Customer Service Automation: Benefits and How to Get Started

We live in an increasingly connected age where you can get real-time updates on practically any topic and have packages delivered to your door the next day at the click of a button.

The result of this connectivity is that customer expectations are changing rapidly. One area, in particular, is customer service.

When consumers have questions or problems, they want answers right away. Fail to meet those expectations and you risk customers switching to other alternatives.

The obvious answer seems to be to provide better customer support. But things aren’t that straightforward. 

There are challenges on both sides: companies have to spend resources to handle customer needs and customers want a seamless way to get help right away.

Customer service automation helps to address both of these challenges.

In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at what customer service automation is, how it benefits support teams and customers, and examples of how it’s being used. We’ll also look at how you can automate customer service for your business.

What is customer service automation?Illustration detailing customer service automation

Customer service automation is all about using technology to understand a customer’s needs and provide appropriate solutions with minimal or no human involvement. Customer service automation allows companies to handle service requests at scale, which saves both time and effort for support teams and customers alike.

An example of automated customer support is the use of chatbots — a solution that’s powered by artificial intelligence (AI) to simulate conversations with customers and resolve their issues. Chatbots can assist with customer queries and provide links to helpful resources. They can also offer instant resolutions to frequently reported issues by automating workflows. 

Let’s take a closer look at how customer service automation benefits support teams and customers (and why it needs to be more of a priority).

What are the benefits of automating customer service?

Streamlining common and repetitive requests allows companies to focus more of their attention on critical customer interactions. 

Here are some of the benefits of customer service automation. 

Faster response times

Customers today don’t want to wait long, especially if they’re experiencing an issue with a product or service. In fact, 75% of online customers expect a response within five minutes.1

Long wait times are likely to lead to frustration and even cause customers to churn. This is where customer service automation solutions like chatbots and self-service portals come in handy as customers can use them to quickly get answers instead of shooting an email or calling customer support. 

For example, Posti, Finland’s leading postal and logistics service company, reported a 98% reduction in wait times by offering automated resolutions using a Freddy-AI-powered chatbot.

Screenshot of Posti using customer service automation to reduce customer wait times

Reduce overhead costs

Customer service automation can go a long way in reducing overhead costs. Right from lean customer service teams to larger enterprises that are looking to scale their support, automating customer service can deflect a significant portion of support tickets and thus save money and reduce staffing costs.

We were getting about 400 tickets a month in our previous system but since we set up our knowledge base, this number has dropped to about 150-200 tickets a month. – Nick Golovachenko, Support Manager at NeCTAR

Provide 24/7 support

It’s fairly common to offer support during local business hours. But, if a customer has an issue outside those hours, you risk upsetting them if they have to wait until the following day to get support. Offering instant assistance around the clock is all the more important in industries such as hospitality, or banking where issues are more time-sensitive.

74% of customer service leaders expect an increase in contact volumes through 2021, and this fact highlights the need to provide support around the clock.*

Let customers know that you’re receptive to their needs by providing 24/7 support. Offering a self-service portal, or deploying a chatbot or a website widget lets customers quickly find answers whether it’s past midnight on a weekday or early on Sunday morning.

Improve agent productivity

In customer support, performing the same tasks or responding to similar customer queries over and over isn’t the best use of an agent’s time. Answering questions like “What are your business hours?” or, “What is the status of my order?” day in and day out can drain an agent’s time and energy.

33% of customer service leaders in the US reported operating with reduced staff. Combined with increased contact volumes, this has led to overwhelmed support teams and longer customer support times.*

Using canned responses allows your team to respond faster to common questions without having to manually type them out each time. Plus, workflow automation and robotic process automation goes a long way in freeing up your team’s time.

Improved customer service metrics

To determine what’s working in your automation efforts, you need the right data to help you make informed decisions. However, 36% of customer service leaders say that tracking productivity and performance is one of the top challenges their teams face.*Illustration detailing different customer service metricsTracking customer service metrics like resolution times, customer satisfaction scores, and ticket volumes will allow you to monitor performance. By implementing customer service automation, you should see an improvement across all your key support metrics. Freshdesk’s reporting provides a 360-degree view of your customer support’s performance. You can leverage your customer data and measure the improvement in key metrics over time.

So far, we’ve explained what customer service automation is and how it benefits your business. 

Now, let’s look at how you can implement customer service automation. 

How to automate customer service

A challenge for any growing business is meeting customer needs at scale without compromising quality. Here are five steps using which you can implement customer service automation and scale your support:

1. Choose the right customer service software

Customer service automation allows you to automate repetitive tasks and reduce human involvement, but you can’t do that on your own.

The right customer service software will offer the following features that benefit customers  and agents:

  • Omnichannel support: Customers expect seamless interactions regardless of the channel or device they’re using. An omnichannel helpdesk unifies conversations across channels and offers a 360-degree view of customers. This enables agents to offer consistent and contextual assistance without jumping between different tools or tabs. 
  • Customer self-service: Customers want resolutions right away without having to wait. Good customer service software lets you easily set up a range of intuitive self-service options like knowledge bases, community forums, website widgets, and chatbots.
  • Workflow automation: Performing the same tasks over again reduces your team’s productivity. Opt for a solution with AI, and flexible workflow automation capabilities so you can automate all support workflows.
  • Customer service analytics: Monitoring key metrics like resolution time and customer satisfaction scores is key to improving customer support. Look for solutions that provide analytics based on your customer data.

The customer service platform you choose will play an indispensable role for your company. Opt for a solution that includes these features.

2. Build a comprehensive self-service module

Exceed customer expectations by building and implementing a self-service module where customers can resolve certain issues on their own. Follow these steps to get started.

Build a knowledge base 

A self help knowledge base or a self-service portal is a centralized repository that contains comprehensive information about a product or service. Customers can access a knowledge base to get help answers on frequently asked questions.

Here’s an example of our own knowledge base that customers use to get help with our software:

Screenshot of Freshdesk's knowledge base

Knowledge bases aren’t just beneficial for your customers. Support agents can also use them to quickly resolve customer issues and turn frequently asked questions into articles.

Document frequently asked questions, step-by-step guides and other useful information in a knowledge base. Be sure to regularly revisit and update your knowledge base. For example, if you keep getting the same questions from different customers, turn those into articles.

Implement a chatbot

Chatbots improve the overall customer service process when used correctly. They provide a way for customers to get answers right away and allow support agents to focus on more pressing issues.

If you have a team of developers and data-scientists, you can develop your own customer service chatbot. Alternatively, if you don’t have the required technical assistance, you can use a no-code chatbot builder to design and deploy a chatbot Chatbot solutions such as Freddy Self-service that come with a no-code GUI builder lets you map out conversations by simply dragging and dropping elements.

Screenshot of the no-code chatbot builder by Freshworks

Agent-facing chatbots

Thanks to the evolution of AI in customer service, you can also deploy internal chatbots that are also known as agent assist bots. These agent-facing chatbots can offer smart recommendations with the best resource, response, or course of action, and enable agents to resolve issues in no time. Using a Freddy-AI-powered Assist Bot, agents can also execute automated workflows in the click of a button. 

Deploy a help widget

A help widget allows visitors to get help across pages on your website. These can be customized to show helpful solutions depending on where visitors are.

Here’s an example of a help widget that provides support on a product page:

Screenshot of Freshdesk's help widget

Embed your knowledge base and/or a contact form in the help widget. Then deploy the help-widget and support portal on your website so customers can find answers.

Using smart help widgets such as Freshdesk’s help widget, you can also offer proactive customer service by sensing customer frustration and triggering a popup. The widget is fully customizable, so you can make it reflective of your brand.

Set up user community forums

Community forums are discussion boards that you can set up to enable your customers to interact with one another. Past interactions and threads serve as a great source of learning.

Screenshot of community forums

Organize the community forum by bucketing different topics of discussion together and easily track customer requests.

3. Automate customer support workflows

Automating processes in customer service does not stop with routine workflows such as ticketing routing or escalating issues alone. With agent-facing AI and robust workflow automation, you can let your entire support processes run on auto-pilot. This ties back to choosing a good customer service software that offers powerful automation. 

For instance, with Freshdesk and the Freddy AI for CX, you can: 

– Leverage time and event-based triggers to set up workflow automations for the entire ticket lifecycle including prioritizing and routing tickets, following up with customers, escalating issues, and updating ticket properties.  

– Assign tickets coming in from different channels to support agents based on their workload using Omni Route. 

– Update ticket properties for new tickets based on previous data using Auto Triage.

– Enable agents to execute lengthy and complex cross-product backend support workflows with the click of a button.

– Prevent thank-you messages from reopening tickets that were marked as ‘closed’. 

4. Build canned responses and set up autoresponders

Canned responses allow customer service agents to quickly respond to support tickets with one click instead of manually typing out replies each time. Use dynamic placeholders to personalize your responses.

Freshdesk’s canned response suggester offers response suggestions with Freddy AI. Support agents can quickly scan the suggestions and choose the most appropriate one. 

Screenshot of canned response suggestions by Freddy AI

This feature enables your customer support team to get through tickets even faster. And you can also build a repository of canned responses for future use. 

On the other hand, autoresponders are email notifications that are automatically sent to customers when their ticket has been created, or when your team is out-of-office, and so on. Autoresponders are a great way to keep customers in the loop without spending time on crafting and sending the same email each time. 

Most helpdesk solutions come with an in-built feature for auto-responders. In Freshdesk, you can simply toggle the default autoresponders on and customize them, or even create new custom ones based on your requirement.

Screenshot of email notifications within Freshdesk

If your helpdesk does not offer this feature, there are two ways in which you can set up autoresponders:
i) Leverage your automation rules: You can choose a time or event based trigger, and automatically send a message. For instance, let’s say you’d like to set up an autoresponder for tickets that are created outside of your working hours. You can set the condition as – when a ticket is created outside business hours, reply with <message>.

ii) Integrate third-party applications: If you do not have advanced automation capabilities, then you can plug applications like Out Of Office or Email Response Automation into your helpdesk to set up autoresponders. 

5. Monitor customer support performance 

With any customer service automation solution, you need the right data to identify areas of improvement. 

Here are the key customer service metrics to monitor: 

  • Resolution time: Resolution time is a metric that measures the average amount of time it takes to help customers resolve their problems. Automation solutions like chatbots can drastically improve ticket response times. 
  • Customer satisfaction score: Customer satisfaction score is calculated by asking customers to rate how satisfied they were with the support they received. Tracking this score is key to improving your customer service. 
  • Customer effort score: Customer effort score is a metric that measures how easy it is for customers to get an issue resolved. A high score indicates that customers are frustrated with your level of customer service.
  • Ticket volume: Ticket volume is the number of support tickets that you receive over a period of time. Chatbots and self-service portals can help you manage and cut down on support tickets. 

Once you’ve implemented customer service automation solutions, you should see an increase in your CSAT score, and a decrease in resolution time, ticket volume, and customer effort score. 

Conclusion 

The objective of customer service automation is to reduce human involvement for repetitive tasks while still maintaining quality services. With automated services like self-service portals, helpdesk automations, and chatbots, customers can quickly resolve answers on their own, allowing support agents to focus on more complex issues that require a human touch.

Book a demo today to learn more about how Freddy AI can help your business automate customer service and increase overall productivity.