Automating Customer Service: How to Do it the Right Way

When you automate your customer service, you can expect benefits such as cutting costs, increasing customer satisfaction, and reducing errors. We’ll show you how to do it.

Written by: Josh Brown

Published: August 14 2020

Your call is very important to us. Please hold.” 

We’ve all heard this familiar phrase and others like it when calling for customer support — and then, the minutes pass.

But, customers don’t want to “please hold.” A McKinsey report shows that 75% of customers expect your support team to respond within five minutes. That type of responsiveness comes at a cost, but there’s no need to start sweating at the thought of blowing the budget on customer service.

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Luckily, customer service automation has come a long way since it consisted only of dialing in to face pre-recorded messages, endless menu options, and jazzy elevator music.

Instead, you can use the latest automation tools and techniques to lower response times, cut costs, and increase customer satisfaction.

Curious yet? Let’s look at how you can automate your customer service and what benefits you can expect.

What Is Automated Customer Service?

Yes, automated customer service could consist of the traditional multiple choice-menus that customers navigate when calling — but that’s just the beginning. Today’s automated customer service may, for example, include:

  • Self-service portals and knowledge bases
  • Ticketing systems
  • Chatbots with AI
  • Email and messaging templates
  • Interactive tools for problem-solving


When you implement customer service automation the right way, it reduces the number of unnecessary or inefficient interactions between your support staff and customers. You’re able to deliver high-quality, multi-channel support so that customers get what they need, when and where they want it.

Concerned that automation will make you lose the personal touch? Even if you’re using a bot, you don’t have to sound like one. Is your brand’s tone quirky, caring, or upbeat? Let it show by infusing self-service portals, bots, and email templates with a language and style that fits the company’s voice.

What Are the Benefits of Automated Customer Service?

You can expect a plethora of benefits when you start automating your customer service. You can:

  • Improve response times. With self-service such as knowledge bases and chatbots, you can respond straight away.
  • Increase customer satisfaction. Appeal to the 69% of customers who prefer self-service.
  • Increase sales. 52% of respondents in a study claimed to have purchased more from a company after a positive customer service experience.
  • Reduce customer churn. You can reduce churn with up to 67% by solving an issue at the first contact with the customer.
  • Free up time for your support team. An IBM study shows that chatbots can solve up to 80% of routine customer service questions. This leaves your team to focus on the cases that require human interaction.
  • Cut costs. According to Harvard Business Review, the average cost per live interaction is more than $7 for B2C companies more than $10 for B2B companies. As customers turn to self-service for routine issues, you can save a substantial amount of money.
  • Reduce errors. Knowledge base articles and chatbots offer consistent support with the same information to all customers.
  • Offer multi-lingual support. You can easily set up a knowledge base or chatbot with multiple languages without incurring high additional costs.


How to Automate Your Customer Service

Now when you know some of the benefits you can expect, here are seven ways to automate your customer service:

1. Create a Knowledge Base

A suitable first step for automating your customer service is to create a knowledge base. The knowledge base is a centralized hub for storing, creating, and sharing information. You can use it internally for sharing reports, onboarding new employees, maintaining policy documents, and much more. And externally? Yes, you guessed it — it’s an excellent customer service tool.

Successful customer service is about transferring information — between you and the customer as well as internally within the company. A knowledge base supports your customer service in three ways:

Self-service. Customers find the right information themselves by using the self-service portal.

Directing customers. Customer service staff speed up or facilitate the solution by sending the customer to the right article in the knowledge base.

Informing staff. The customer service team can use the knowledge base to find the right answer when communicating with customers.

The first way may be the most important, as a knowledge base allows you to quickly and easily set up a self-service portal for your customers. It’s an increasingly popular solution, with as many as 77% of the respondents in one survey having used a self-service support portal to solve their issues.

You can even customize and brand the portal to provide a completely seamless experience for customers who reach it through your website.

So, what do you share in your knowledge base? For example, you can share:


Get started the right way:

  • Create your knowledge base. 
  • Note down the most common requests for support or information your support team receives.
  • Together with your support staff, create step-by-step instructions that show customers how to solve the problem themselves. For information requests, write down the type of information customers tend to need.
  • Add any photos, illustrations, or videos that make the solution easier to understand.
  • Share the knowledge base with your support team and ask them to — when relevant — direct customers to them.


2. Set Up a Help Desk System

If you don’t already have one, you likely need a help desk to manage your incoming support tickets effectively.

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Instead of having to go through and sort incoming messages, the right help desk ticketing system can organize support requests automatically during the ticket submission process. Simply give customers ask customers to choose the correct option in a drop-down menu, and their message goes straight to the right representative.

You can also get an overview of each support issue from start to finish. A help desk also lets you see who’s working on something, so no problem falls between the chairs or accidentally gets answered several times by different team members.

Get started the right way:

  • Determine the purpose of the help desk. Will it only be external (for customers), or internal (for employees) as well?
  • Consider the kind of features you need for the help desk to fit your unique business needs. Would it be helpful to have it integrate with other apps or tools that you are using already? What analytics do you need?
  • Determine the key metrics you need to track and how you’ll measure them. Many help desk software solutions already have analytics — ensure that it is easy to understand and put into action.
  • Make a plan for how the help desk will continuously improve the overall customer service. For example, will you keep track of routine questions or issues so you can add solutions in your knowledge base?


3. Fire Up the Autoresponder Messages

“Did they even receive my message?” Don’t leave your customer wondering — the autoresponder message is your friend. For example, you can:

  • Confirm that you’ve received their support request
  • Confirm the result of the support, such as sending a new shipment or crediting an invoice
  • Follow up post-support to ask for feedback and ensure that they were satisfied

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You can personalize the emails automatically to include relevant information. And while you don’t want to pretend that the message is sent from a human if it isn’t, there’s no reason for the email to sound corporate or stiff. Keep your brand voice while sharing the details the customer needs.

Get started the right way:

  • Identify the messages that would help customers feel cared for and in the loop in your support system.
  • Define the purpose of the message. What is one thing you need to communicate? If you need to give the customers plenty of information, how do you create a hierarchy that is easy to understand and overview?


4. Use Canned Responses

A canned response is one of the easiest ways to automate a small part of your customer service. With email templates, your support team can respond faster, save time, and uphold a consistently high standard for responses.

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No, having a template doesn’t turn your team into robots. We’re not looking at full automation but semi-automation here. Instead, support staff can choose the message that best fits the conversation, and then turn it into a personalized message that responds to the customer’s specific needs.

Get started the right way:

  • Determine the top 3-5 messages that customer service writes over and over again.
  • Turn them into templates and add fields that should be customized, such as name or order number.
  • Add the templates into your email provider or use a dedicated app.


5. Add a Chatbot

Chatbots come in a range from the basic with a simple FAQ capability, to conversational bots with increasingly advanced AI, natural language processing (NLP), and machine learning.

Like knowledge bases, a chatbot can be customized and branded to integrate with the rest of your customer service experience. You may want to add a chatbot on your website or use it to respond to social media queries, such as through Facebook messenger or Slack. For the best result, you’ll adopt an omnichannel approach to respond to customers wherever they are:

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So why add a chatbot? A chatbot gives you three significant advantages when it comes to customer service:

  1. Answer up to 80% of routine questions. For example, the chatbot can direct the customer to the relevant knowledge base article to read more to solve their issue.
  2. Respond immediately. Customers get a response to their interaction straight away.
  3. Sort incoming support requests. Let the chatbot handle the initial information gathering and then send the customer on to the right support representative.

Get started the right way:

  • Consider the channels your customers use to reach out for customer support. Do the majority go to your website, or do you get many requests on social media? The answer to these questions will help you determine whether it makes sense to add a chatbot as well as what channels you should have a bot available. 
  • Be honest about the chatbot being a bot. You’re not trying to fool customers, but instead making sure their need for support is acknowledged right away.
  • The chatbot isn’t necessarily the end station in the customer’s support journey. Can the customer be connected to a member of the human support team if they need additional assistance, or will they submit a support ticket?


6. Add a Walkthrough or Product Tour

Depending on what your company offers, it could make sense to add a walkthrough or product tour for your customers. Not only does it help with onboarding and retention, but it can also be part of your customer service experience.

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Get started the right way:

Would it be helpful to add a product tour or walkthrough to help with onboarding or showing new features? If you consider adding them, remember to:

  • Make it clear and concise
  • Add interactive elements that the customer can complete as they go along
  • Let customers skip ahead if they don’t want the guidance
  • Show customers how they can get additional support, such as through live chat


7. Implement Advanced Automation Tools

Hopefully, your customer service tools already integrate well with one another. However, in some cases, you may need a bit of extra help. By adding automation, you eliminate routine tasks and save time. Automation tools can set up a chain of events of the type “when this, then that.”

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For example, these tools can notify support staff when a particular type of support request comes in, confirm that order has been shipped, or send reminders to the support team about scheduled support calls.

Get started the right way:

  • Are there any gaps in your support system that tend to fall between the chairs? For example, does staff often overlook a particular task in your process documentation?
  • Consider any standard tasks, such as uploading files or adding a ticket to a particular tech support queue. Can you automate a part of the chain of events to reduce routine work?
  • Start by setting up a few rules and testing them out internally before they face customers.


Wrapping Up

“Companies must adapt or fail.” This dramatic quote from Walker Information’s 2013 report predicted what customer service would look like in 2020. Regardless of the rest of the predictions, it’s become evident that responsive, customer-focused support is a necessity for winning and keeping customers.

But meeting increasingly high customer demands comes at a cost. Luckily, recent technological developments make it possible for companies of all sizes to automate parts of their customer service to stay competitive. Instead of replacing the human customer service, it complements it.

You might set up an advanced AI chatbot that learns from your customers as they chat with it, or simply adopt a useful help desk system. Regardless, a knowledge base serves as a solid foundation, as it enables customers to solve their problems before they reach out to your support. It also makes it easier for support staff to interact with each other and your customers. And even the fanciest chatbot needs to source their information somewhere.

Helpjuice makes it easy to add, edit, and share support articles. The analytics shows you which materials are the most popular and where customers become confused and turn to your live support. Your customers will love the knowledge base as the powerful, Google-like search function helps them quickly find the right information. Sign up today for a free 14-day trial.

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