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The business leader’s guide to customer service automation

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Drive growth and reduce costs with omnichannel business messaging

Why customer service automation delivers the support experience customers need

McKinsey’s 2023 Global B2B Pulse found that 77% of companies that personalized the B2B experience in 2022 increased their market share.

The same report found that B2B buyers are engaging with 10 sales channels today. While most businesses aren’t prepared to serve personalized experiences at that scale, those who get there will likely win more of the market than their competitors.

It’s safe to say that 2024’s leading customer experience trends will demand hyper-personalization and the ability to deliver seamless omnichannel service at every level of scale.

So how do you deliver the experience consumers crave — and get ahead of your competitors before they catch on and catch up? We think customer service automation is going to play an instrumental role in this.

In this guide, we’ll teach you everything you must know to excel at customer service automation. We’ll first define customer service automation, understand why automated customer service should be implemented, and talk about the customer service automation process. We’ll then look at best practices and predictions for customer service automation, and understand how to implement top-quality automation in customer service with Sendbird. Let’s get started!

What is customer service automation?

Customer service automation involves the use of digital technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), AI chatbots, and self-service platforms, to handle customer inquiries and tasks without human intervention. This aims to increase efficiency, reduce response times, and personalize customer interactions at scale. Businesses can allocate human resources to more complex and nuanced customer service needs by automating routine and repetitive tasks.

Because of the role support so often plays in a consumer's overall experience with a brand, customer service automation is core to building customer experience automation.

Why welcome automation in customer service

Of course, the goal of automating customer service is to enable your team and app to serve a top-quality customer experience.

But maybe you need a little more convincing — or just more fuel for your stakeholder presentation on the topic!

Either way, we’ll go ahead and further break down the precise benefits automation can deliver across customer retention, finances, business intelligence, and beyond.

Enable around-the-clock automated customer service

One of the most significant advantages of incorporating automated customer service is that it allows your business to offer support 24/7.

This means that no matter your team’s geographic location, your customers' geographic location, or your target audience’s particular circumstances (hello, shift workers and on-call professionals!) — your contact center is always open. There is no need for anyone to work around arbitrary business hours when self-service automation is an option for less complex tasks like answering shipping questions or resetting passwords.

The self-service option afforded by automation in customer service is especially important when you consider that most customers already expect you to have a self-service support portal.

Make support pros more efficient

We specifically mentioned less complex support tasks in that last section because this is exactly where automation in customer service comes in. Customer service automation isn’t a good fit for multi-part questions, explaining complicated processes, or handling issues that need an empathetic human touch.

What it is good for is those simple requests that just require looking at a few resources, sending updates and other repetitive and simple tasks, and in some cases collecting information to send to a human agent so they can provide personal support quickly.

Automated customer service is all about clearing the mundane out of the way so that your highly-trained support personnel have the time and headspace to do the deep work they’re good at with increased efficiency.

Ensure support is ready to scale with customer service automation

As a team of in-app communication specialists at Sendbird, we work with a lot of tech across many industries every day. Scale is one of the biggest challenges we help businesses to manage.

Scale is a double-edged sword. Of course, you want to grow, and maybe even go viral. But as soon as you do, your tech and team will likely have trouble keeping up. By the time you’ve scaled up to match, you've likely waned a bit in popularity and are now overpaying for resources you aren’t using.

Adopting automated customer service software instead can help you deal with rapid changes to keep providing quality, omnichannel service your customers have come to expect.

Better data = better insights

An advantage of using high-quality customer service automation software is that it can quickly gather and help you analyze customer data, resulting in better-informed business decisions.

Consider all the invaluable app details that can stagnate in customer support chats daily: in-app feedback on your onboarding flow, bug reports, competitor comparisons, great new feature ideas, and more. With an automated customer support program that connects this information to the rest of the go-to-market (GTM) team — marketing, sales, product development, etc. — you can improve your app and flow based on insights from real users.

6 applications of automated customer service

Here are some of the best ways in which your business can automate customer service.

In-app notifications

In-app notifications refer to application-to-person (A2P) messages that are delivered directly within a company's application. These notifications usually convey essential business information, account-related updates, marketing, support through onboarding and the rest of the user journey, and other pertinent content.

In-app notifications are a perfect candidate for customer service automation because they can be immediately enriched with user data and app usage information, so they’re always personalized and relevant to an individual’s preferences and behaviors. Check out this guide to learn more about use cases, benefits, and examples of in-app notifications.

AI chatbots for customer service automation

AI chatbots are a powerful solution for businesses looking to add automation to their customer engagement strategy, boost customer satisfaction, and streamline business operations.

The addition of AI to chatbots further powers their ability to inject personalization in automated services, engage in human-like discussions, and learn quickly. By ingesting first-party data, AI chatbots can take on more and more complex queries over time.

An AI chatbot as part of customer service automation
An AI chatbot as part of customer service automation

Support ticketing to automate customer service

With automated ticketing systems for customer support teams, tickets are seamlessly fleshed out and directed to the most suitable agent for the customer inquiry. This is based on expertise or a rotation you’ve already established.

This streamlined process aids teams in reducing resolution time because the right person is always on the case. That, in turn, is pivotal to enhancing the customer experience.

Customer feedback collection and automated services

Again, feedback and automation go hand in hand in the automated services world.

You likely already use surveys to collect customer feedback and inform support processes. We recommend finding customer service automation software to help you automate feedback collection and analysis at key points: after a purchase, after chatting with a support rep, etc. Your team should be able to focus on acting on the data — not gathering and cleaning it.

Answering systems for contact center automation

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) software is a type of contact center automation that initially greets callers and guides them to the appropriate destination, all without human intervention. IVR can also be used to process payments and respond to common queries.

This type of automation is an easy solution for alleviating stress on your support team.

Workflow management in customer service automation

Besides quickly answering basic questions, automation is also powerful for ensuring nothing falls through the cracks.

In a support setting, automation within different workflows can handle things like:

  • Assigning tickets based on the rotation setup

  • Escalating tickets after they’ve been sitting for a certain amount of time

  • Attaching feedback to users within your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system so you always have an accurate view of their experience

Customer service automation in 6 easy steps

A customer service automation workflow could go in myriad ways, depending on your business and the customer’s needs. To offer an example of what it could look like, here’s how a chatbot interaction might proceed.

Automation in customer service: A sample AI chatbot interaction

A basic flowchart of customer service automation
A basic flowchart of customer service automation
  1. A customer lands on a contact form page on your website, so your chatbot pops up on that page to offer assistance. It features an open field for text and a few buttons labeled with actions the user can take, such as checking tracking, talking to an agent, etc. These are called quick replies.

  2. The visitor types something into the bot related to the reason they visited the contact form page in the first place. It could be about the status of an order or something more general.

  3. Relying on AI capabilities such as natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML), the chatbot quickly works to understand the root of the query and the next best action.

  4. It finds a possible answer in your knowledge base, customer support system, CRM, or scripted answer database. It serves that content to the customer.

  5. If the customer cannot resolve their query using that information, the chatbot will provide a few options for proceeding, which may include searching the knowledge base, sending an email to support, or jumping in the queue to chat with the next available human agent.

  6. When an agent can pick up the query, they can see all the context and quickly dive in to provide a thoughtful, creative solution that only humans can.

See customer service automation in action: 2 automated customer service case studies

If you’ve never truly experienced an instance of good customer service automation at work, you may not have a clear idea of how all of the benefits and types we’ve explained here play out in real life.

Let’s walk through a few actual automated customer service examples and their outcomes:

Tata 1mg improves customer experience with automated chat

Tata 1 mg implements customer service automation
Tata 1 mg implements customer service automation. Adapted from source.

Tata 1mg is a digital healthcare platform in a large market — India. Their app can get hundreds of thousands of chat interactions every month. To provide trustworthy responses while keeping their support staff to a budget-friendly size, Tata 1mg uses Sendbird’s chat messaging feature inside their app.

Not only is this approach more organized and integrated for their agents, but the automated chatbot feature means customers whose queries can be answered via self-service get faster resolutions — and more complex situations are escalated more quickly. Sendbird helps Tata 1mg apply automated services in a way that supports their mission to make healthcare more accessible.

Virgin Mobile UAE boosts CSAT with automatic ticket routing

Virgin Mobile implements customer service automation
Virgin Mobile implements customer service automation. Adapted from source.

As one of the biggest telecommunication companies, it’s no surprise that the UAE unit of Virgin Mobile gets more than 1,000 support requests daily.

With a mission to set themselves apart from competitors with a completely digital and flawless customer service approach, they needed to nail omnichannel support.

Virgin Mobile UAE chose Sendbird Desk to embed a seamless support chat experience in their mobile app.

Thanks partly to automated ticket routing and organization, Desk has streamlined the support flow and helped Virgin Mobile UAE grow their customer satisfaction score (CSAT) from 91% to 96% in the support category.

Case study Support mobile

Virgin Mobile UAE improved their CSAT with Sendbird Desk.

4 best practices for automation in customer support

What to ensure you’re still providing the type of customer service interactions users want from your brand and app?

Use this handful of best practices as a gut check to make sure you’re getting the most out of your automation in customer service without alienating loyal users in the process.

Don’t hide support automation

It’s important not to conceal the use of automation in customer service. Providing your chatbot with a name and a personal touch, for example, is totally acceptable — however, the bot's responses should clearly indicate that it is not a human being. This is foundational to the point that customer service automation is not a means to replace human support agents in any way, but to empower them with advanced tools for doing their job better.

Make sure human agents are accessible

Speaking of the human touch in automation, during the hours when customer service agents are available, a user should always have the option to connect with a human agent. This doesn’t mean they automatically get to jump to the top of the queue, but a ticket should be created to ensure an agent addresses their issue promptly.

Remember to personalize automated services

What is one important feature your app can offer to keep users retained and engaged? The answer is personalization.

Consumers want relevant recommendations, sales that align with their shopping behavior or upcoming birthday, and they want to chat with support agents who know their name and previous issues. We recommend that you use support automation software that feeds you all this unique insight to create interactions that are so pleasant that consumers won’t want to start over elsewhere.

Look for AI integration in automated services

Especially considering its applications in conversation, content creation, and quick data collection and analysis, AI is a natural fit with automated support solutions. Keep that in mind when shopping for capable solutions for your agents.

AI integration in customer service automation.
AI integration in customer service automation

What does the future of customer service automation look like?

Here are some advancements that we think will rock the customer service automation world.

A push toward in-app support messaging

There are plenty of reasons why in-app messaging is the future of customer support.

An in-app messaging platform with real-time and async chat features, notification management, and support automation has the power to increase customer service connectivity, speed, efficiency, and personalization — all of which will give you an edge against competitors who are just clueing in to support automation.

Automated customer service as revenue, not cost

Historically, customer service has been a cost center. However, a Gartner survey found that 58% of customer service leaders today intend to contribute to overall business growth.

As customer support becomes more engaged in building topline revenue, automation that makes them more efficient will be more important than ever.

Support automation for customer service gets more predictive

We’re at the threshold of an important evolution in customer service – using AI to provide predictive, instead of reactive, customer service.

Envision a level of customer service so instinctive and finely calibrated that it can foresee and attend to your customers' needs before they even think to express them!

This will become possible as more support applications harness AI to create insights from past patterns, use that data to anticipate future trends, and apply all of this proactively to start conversations and take actions that nip problems in the bud.

Support agent experience prioritized

There’s a lot of talk about the people receiving the support experience, but the people who deliver it are important as well!

A good employee experience predicts a good customer experience. Because of their unique position interfacing with people who may be irate, it’s important that support folks get the tools they need to do their jobs well, enjoy their experience, and pass that attitude on to the customers they work with. Automated support software is one of those tools.

Automation eases the burden on agents by tackling high-volume, low-complexity queries and only raising them to their human counterparts when things escalate. With teams becoming more lean, overwhelmed support professionals need more automation-enabled platforms to keep up with their workload and perform their best.

How to integrate an automated customer service solution (5 steps)

As with any software adoption process, how you choose and implement customer service integration will be unique to your business, team, and app.

However, we can guide you through the high points to hit on your journey:

1. Name your customer service automation goals

Where you need automation to help your team plus where it will make the biggest impact in your business — at the intersection of these things is where you support automation integration goals should land. For example, if your team has trouble keeping up with high chat volume, adding a powerful chatbot with automation features may be your goal. It will greatly help your team and improve the all-important customer experience metric.

2. Achieve team alignment before you automate support

Similarly important to choosing goals is building team alignment. You want to get everyone on the same page regarding goals, then agree on:

  • What customer service tasks should (shipping questions, low-level troubleshooting, etc.) and shouldn’t (high-value customer onboarding, cancellations, etc.) be automated

  • Who is responsible for what when new automation tooling kicks in

  • A plan for training and process development as you deepen your automation efforts

3. Choose and implement customer service automation software

With everyone moving in the same direction, you should now be able to form a shopping list of the features you’re looking for in support automation tooling.

For most businesses, we recommend going in the “buy then build” direction.

This entails selecting an easy-to-install customer support platform like Sendbird Desk, on which you can layer your own customizations and integrations. With this customer support solution, scalability, risk management, new feature development, maintenance, and security are all baked in. All you have to worry about is making it your own and using it to its fullest potential to upgrade your customer — and employee! — experience.

4. Roll out + test your customer service automation solution

Of course, before any new tool goes live and starts actually impacting your app and day-to-day business, you should test it! Try a slow rollout + testing workflow that best uses your time while carefully introducing new functionality to your app. 

We recommend engaging with a demo before you even adopt a tool to ensure it has the core features you want, then rolling it out on your staging app for heavy testing. Finally, you may even launch a “beta” integration on your live app where you only apply automations with certain customers (such as those who will consent to technology testing, etc.) to ensure all the issues are ironed out.

5. Measure and improve your automated services

Finally, one of our favorite stages is the measurement and iteration cycle.

This ongoing process consists of assigning metrics to track progress on your support automation goals, tracking those metrics over time, comparing results to various benchmarks to show growth and competitiveness, and then slowly tweaking features to dial in and dial up progress toward your goals.

Common metrics for measuring success in the customer support field include net promoter score (NPS), customer satisfaction score (CSAT), and customer effort score (CES).

Hit the ground running on customer service automation with Sendbird

By now, we hope you’re excited and ready to automate support in your app.

What makes Sendbird special in the in-app communication space is our focus on high-caliber features that are also fast and simple to integrate.

You can get up and running with Sendbird Desk in no time with our helpful API, SDKs, UIKits, documentation, and tech-savvy support team.

Get started with Sendbird today by signing up for a free trial or requesting a demo from our helpful team.

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