Customer Support Academy

Intro to Automated Customer Service

Discover the basics of how to get started with automation in customer service, and learn what AI-powered automation can do for you.

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By the end of this module you’ll:

  • Understand what customer support automation is and its benefits for customer service teams
  • Recognize key AI and automation terminology
  • Know what to consider when choosing an automated customer service solution
  • Know the first steps to getting started and launching automated customer service
  • Be aware of the most common automation misconceptions
20 min. Clock

Automated customer service 101

It’s clear that customer experience is more important than ever. PwC’s Future of CX report found that experience is a key differentiator that overtakes even a product’s price, with 86% of buyers likely to pay more for a better customer experience. And customer expectations continue to grow.

Customers today expect fast, efficient, and personalized customer experiences. And companies that struggle to scale their customer support teams to accommodate these expectations will fall behind. So how can businesses keep up?

Enter: customer service automation. Automating your customer service means providing customer support through automated technology and thereby reducing the need for human assistance. 

Automation is a tool that streamlines workflows, reduces the amount of simple, repetitive requests that human agents have to answer, and allows customers to self-serve — helping them find answers to their questions through how-to videos, FAQ pages, and other resources. This frees up your agents to spend time on more complex, high-value work that requires a human touch.

When most people hear the word “automation”, they think of chatbots (and they probably remember a frustrating experience or two). Advancements in AI technology mean that the chatbots of today are leaps and bounds ahead of the ones you’re probably imagining. And, in fact, support automation is so much more than just chat automation.

Let’s take a look at what modern customer service automation looks like and what it can do for you.

What’s possible with automated customer support

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Automate simple processes

You can start small and simply use a bot to tag tickets, collect customer details or offer suggested answers, streamlining your support team’s work.

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Entirely automate requests

Sophisticated AI-powered solutions are headless, integrate into your CRM and connect to your back office with custom APIs, enabling end-to-end automation.

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Increase speed of service

Be there for your customers 24/7 across digital channels, including chat, email, social media, and messaging apps and get through your inbox faster.

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Free your agents from mundane tasks

Give your support team their time back so they can use their talents on more rewarding, higher level work that requires a human touch.

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Scale your support

Protect your team from high ticket volumes and seasonal fluctuations in requests and offer multilingual support so you can enter new markets easily.

How to choose a customer service automation solution

Now you know what customer support automation can achieve. But not all automation solutions have the exact same features. Here’s what to consider when choosing an automated customer service platform. 

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Channel capabilities

Check what channels the automation solution you’re considering supports and think about what channels you might want to automate in the future. Going with a chat-only solution might suit your needs for now, but you may want to go with an omnichannel solution that does everything from email to chat, social to mobile messaging. 

With the right tools, including integrations and well-thought-out conversation design, you can ensure that your customers can not only communicate with you through their channel of choice, but that information flows between  channels seamlessly. This means that customers don’t have to put up with extra waiting times or repeating information as they move between modes of contact.

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Language capabilities

For brands with a global reach, multilingual, native-language support is crucial. Surprisingly, this is where most AI providers fail, especially with more complex languages. Many use translation tools that end up decreasing accuracy, causing confusion for customers and negatively impacting a brand’s tone of voice. Instead, look for AI and NLP-powered bots that can understand multiple languages in native fluency and be trained in any language.

And for smaller companies operating in single markets, it could still make sense to choose a multilingual automation provider. With the right tech set up, customer service teams will be primed to scale their support as their business expands around the world.

TimSheard
“The first thing you need to do is work out where your customers are. Do some proof of concepts, do some outreach on those channels, and see where they want to interact with you.”

Tim Sheard
Director, Tech Alliances, Sunshine Conversations and Messaging, Zendesk

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Configurability

It’s important to consider what you’d like your virtual agent to be able to do beyond simply replying to customers. If you choose an automation platform that connects with your existing CRM, and that offers custom backend API integrations, the solution can be as deeply embedded into your processes as a human agent. This means you won’t create new data silos when adding to your tech stack.

Integrations allow a virtual agent to check multiple platforms like your CRM or order management system for data, add that data to a ticket, route it to the correct person, and even instantly resolve requests. Backend integrations increase the possibility of end-to-end automation without any agent intervention.

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Complexity

Finally, you’ll need to consider who is going to manage your customer service automation solution. Both low-code and no-code platforms are available, and each have their own advantages.

No-code platforms are designed to be intuitive for non-technical users. They are easy to use, quick to set up, and once they are up and running, it’s simple to onboard new bot managers as your team scales. Low-code platforms offer flexibility, but involve some knowledge of programming languages in order to build and maintain the automations. These solutions work well for companies with the IT support and other resources available to get an automation platform running smoothly.

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Get started with automation

While this is a great place to start, this is by no means an exhaustive list of things to look for in an automation provider. To get a full picture of what to consider and what it takes to launch automation, download our guide to getting started with automated customer service.

Download getting started guide

Trending AI & automation stats

CS leaders that plan to invest in AI in the next 2 years 79%
According to Gartner
Customer interactions that will be AI-enabled by 2025 95%
According to Accenture
Business costs that automation helps curtail $8 bill.
According to CNBC

5 common automation misconceptions

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The higher the automation rate, the better

Not all tasks lend themselves to end-to-end automation. Partial automations can still reliably reduce first response time (FRT) and average handle time (AHT).

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Automation will replace your human agents entirely

Automation will never displace your entire CS team since empathy and a human touch are key to a satisfying CX. But it will reduce overall costs and agent churn.

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Automation will disrupt workflows & require tons of additional resources

Not if you invest in a provider with an interactive onboarding program, use historical support data to set up your bot and assemble the right team.

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Automation = chatbots

Automation is so much more than just chatbots. Look for solutions that can also route and triage tickets, and automate responses across channels.

Out-of-the-box products are best

A turnkey setup will be the fastest option, but these solutions are less customizable in the future. Invest in a tailored solution to see better results.

Keep learning

Browse the Customer Support Academy for more courses on how to improve customer service