The first question to ask is how do you keep customers happy? They say humans yearn for human contact.
One side of the argument says humans will always prefer interacting with another human. The logic behind this is that we are a social species, we live in society and are designed or programmed to interact with each other.
On the other hand, isn’t this argument that was used against taking away the toll operators? Or even the iconic phone operator? Against self-service checkout at supermarkets?
Where do we go from here?
We don’t automate everything. We start by defining a simple ground rule: “Automation is great, if – and only if – it brings you closer to your customer. Anything else is a bad move.”
Some companies see customer queries as a necessary evil. Their thinking often is: the harder you make it for people to reach you, the fewer people will. So you’ll need fewer employees answering queries and the customers will end up learning by themselves.
No phone number or contact email on the website — just dozens of pages of terms and conditions and FAQs. Occasionally, a chatbot on Facebook that can’t answer any of the questions and doesn’t let you move on to a human. Twitter messages that get an automatic reply but then go unanswered for months.
For quite obvious reasons, customers hate that kind of service. Because automation here becomes the source of frustration and negativity.
There is some science to this: research shows we don’t mind using digital channels (FAQs, YouTube, how-to’s, Google) to get information. But we turn to humans to get help. Invoca, studying this, realised human conversation is still the primary way “people make complex purchases or emotional decisions.”
This should not be rocket science, but we’ve all experienced this. Needing helping and having to work harder than Sherlock Holmes to discover a company’s contact. We hate it because: “Less work for employees often means more work for customers.”
And if your potential customers are struggling, the last thing you want to do is have them jump through hoops. Not only will a vast majority of them drop out along the way, the few that remain will have stayed out of sheer stubbornness. A few of these will, by this point, not even want any help any more: they just want to hurl abuse at you.
Abuse that you have earned.
Automated for the people
Technology can help you provide a better service and a quicker customer support experience. This is where it excels:
- Solving issues before they arise: if you notice your users having a recurring difficulty in any step of the user journey, you can make sure that signs of this will trigger a reaction (be it a chat window or an invitation to check out the Help section).
- A helping hand in times of need: if you detect signs of struggle (like going back to the FAQs several times in a row), you can automate the sending of emails/texts letting customers know exactly who to contact if they need help. Quoting Brian Gladu: “Automation’s role is simply to start that conversation at the first sign of distress rather than waiting for the customer to do so.”
- Helping your customer support agents: while most people think of tech as helping the customer, you can automate what information your staff needs to know (who the customer is, what they’re trying to do, what they’re struggling with). This will result in a faster, better customer-service: making the customer happier, while also freeing your agents to answer other queries sooner.
Using automation to help your customers get better, faster, more personalised customer-support by another human when they need it has plenty of advantages. 61% of customers only look for help at the point of purchase, so it will improve conversions. It increases sales: customers with good experience purchase more. It improves customer retention or loyalty. And it brings in new customers.
The bottom line is: if your automation improves customer satisfaction, it will boost sales.
If it worsens it, you need to improve it or keep it human.