Mia Schulz at OBI4wan explains the benefits of customer service automation.
The number of service messages that come in via social media and messaging channels increased significantly over the past years. For instance, the Dutch retail chain HEMA reported an increase of 60% of volume in 2017, compared to 2016.
At the moment HEMA handles around 30,000 messages per month, of which 8,000 messages on average are via messaging channels. But how do companies cope with the thousands of messages that are coming in on all kinds of channels and at any time without significantly increasing service costs?
For more and more organizations, customer service automation is the answer to the question.
Companies don’t only have to deal with an increased number of messages, but also with increased expectations. Today consumers expect service where and when they want it and as fast as possible.
A company that cannot live up to a consumer’s expectations risks that they will leave immediately. 46% of customers switch to another provider after a bad customer service experience (Accenture).
Moreover, they might not leave silently. Complaints about poor service can go viral in no time via social media and cause damage to a company’s reputation.
Today consumers have numerous possibilities to get in touch with companies. In addition to the traditional service line and customer service via email, many companies now offer the possibility to send enquiries via live chat, messenger and social networks.
WhatsApp especially has become extremely popular among consumers so that more and more companies are deciding to offer service via WhatsApp.
Providing fast, personal and high-quality service via all these different touchpoints is quite a challenge for many organizations. And this is exactly where automation in customer service can help.
What Is Customer Service Automation?
The term customer service automation describes the process of reducing or removing human labour when it comes to assisting customers with their enquiries, needs and wishes.
This is achieved by implementing AI technology and chatbots in customer service processes. Acting as virtual assistants, chatbots are able to perform simple tasks, provide information and initiate processes.
Common tasks that chatbots take over from their human colleagues today are:
- The answering of recurring questions, such as simple questions on products and services with low involvement.
- Supporting service agents by suggesting answers that the agent can approve or disapprove.
- Preparing work for customer service agents, such as asking for missing information like an email address or order number that is necessary to handle the case.
- Identifying conversations and routing them to the right person within the department or company
Frank Smit, Chief Operating Officer at OBI4wan, explains the applications of the chatbots of these days as follows:
“You can see a chatbot as a virtual customer service employee. The bot ‘reads’ the message, determines the intention of the questioner and ensures a complete set of (customer) details. Its job is then about done; the complete set of details are handed over to another employee.”
Importantly, adding automation to customer service does not mean removing the human element completely. The best results are achieved when service agents and virtual assistants are working hand in hand together.
You can easily automate routine and predictable tasks, but when it comes to complex or ambiguous questions, human-to-human interaction is still important.
In order to truly understand customers and respond to their individual needs, we need human empathy, creativity and sensitivity. Alexander de Ruiter, CEO of OBI4wan emphasizes: “The bot is there for efficiency; the employee for empathy. Because of this effectiveness, a bot creates a better customer experience.”
What Are the Consequences of Automation in Customer Service?
Through intelligent automation in customer service, companies can reduce costs, provide better and faster service, and increase customer and employee satisfaction.
Reducing Costs With Automation
A chatbot can handle thousands of messages at the same time, so there is no need to hire new agents when the volume increases. According to an article by Chatbots Magazine, chatbots can save up to 30% in customer support services.
After implementing a chatbot into their service team, a large Dutch e-commerce player managed to even reduce their service costs by 36%.
Better and Faster Service
Chatbots can retrieve information based on keywords much quicker as their human counterparts. In this way, they can answer simple questions instantly and thus speed up the service process significantly.
The Dutch insurance company Unive has set a one-hour response rate as target for WhatsApp and other channels. Due to an increase in volumes on all channels, this target was hard to comply with.
However, since their chatbot was introduced, the average response time has been considerably reduced.
Moreover, virtual assistants never sleep – customers can reach out to them 24/7. With a so-called “After hours bot”, consumers are thus not limited by traditional service hours any more. Moreover, they receive answers quicker and don’t have to deal with waiting times. Nothing is as frustrating as hearing “You are the third in line, please wait”.
Happier Customers and Employees
When routine work and recurring requests are automated, customer service agents have more time providing high quality and personal service to customers.
As their virtual assistants take over time-consuming routine tasks, customer service agents can focus more on the core of their job: Engaging with customers and helping them solve complex issues.
For instance, at DHL the customer service agents, though sceptical at first, soon realized that their new bot helped them spend more time on answering complicated questions and preventing escalations.
As a result, employee satisfaction rate increased tremendously, according to Bas Vogels, Supervisor Customer Service at DHL.
Not surprisingly, chatbots also have a positive effect on customer satisfaction. At the Erasmus University in Rotterdam no less than 90% of users are satisfied with the bot.
What to Consider Before Implementing Customer Service Automation
It is of major importance to determine which parts of customer service are suitable for automation and what should be achieved. What are the goals and what problems and challenges does it solve for your organization?
Existing customer service data should be analysed to get a clear picture of where a chatbot would deliver added value and where one shouldn’t be applied.
Organizations also need to decide on who should be responsible for implementing service automation through chatbots. There are basically two options. You can outsource the development to a chatbot vendor or build your own chatbot using a chatbot platform.
Innovative chatbot platforms make it possible to build chatbots completely without coding. This opens doors for non-tech people, such as customer service agents, to dive into the world of chatbot development and improve existing processes without the help of IT.
“With your customer service agents you already have people in place that understand how to have conversations with customers. With an easy-to-use platform you can empower employees to automate solutions themselves”, says Frank Smit.