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3 Ways to Automate Customer Service (Without Using a Chatbot)

Improve your customer experience without handing conversations to a bot.

November 6th, 2017

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Emma Martins



With infamous examples of artificial intelligences going wrong, some businesses are understandably reticent to integrate a chatbot into their customer service (CS) operation. But you’ll be glad to hear that they aren't the only way of automating customer service. In fact, automation options are progressing steadily, with many gaining steam this year. Here are just three examples:

Workflows

What are they?

Workflows can sound quite complex but they’re actually a relatively simple concept. They’re a set of rules - or actions - that you attach to specific events. This can be something like an automated message being sent to the customer when they contact you.

But it can be far more useful than that. Workflows can be used within your communication platform to trigger an action for many types of events, like inbound or outbound messages being received/sent, a reason for contact changing, and even a specific amount of time passing during/after an interaction. 

Data can be collected and presented to advisors, prioritisation can be set, and calls to external systems can be made. If you work closely with an experienced developer, the possibilities can go on forever.

Why are they important?

Traditionally, the above would have been done manually; someone would have to filter incoming messages to the correct operator.

This obviously takes a vast amount of time when your contacts per hour is high. Whilst IVR has been used to route phone calls to the right department for years, conversations on other channels needed a new solution.

And it also left a lot of room for error.

workflows connect messages with the best operator

If the person assigning conversations didn’t assess the inbound message correctly – or if the IVR wasn't cooperating – the interaction could easily be assigned to an operator who isn’t as trained in the subject as they need to be. Alternatively, it means that all operators have to be somewhat trained in everything, rather than having experts in a particular area.

With workflows, none of these problems exist. The workflow system will automatically assign the right interactions to the right operators. And it does this at speed (we're talking milliseconds here), meaning customers don’t have to wait in huge queues to talk to someone. Since an expert will be handling every interaction, both resolution times and first contact resolutions are improved. And, on top of that, workflows free up employees who previously had to assign conversations to handle other tasks. All of this leads to happier customers and a higher satisfaction rate.

"Workflow is so important because it gives companies full control over the routing of messages to operators. The full automation of routing means - when used correctly - the right messages are worked by the people with correct skills, at the right time, and in the correct order. This is vital for companies to be able to adhere to SLAs, prioritise query types, and deal with escalations.”  – Ryan Crook, Head of Support at Gnatta

Context Gathering

What is it?

Context – and data – gathering is one of the first steps of any interaction. Traditionally, an operator would have to read through a customer's messages as they're sent and identify any relevant information. For data gathering, this includes things like names, account numbers, and product names.  Context gathering requires information such as why a customer has contacted you or where their order is in its journey.

Why is it important?

If a customer doesn’t provide the required information in their initial message, the operator must then ask for it and wait for a response. Then, they usually have to fill in data boxes so that this information can be stored for future use. This all takes time and happens before a solution can be reached (data gathering can even take place before the customer has identified the reason for contacting you). So, if it isn’t done quickly and painlessly, both data and context gathering can leave a customer feeling a little frustrated right at the beginning of an interaction.

But with cutting edge technology, this can all be automated. You can use application programming interfaces (API's) to connect the systems you use. Software A can ask software B for information, receive it back, and represent it in a way that's valuable to your operator. You can use regexes to identify and extract the appropriate data from any incoming messages and then use that data to pull useful information (via an API) from any software that you've connected to your communication platform. Data fields can then be filled in with information such as "account number", "order number", "email address", etc so that all that data is stored in a tidy interface for the operator – and for any future interactions with that same customer.

But this system isn’t just useful in the moment. The information you’ve gleaned can be analysed at a later date for trends and correlations. Have you had a lot of people contact you about a particular product? Maybe something is broken on your website? Or maybe there’s a problem with a promotional code? Your analysts can see all of this.

Traditionally, supervisors would have to collate all information (in Excel or a similar program) to be able to identify these kinds of trends. Our communication platform of choice, Gnatta, on the other hand, has an internal analytics interface that gathers the data from all interactions automatically. Not only does it save the supervisors time, it’s also much easier to identify patterns and analyse things like volume.

Automation is increasingly important in the CS industry. Now is the perfect time to get ahead of the curve and invest in the best automation systems. If you'd like to work with a professional team that can keep you in the know, get in contact with us today.

analyse gathered context to look for contact trends

Follow Ups

What is it?

A follow up is exactly what is says on the tin – following up with a customer after they’ve contacted you or bought a product from you. This ranges from letting them know their product is out for delivery, to asking them if they need any further help once a solution has been implemented.

It can be very easy to assume that all is well as long as you haven’t heard from a customer. But that isn’t necessarily always true. If the solution you’ve provided didn’t work, the customer shouldn’t have to notify you of that fact. Following up with them negates the need for that and shows your customers that you care about the service you’re providing.

Why is it important?

Traditionally, following up with the customer would have been a manual process. Dedicated teams would need to reach out to customers and ask if all was well. If not, they would need to spend time re-opening the support ticket and find the appropriate operator to assign to it. 

So the process can be time-consuming and cost a business a lot in man-hours.  When you consider that 79% of customers think it's important to have a positive view of a brand post-sale, you can begin to see how important follows ups actually are.

But automation means that you can do away with all of that. Now, you can use API’s to connect all your software together. By doing this (in combination with timed Workflows), your software will automatically determine when a status update is due and be able to send it out to the customer for you.

customers think it's important to have a positive view of a brand post-sale

Of course, it’s important to monitor the system; nothing is ever perfect all the time. But if an order does gets lost or a product is late for delivery, you can set up automatic messages that explain the situation to the customer and route them to an operator.

This way, you’re keeping your customers in the know, all the time, without even having to lift a finger. And, if something goes wrong, there will be an operator waiting to solve the issue before the customer even realises there is one. Now that is top class service.

Automation is increasingly important in the CS industry. Now is the perfect time to get ahead of the curve and invest in the best automation systems. If you'd like to work with a professional team that can keep you in the know, get in contact with us today.

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About the author

Emma Martins
Position of Editor & Writer