How to automate customer contact

Alexander Wijninga

Alexander Wijninga

| 5 min

As a business or organisation, you almost can’t avoid it anymore: automating customer contact. Despite this being new to most only a few years ago, it’s now almost a must for organisations that have multiple customer service employees on the team. The global pandemic contributed to this progression. The growth in digital contact brought on by the circumstances meant that the entire customer service sector needed to start embracing digital (source).

This brought up a lot of critical questions about the customer service landscape. What does it mean to automate customer contact? How will this impact customer satisfaction? Are customers really waiting for us to do this? This blog post will investigate the main themes of these questions.

What does it mean to automate customer contact?

In theory, automating customer contact means that incoming messages are automatically handled without a human agent intervening. In reality, this means using a digital agent: the chatbot. The chatbot responds to customers immediately, and can maintain dozens of conversations at the same time. The bot can also be used on a variety of channels at the same time: from Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp to email. Speed and efficiency are the two biggest advantages to using this technology. There’s also chatbot software available that provides performance statistics such that you can generate insights from trends in your customer contact.

Different forms of automation

The chatbot is the foundation of automating customer contact. The bot can help with automation initiatives for customer service in a number of ways. Sure, it can answer frequently asked questions, but also can be used for lead generation, guiding payment processes or enriching customer profiles. There are also a number of types of chatbots to choose from, for example using a chatbot platform or a custom-built chatbot.

The scepticism around automation

Until recently, businesses were sceptical about using chatbots for customer service. The doubt mostly arose from how a chatbot’s personality was perceived: people believed that chatbots couldn’t provide personal service. There was also criticism about the ability of chatbots to interpret questions. The examples of chatbots that didn’t understand the question aren’t entirely unknown.

These beliefs didn’t arise out of thin air. Research has shown that 67% of consumers (worldwide) always want to have the option to directly interface with a human agent. The reason is typically in case of a digital misunderstanding: when the chatbot doesn’t understand the question.

Why would you want to automate customer contact?

Why then, the choice to automate customer service? There are several reasons. Making waiting times on the phone or for a chat agent to be available is one important aspect. The general speed of the digital world means customers have big expectations when it comes to waiting time. They’re expecting a quick reaction, and ‘within 24 hours’ is unacceptably vague to them. Businesses are looking for ways to service customers as quickly as possible, to prevent complaints or having customers switch to the competitor. This means the average wait time is decreasing overall. Research reveals the average waiting time for live chat is 2 minutes and 40 seconds (source). Regular office hours are also unthinkable: customers expect a fast response even after hours or over the weekend.

Automating customer contact also reduces pressure on the customer service team. Since the chatbot is answering frequently asked questions, the customer service team has more time to breathe, or to do deep work on more complex cases. Our customers using chatbots see more than 75% of customer questions being answered by the chatbot. The more complex inquiries end up with the service team, allowing them the time to work on these more difficult cases as opposed to ‘copy/pasting’ answers to frequently asked questions. That makes their work that much more meaningful.

The advantages of automating customer contact

Here are the advantages of automating customer contact in a handy summary:

  • Speed – customers get answers immediately, and the bot can service dozens of customers simultaneously;

  • Reachability – improve the ease with which customers can reach you by implementing the chatbot on a variety of channels;

  • Ease of use – customers can get in touch with you using their channels of preference, without your customer service team needing to switch among various platforms;

  • Statistics–  using customer service software enables you to get performance insights as to how customers are interacting with you. When? Which times of day? About what topics? Et cetera;

  • Always online – a chatbot doesn’t take any vacation days. Even when a customer asks a question at 3 o’clock in the morning, the chatbot is available to answer;

  • Saving time and money – since the bot takes over frequently asked questions, customer service agents spend less time answering. This saves time and reduces costs;

  • 360 degree customer profile - by linking the chatbot to your CRM system, you can enrich customer profiles with information gathered from customers.

Customer contact automation in 2022

Over the last year, technology has been on a tear. The question marks after automation of customer contact are now exclamation points. Technology and changing customer expectations have offered solutions to the criticisms that were once typical of customer service automation. We’ll walk through the solutions below.

“Chatbots aren’t personal enough”

This is but one of the misconceptions about chatbots we hear. Although technology couldn’t ever fully replace personal contact, chatbots don’t need to be impersonal. What’s more: our customers share that their chatbot is just like a member of the team, and that website visitors sometimes don’t notice that they’re chatting with a bot. A combination of strategy and thoughtful design is the solution to this critique. Still curious? Read our blog to discover how to make a chatbot personal.

Digital fail: “The chatbot doesn’t understand the question”

It happens: a chatbot can’t answer a question if it doesn’t know the answer. Sometimes, the bot will link the question to the best possible answer. This isn’t the same for all chatbots, specifically chatbots that are built with artificial intelligence. AI chatbots are self-learning and continue to expand the chatbot’s abilities, learning the answers to variations on the same questions. There are a number of our customers using an AI chatbot that handle more than 95% of customer contact.

The customer gets stuck in a loop

“You end up going in circles” is one way people discredit chatbots. Aside from artificial intelligence, there are a number of ways this can be overcome. You can choose to transfer a conversation to a human agent if the chatbot doesn’t understand the question being asked. You can also set if this happens immediately after the first time it happens, or if the bot makes a number of additional attempts to understand what the customer’s asking.

We also advise our customers to continuously optimise their chatbots. To make this process easier, our platform provides a list of ‘mismatches’. A mismatch is when a customer asks a question in such a way that the bot can’t interpret the intent. By reviewing the list of mismatches and linking the questions to the right answers, you can ensure the chatbot will be able to provide the correct answer next time. A digital employee also needs some time to ramp up, just like a human agent would. Fewer mismatches will happen as you optimise over time.

Still curious?

Want to know more about automating customer contact? Request a free demo!

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