The cost of providing superior customer service is high, but the cost of not providing excellent service is a loss that no amount of price cutting or product innovation can substitute. It’s a given that customers are the most important asset any business can have, so it’s understandable that owners and managers sometimes shy away from automating customer-facing processes. Today’s automation is not like those maddening automated phone attendants that seem designed to keep customers in an endless frustrating loop of “Dial one for x. Dial two for y…”
A recent Harvard Business Review article notes that sales reps are spending 21 percent more time on administrative tasks than they were in previous years. Automating some of those administrative tasks can improve customer satisfaction and increase sales. Though as research firm Gartner advises, it’s important to balance productivity improvements from automation with the customer experience.
Today’s automation can delight customers by creating a stronger connection and providing valuable information and insight into aspects of your business they care about.
Here are seven key ways automation can improve customer service:
Acknowledge an Issue
When a customer lodges a complaint or reports a problem, receiving an immediate email response, that outlines exactly when and how you will follow-up, helps take the edge off any annoyances. It’s important that you execute on the promise in your email to avoid making the problem worse. For example, if your email states the customer will receive a complete response or a phone call within 24 hours, make sure he or she receives that call or response on time.
Provide Product Information
Requests for product information are signs of an interested and motivated buyer, so you never want to let these sit for long. Yet what if you have customers all over the world and only a small local staff? Automation is the solution; it can respond immediately with product information, collateral, price, and delivery — whatever customers might need to know — 24/7. Later, you can send an automated follow-up message thanking them for the inquiry and offering to answer any additional questions.
The one-size-fits-all t-shirt has become a joke because we all know it fits very few people well. Don’t make your offers a one-size-fits-all joke. Use automation to personalize offers to the buyer’s region, demographic, buying stage, gender, or whatever makes sense. Automation can help by selecting the right offer and personalizing it with the customer’s name and location, as well as many other characteristics.
Answer Common Questions
No matter how good your product documentation is, multiple customers often ask the same questions. Don’t waste valuable customer service representative time retyping or even pasting the same response into emails repeatedly. Automation software can recognize the question and select the appropriate response, providing fast, accurate information without hindering a valuable resource.
Communicate Order Status
Most customers love order status information. Make your customers happy by providing information at every step of the process so they know when orders ship and when they will receive them. It’s a simple process to automate, and the payoff results in happier customers and fewer calls requesting updated status information.
Show You Care
Send customers a birthday greeting or a holiday message using automated processes to ensure the appropriate message arrives on time for your best customers. It's a simple and thoughtful gesture that shows you value customers and know they are special.
It makes sense to treat your most valuable customers well. Segment your customers based on annual spend and then tier your services, so your most valuable customers get the utmost personal attention. If many routine customer service tasks are automated, your team will be free to provide personal service and special touches to those highly valued customers. In the end, you have happier customers regardless of the segment customers are in, because automation has enabled better service for all.
As U.S. Chief Operating Officer at Esker, Steve Smith is responsible for all operations in North, South and Central America. Esker is a global leader in document process automation, helping organizations around the world automate their manual business processes and increase their workflow and productivity.