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How to Automate Customer Service (Without Losing the Human Touch)

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It wasn’t too long ago when the key to winning lifelong customers solely rested with the quality of the products/services delivered by a business. But now, things have changed.

Customers no longer base their loyalty on price and product alone. Instead, they stay loyal to companies due to the quality of customer service that they receive.

According to a study conducted by HubSpot research, 93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases with companies who offer excellent customer service.

And this is particularly true in times of crisis. In a short time, COVID-19 has overwhelmed the lives of millions around the globe. And how customers interact with a company during these difficult times can trigger an immediate and lingering effect on their sense of trust and loyalty.

In a post-COVID world, empathy will be the primary barometer for the quality of customer service offered by a company. Companies can demonstrate empathy in customer service by always being available for their customers and making them feel heard, responding to them quickly, and personalizing their email responses to a high degree.

Improving your customer service team’s efficiency can help customer service reps assist customers faster. Automation in customer service is a great way to drive team efficiency. And while it isn’t the Holy Grail, implementing Customer Service Automation can save your team hours and help you respond faster to your customers without losing the personal touch.

What is customer service automation?

The term customer service automation refers to the process of significantly reducing human effort when assisting customers.

Most modern helpdesk software comes with customer service automation capabilities such as automatic assignment, workflow automation (example: changing the status of a support email from pending to closed), and canned responses (templates).

Customer service automation is usually implemented for two reasons — to reduce turnaround time and reduce costs.

Benefits of customer service automation

#1: Making great customer service as easy as one-two-three!

Customer service inboxes receive a large number of incoming emails. This makes it extremely intimidating and challenging for customer service reps to prioritize emails that need immediate attention.

In situations like these, customer service automation can help shoulder the load to a large extent. For instance, customer service automation can be set up so that, based on subject lines, emails can automatically be tagged according to topic or urgency and routed to the team members most qualified to deal with such issues in the blink of an eye.

For example, suppose you are running the customer service team at an e-commerce company. You can use automation to detect all emails with the word “mobile” in the subject line and automatically have them directed to a mobile phone specialist in your team.

This way, your team won’t have to spend hours of time and effort sorting emails, tagging them, and assigning them to the right team members. And because your team is acting on these emails faster, your customers are getting faster replies too.

As an added benefit, these automations will help your customer service team get the grunt work out of the way and give them more time to field the extra-difficult queries and deliver customer delight.

#2: Making customer service delightful

When customers get in touch with your customer service team, long wait times are often their most significant pain points. Long wait times can make your customers feel unwanted, and according to a study conducted by NewVoiceMedia, this is the #1 reason that customers tend to switch brands.

In customer service, the first impression often creates a lasting impression. Your customers are reaching out to you in times of distress, so naturally, long wait times do not bode well.

Customer service automation can help you preemptively do away with wait times by automatically assigning incoming emails to customer service representatives, reducing turnaround time. The benefits of this are multifold. Since emails are now automatically assigned, there is instant clarity on which customer service rep handles which emails, putting an end to missed emails, and ensuring that customers receive faster responses.

This simply translates to a happier, more efficient team, and also spares your customers a great deal of frustration, giving them no incentive to churn or complain.

#3: Delivering better customer service without breaking the bank

To meet the ever-increasing needs of customers, businesses can hire more customer service representatives. But this isn’t always feasible. If you’re a startup, you may have limited funding, or sometimes you cannot find candidates suitable for the available positions. Customer service automation lets you deliver awesome customer support with a smaller team.

Customer service automation can be set up using the most commonly available helpdesk software. Most helpdesks available in the market are now cloud-based and can be purchased on a per-user or a subscription basis.

This means you’ll only be paying for how much you need, and you can upgrade or downgrade depending on your business needs.

#4: Delighting customers with personalization

According to HubSpot research, personalization helps emails perform a whopping 202% better. So it is only natural that when inboxes are inundated with emails, taking a personalized approach can help your emails get noticed and show your customers that you genuinely care for them.

Customers relate more to brands when they feel like they’re being heard. And customer service automation can help you deliver this much-needed personalization at scale.

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Take a look at the examples shown above. While both examples convey the same message, the message on the right is personalized, making it sound less automated and more human.

A great way to personalize emails is by creating email templates with the right placeholder variables. Placeholder variables, in simple terms, are temporary values placed in the body of your email. These placeholders pull unique information from your contacts, such as first name and last name, email address, etc., This way, you’ll be able to customize the email experience for every single contact on your list and deliver personalized emails at scale.

Take a look at the example shown below. In this email template, {{Firstname}} is used as a placeholder variable.

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An email can contain many such placeholders to help you deliver personalization at scale. And this personalization can go a long way in helping you provide excellent customer service by ensuring that your customers feel like they’re being heard.

#5: And finally, happier customer service teams

Heavy manual tasks are the bane of most customer service representatives’ lives since they’re often tedious and time-consuming.

For instance, customer service reps receive multiple emails corresponding to similar, easily resolvable issues more often than not.

While you obviously don’t want to send out robot-generated emails to everything in your inbox, if you find yourself frequently getting the same questions over and over, it’s easy to set up canned responses, which your team can customize with details before you send.

Automating these emails can have drastic effects on your team’s productivity and morale, saving them hours or even days.

Ultimately, in customer service, a happier team = happier customers.

Automating also reduces human error potential by minimizing the human element in a given area of service. A tired customer service representative, for example, may accidentally enter a wrong email address or misspell the name of a customer, sending your customer processes into a tizzy and leaving your customers unhappy and frustrated.

Customer service automation using Hiver

Rule-based automation

With Hiver, customer service teams can easily set up rule-based automations to automate the most common customer service workflows.

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Some of the tasks which can be automated include adding tags to emails based on the sender or subject line, assigning emails to specific team members based on the sender or the subject line, or automatically changing the status of an email.

For instance, Finance teams can set up a workflow to direct all incoming emails with the term “payroll” in the subject line to a team member in charge of managing its payroll. This way, emails get assigned faster, and turnaround time gets drastically reduced.

Similarly, let’s say you run a SaaS business. You provide tiered customer service; emails from priority customers can automatically be flagged with the help of tags so that your team can attend to them on priority.

Automatic Round-robin assignment

In industries such as logistics or travel and hospitality, time is of the essence. Businesses are expected to respond to their customers with minimum turnaround time.

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In such situations, the automatic Round-robin email assignment can distribute and assign incoming emails immediately to available customer service representatives to act on them.

Canned responses (email templates)

Customer service teams in specific sectors, for example – IT, receive a large number of repetitive queries over email. More often than not, they deal with things like forgotten passwords and troubleshooting common problems such as device issues or access control.

Instead of repeatedly typing out the same emails, IT admins can simply create email templates or canned responses specific to each issue. These templates can be organized into folders and shared across the team. These templates can be inserted as email replies with a single click, saving your IT team hours of time and effort and ensuring that your employees have their IT troubles solved faster.

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If you’ve been looking to solve your customer service problems, customer service automation can come in handy. There are many tools out there that can help you get started with customer service automation. You must research these options and pick the one that best suits your business needs.

The benefits of automation in customer service are far-reaching and outweigh the initial costs and technical challenges. That being said, it is essential to remember that it is only the personal touch, the human-to-human relationships that’ll keep your customers coming back for more.

Hiver HQ
Tejas Kinger is a Product Marketing Manager at Hiver. Passionate about tech, startups, and all things SaaS.
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