelligent process automation will help your business save money and generate revenue
Business leaders are keeping a close eye on the purse strings right now. So if you want the budget to invest in new tools and tech, here’s the business case for automation: Automation can cut down on operational expenses by reducing inefficient agent time and even present the opportunity for your CS team to generate revenue. In fact, 36% of business leaders saw direct revenue generation with support automation in 2022.
Here are some use cases for IPA:
Routing tickets to the right rep and department to reduce Average Handle Time (AHT)
Integrating with your CRM enables automation to pre-populate tickets with info like the order number or customer’s email address to reduce agent effort
Instant resolving of simple requests (like password resets) without any human interaction to handle more tickets without adding headcount
Freeing up your support team so they have more time to tackle more complex cases and take time to learn about products so they can proactively cross-sell whenever they interact with your customers
Scaling the upselling and cross-selling process with your virtual agent that can automatically suggest products or services that it has determined your customers might be interested in
Best practices for implementing intelligent process automation for customer service
It’s important to remember that process automation can’t resolve every issue. Here are some best practices to ensure intelligent process automation enhances rather than hinders your customer experience.
- Integrate IPA into your processes by onboarding your team slowly — there's no need to automate everything all at once.
- Ensure a seamless experience for your customers by making sure that you’re balancing what needs to be done by a human with what is optimally performed by a bot.
- Monitor and adjust your IPA usage as needed and be sure to ask for customer feedback so you can iterate and improve upon your process automation.
- Consider automating other aspects of your customer service — like implementing chat automation — to increase your team's efficiency even further.
Overall, when done right, intelligent process automation will benefit your business’ bottom line by increasing efficiency, reducing operational costs, and saving your team valuable agent hours, allowing your team to work smarter instead of harder in the years to come. Combine this with giving your customers the fast, personalized service they expect and deserve? You’ve got a recipe for success in any economic climate.