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Customer Service Automation: A Quick Guide to Getting Started

Customer Service Automation: A Quick Guide to Getting Started

July 23, 2024

Customer Service Automation: A Quick Guide to Getting Started

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Build customer loyalty. Scale cost-efficiently.

A McKinsey report suggests that 60% of global consumers consider convenience a key factor when choosing where to shop. Thus, businesses that fail to offer convenience risk losing customers to competitors who do. 

But what happens when your customer support inquiries outgrow your support team’s capacity? Or when customers reach out for help on holidays or outside office hours? 

Providing consistent, top-notch customer support becomes more challenging as your business grows. Customer dissatisfaction skyrockets by 262% when wait times exceed what customers anticipate​. 

In this scenario, customer service automation comes to the rescue. 

If you’re looking to discover its potential and implement automated customer service for maximum client satisfaction, this detailed guide is for you.

What is Customer Service Automation?

Customer service automation involves integrating an assortment of automation technologies, including self-service chatbots, IVRs, automated notifications, and more, into your customer support operations. The goal is to elevate the customer experience, offering a level of service that surpasses what human agents alone can provide.

A McKinsey report points out that one of the remarkable shifts in post-COVID consumer behavior is shifting notions of brand loyalty. With more options open and available than ever before, customers aren’t shying away from trying out (or switching) to a competitor. 

Therefore, working proactively to build brand loyalty is crucial. And what’s one of the essential ingredients for building brand loyalty? 

An enhanced, empathetic and prompt customer service. 

Automated customer service lets you achieve this. It blends with traditional support methods, such as one-on-one customer calls, to handle large customer queries without running out of resources. 

Some other notable benefits of customer service automation are as follows:

  • 24/7 availability
  • Quick redressal of common queries and FAQs
  • Intelligent ticket routing
  • Improved overall customer satisfaction

The difference between traditional customer support and automated customer support

Traditional and automated customer support are not opposing forces but complementary elements in modern customer service. The optimal strategy blends the strengths of human interaction with the efficiency of automation to create the best possible customer experience.

Here are some fundamental differences between traditional and automated customer service:

Parameter Traditional Customer Support Automated Customer Support
What it is It is a human-focused customer service approach that typically involves direct communication between a customer and a support agent via phone, email, chat, or in-person meetings This involves customer service through technologies such as chatbots, IVR, knowledge bases, ticketing systems, and AI-powered virtual assistants
How it happens Your customer connects directly with a human representative Your customer may or may not connect with a human representative; customers can communicate with chatbots or be redirected to knowledge bases to try out self-help
Pros Advanced personalization, reduced chances of miscommunication 24/7 availability;

reduced operational costs; less pressure on support staff;

significantly shorter customer wait times

Cons Hard to ensure 24/7 availability;

High cost due to full-time employees;

Poor scalability;

Increased pressure on customer representatives

High one-time set-up costs; the probability of misunderstanding customer concerns; may frustrate customers if they can’t connect with a “real person”

How Do You Implement Automated Customer Support? 

Customer service automation takes place through various software channels, such as:

1. Self-service AI chatbots

Powered by the latest generative AI technology, AI chatbots quickly respond to customers’ queries, direct them to knowledge bases, and create tickets. Advanced chatbots even hold a full-fledged conversation with your customers and completely resolve their queries. When unable to assist, they hand off queries to the right support agent.

Ideal for: Resolving repetitive customer issues and queries. AI-powered chatbots can be trained to tackle complex problems using your product’s knowledge base and take action on connected business systems like order management, CRM, payment systems, and helpdesks to resolve requests. Chatbots can also transfer conversations to a human representative for more complex or sensitive issues that require a personal touch.

2. Automated ticketing systems

Automated ticketing systems classify and route complex customer queries to the most appropriate POCs. They collect the relevant customer data, such as images, issue descriptions, and other details, before transferring it to the right touchpoints. 

For instance, a transaction issue would be automatically directed to the finance team, while a product quality concern would involve the most suitable point of contact. This streamlined process ensures that each query receives prompt attention from the most qualified personnel.

Advanced ticketing systems also: 

  • Nudge agents to take action when tickets are open too long
  • Keep customers informed about their ticket status
  • Assign tickets based on agent workload and availability
  • Suggest self-help resources 

Ideal for: Handling transaction-related or product-quality issues that require human intervention but are not urgent. These systems streamline the process, addressing customer concerns promptly while freeing up your support team.

3. Knowledge base

A knowledge base includes product guides, FAQs, video resources, and glossaries that help users with the most common concerns.

A lot goes into creating a worthwhile knowledge base—looking at your support ticket data, analyzing your products, services, or policies, reviewing specific use cases, compiling inputs from cross-functional teams, and organizing it all neatly in a format customers can engage with.

An effective knowledge base fosters self-help and integrates well with your AI chatbot. Once your customer faces an issue you covered in your knowledge base, chatbots redirect your customer there for detailed step-by-step assistance.

For instance, take a look at the omnichannel customer service platform Plivo CX’s knowledge base:

In addition to video guides, this knowledge base provides articles and resources to help users fully understand and utilize the platform's many features.

Ideal for: Covering product demos and tutorials, use cases, or informing customers about your product’s return or refund policies.

4. Canned responses

Canned responses are pre-written text messages that your customer service agents can use to chat with customers quickly. They help improve agent response times and reduce agent fatigue. They also help incorporate brand voice and tone in customer communication across channels.

For instance, an agent named John can have a canned response that says, “Hi, I am John. I will assist you with your issue today.”

Ideal for: If your website doesn’t have a live chat feature or your customers prefer reaching out to you over email, implement canned responses for FAQs related to products, services, returns and exchanges, and pricing to decrease the response time. 

5. Voicebots  

Leveraging the advanced capabilities of conversational AI, natural language processing (NLP), and speech recognition technologies, interactive voice-based assistants add a layer of superior and personalized customer service to your business while lowering operational costs. They understand customer sentiments and optimize call routing by sending high-priority issues to the right team. Moreover, AI-driven bots can provide round-the-clock service to customers in the language of their choice.

Ideal for: Handling tier-1 support queries and routine inquiries. In healthcare, voice bots can schedule appointments and provide information on treatment options. In banking, a voice bot can verify a customer’s identity and perform tasks like checking the account balance and blocking a stolen card.

The Advantages of Automated Customer Support 

1. Allows for seamless scalability 

Your mid-sized business may be managing customer support with a small team today, but as your business grows and customer inquiries increase, your team will soon reach its limit.

Customer service automation handles thousands of customer interactions simultaneously. Plivo CX integrates with your existing tech stack as you grow—ticketing, order management, CRMs, and more. 

Additionally, you get to build customizable no-code workflows that are automatically triggered with any inbound call or text. For example, you can set a workflow to route high-priority and usual customers to different queues. 

2. Provides 24/7 support availability

24/7 availability simply means allowing customers to reach out for support anytime. You also risk customer churn if you are slow to respond or hang up on them. Plus, hiring night shifts is not just expensive, but night-time workers are also at a higher risk of anxiety and mental health concerns. 

To avoid this, AI-powered chatbots ensure customer queries are answered round the clock, whether your support team is online or not. To elevate the customer experience further, Plivo CX partners with OpenAI to offer intelligent chatbots you can easily train and connect with your existing knowledge base.

Also, the platform’s drag-and-drop workflow builder allows businesses to create custom customer journeys across all their communication channels. Not only that, the platform seamlessly integrates with various systems, including homegrown solutions.

3. Improves agent efficiency 

Apart from handling customer concerns, your customer service automation tool empowers agents to focus on value-driven activities such as attending to complicated questions, upskilling, analyzing and improving performance. 

For this, Plivo CX offers a Unified Agent Desktop that offers a clutter-free agent interface. On the left pane, agents can toggle seamlessly between incoming customer calls or messages. 

They can also use and switch between every channel—voice, chat, text/SMS, and WhatsApp—all in one place. Furthermore, agents have real-time access to complete customer information, ensuring contextually relevant and personalized interactions.

4. Enables omnichannel communication 

Source

Omnichannel communication involves addressing customer issues and communicating with them on the channel of their choice, be it voice, email, WhatsApp, call, or SMS. This is slightly different from multichannel customer communication and can deliver a seamless customer experience more effectively.  

As an omnichannel customer service platform, Plivo CX lets you seamlessly switch between voice, OpenAI-powered live chat, SMS, MMS, email and WhatsApp, or use multiple channels simultaneously from one screen. 

It also offers out-of-the-box integrations with Salesforce, Zendesk, and Shopify to centralize your customer information in a single source of truth. Moreover, you can configure omnichannel customer journeys that help with better CSAT via intelligent routing and better problem resolution.

5. Helps you gain valuable customer insights 

The right customer service automation tools help you monitor what’s going on at your call center up close. They come with features like live dashboards that help you see agent productivity in real time, along with powerful reports to make your call center processes better. 

The Service module of Plivo CX offers access to powerful live metrics with features like Call Barge or Whisper to let supervisors take over when agents feel stuck while talking to customers. 

Top Customer Support Automation Tools 

Tool Pricing Ideal For
Plivo CX (Service module) Starts $19/user/month, billed yearly (chat only) Mid-sized B2C businesses, healthcare, retail
Aircall Starts $30/license (minimum three licenses required) Financial services, travel and hospitality, software and tech industries
Zendesk Starts $19/user/month, billed yearly Suitable for businesses of all sizes, from startups to big enterprises
Talkdesk Starts $85/user/month Small to mid-sized businesses, including finance, retail, and healthcare

1. Plivo CX 

Plivo CX is web-based customer service automation software that enhances agent productivity and elevates customer satisfaction. The platform supports multiple communication channels, enabling businesses to engage with customers via AI bots on messaging channels, voice, SMS, email, and WhatsApp to offer a seamless experience for both customers and agents. 

It also leverages Plivo’s award-winning global messaging and calling network to provide customers with fast, faultless communication. So, there is no dependence on third-party services. 

Plivo CX is a perfect fit for midmarket B2C and eCommerce businesses because it seamlessly integrates with CRM systems, help desk software, marketing automation platforms, homegrown systems, and so on. 

Key features

  • Leverage OpenAI-powered chatbots, IVRs, and knowledge base integration to automate a large portion of your inbound customer queries
  • No-code drag-and-drop workflow builder lets you decide how you exactly interact with customers across channels
  • Make contextual and historical customer data available in a Unified Agent Desktop from your CRM or other systems so that your agents can seamlessly switch between voice, chat, text/SMS and WhatsApp
  • Measure your agents’ performance using historical reports and live dashboards, along with comprehensive support for coaching

Limitations

  • It is not ideal for transactional ticket-based support
  • Lacks quality assurance and workforce management features
  • No mobile version for support agents

2. Aircall

Aircall empowers customer service with features like intelligent call routing, missed call tracking, call context and analytics, the ability to blocklist numbers, and more.

It also supports collaboration via shared contacts, enabling your team to follow customer conversations. Aircall’s customer service automation software offers analytics to gain granular details of your customer service center performance. 

Key features

  • Get customer context on every inbound call with Insight Cards
  • Smartflows Call Routing lets you build inbound call flows to redirect calls to the right agents
  • Get insights into analytics like total inbound or unanswered calls or talk-to-listen ratios

Limitations

  • Rudimentary workflow designer lacks flexibility for custom journeys needed by larger businesses (Source)  
  • Offers only voice-based customer support, lacks helpdesk and knowledge base features
  • Has robust features for voice support but does not support other channels

3. Zendesk

Zendesk is an all-in-one customer service automation tool that supports omnichannel communication. It offers services such as call support, chatbots, ticketing, and knowledge base creation and integrates with 1,200+ pre-built apps and business sources. 

Key features

  • Zendesk works predominantly on a ticket-based approach where complex customer queries are routed as tickets
  • Its AI-powered chatbots, called AI agents, offer personalized support and provide human agents with necessary context when needed
  • Integrates well with most of the popular software and apps in your tech stack, including CRM systems, and offers immense potential for customization

Limitations

  • Live monitoring and coaching capabilities are missing (Source
  • Has limited calling capabilities (Source)
  • Lacks customizable workflows
  • Relies on a transactional ticket-based system for all interactions

4. Talkdesk

As an AI-powered contact center solution, Talkdesk offers self-service AI, omnichannel support, and a customizable customer journey builder. It also offers support for training, coaching, and managing your customer service agents and analytics to measure customer satisfaction.

Key features

  • Provides a user-friendly interface that allows easy navigation for agents to access customer information and handle calls efficiently
  • ACD intelligently routes incoming calls to the most appropriate agent based on skill set, availability, or customer history
  • Supervisors can monitor live calls or review recordings to provide feedback and improve agent performance

Limitations

  • Offers a voice-only base pack, which is pretty expensive
  • Requires separate helpdesk software for comprehensive interaction management
  • Relies on a third-party service for voice calling functionality
  • Lacks native omnichannel capabilities, limiting seamless customer interaction

How Plivo CX Helps With Customer Service Automation

Deliver exceptional customer service anytime and anywhere with Plivo CX’s tailored solutions. Proactively meet your customers' needs on all fronts and exceed their expectations. 

As a cloud-based omnichannel platform, Plivo CX empowers businesses to automate customer service through AI-powered chatbots that provide instant support, intelligent ticket routing to ensure inquiries are handed over to the right agent and a Unified Agent Desktop for seamless access to customer information. 

Additionally, the platform offers self-service options like knowledge bases and FAQs, reducing agent workload and empowering customers to find answers on their own. 

This comprehensive automation streamlines customer service operations, improves efficiency, and enhances customer satisfaction.

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