How Customer Service Will Succeed With Automation
AI. RPA. ML. A sea of abbreviations and technology is flooding every industry with automation options, but how do CX professionals sift through it all to find success?
By Yossi Abraham
The age of bots and automation is upon us. Chatbots made a big splash a few years ago, Robotic Process Automation has been emerging as a disrupting force since then, and in the last couple of years Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning have become some of the newest buzzwords in customer experience and technological transformations. With so many options available and the benefits to automation clear, one question remains for business leaders:
What automation is the right choice for my business?
The spectrum of automation doesn’t give one clear answer. For corporations like Uber, with millions of digital customer interactions every day, the structural, financial, and temporal investments necessary to dive into true Artificial Intelligence today might make sense, but for the average businesses, the technology getting the most headlines in automation doesn’t fit. Luckily, there’s a range of automation to choose from that business leaders can start implementing immediately.
1. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI is the biggest headline-grabber in automation. Technology like IBM Watson and Google Assistant that “think on their own” and robots that code themselves over time are understandably exciting for any business leader trying to dive into the deep end of automation. This brand new technology is inherently unstable and experimental. Without a highly trained and talented IT department or the budget to support a stellar third party team, AI and Machine Learning are too complicated and too unknown to implement well today. Technology develops at an astounding pace, however, so keep an eye on AI to become commonplace over the next decade. AI early adopters are willing to invest the time and money necessary to implement AI before the technology matures.
2. Low-Tech Automation
At the other end of the spectrum of automation are simple, straightforward computer scripts. These unique, custom scripts tell computers to run specific tasks and complete individual actions in a rigid order. Anyone can write and run these simple scripts with a couple of days of research and practice with programs like Windows PowerShell and Apple’s Automator for Mac. Programs like these can automate writing emails or creating calendar appointments when users run the scripts they’ve created. For individual employees willing to invest some personal time in learning how they work, scripts can be a helpful bit of automation to enhance productivity and efficiency for repetitive or common tasks at work. But, for organizations, this solution is typically far from being really beneficial.
3. Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
Somewhere between these two extremes rests a goldilocks zone for business automation. Balancing the business-wide and bottom-line improvements AI and advanced automation can provide and the much smaller costs and learning curve required by scripts — robotic process automation technology is quickly gaining steam with CIOs and business leaders around the world.
It’s right in the name: Robotic Process Automation. By automating repetitive tasks that weigh down businesses RPA stands as an efficiency boost for any company with repetitive processes. Any of these processes currently completed by employees can be given to RPA bots to complete faster, without human errors, 24/7. Once businesses spend the time to map out which processes can be automated, the jump to actual implementation is fast. RPA frees live employees from the drudgery of repetitive processes and lets them focus on the complex, high value-added tasks where their expertise and human empathy can really shine.
Knowing what the options are is step one for customer service leaders. The job gets harder when it’s time to choose how to implement new automation initiatives to have the biggest impact and the fastest ROI. At Zappix we utilize two tests to determine the best places to add automation to the customer experience.
In customer service, straightforward interactions like bill payment or order status lookups are primed to be automated immediately, while more complex, “high-value” interactions like special exemptions and unanticipated issues necessitate a human agent. Value can help identify which call dispositions should be automated, but when customer service professionals combine value with call volume, they discover which interactions should be automated first. Every customer service department committed to excellent CX should begin determining where on the matrix of evolutionary automation different call dispositions fall.
1. The Value Test
Not every call is the same. The human element adds value to some calls, but there is a point of diminishing returns for others. The added value for any one interaction depends on a couple of variables. An interaction has less value if it is an easily automated, routine process. Looking up information in a database, collecting standardized forms from consumers, conveying common information to customers — all of these popular call dispositions follow routine steps from beginning to end. The routine nature of these calls and their low complexity mean adding a human to the mix brings little value over a well-implemented automated solution.
Complexity isn’t the only determining factor for value. Human agents bring a lot of value in other examples. Humans can identify when and how to upsell and cross-sell during calls where automated solutions often can’t. Skilled agents know when to be overly caring to bring a frustrated customer back from the edge and reduce customer churn for extreme calls.
Complex, tense, or unanticipated interactions necessitate live agents’ skills, perception, and plenty of human empathy — traits automation can’t easily replicate. Automating the right way means first recognizing which interactions your business processes receive high-value or low-value from human interactions.
2. The Volume Test
Once customer service professionals identify the best interactions for automation, they must determine which ones to automate first. Many businesses wouldn’t benefit from overhauling entire customer service systems from the ground up. A sudden wholesale pivot can do harm to businesses not built to change rapidly, or to those with many layers of disparate systems to manage and transition away from. The solution is to automate the right interactions in the right order.
By measuring the volume of interactions as well as their complexity, businesses can easily determine which call dispositions should be automated first:
- The most straightforward and low-value interactions with the highest volumes deserve to be automated immediately.
- As businesses begin to realize the return on investment in the form of savings and improved customer satisfaction from these initial automation projects, they can move forward with other low-value interactions where the pivot to automation is expected by consumers.
- Only once these low-value customer service calls are automated should businesses turn their attention to high volume/high-value calls.
This step-by-step shift from manual customer service to an automated/manual mix makes the transition easier for companies as well as consumers and creates the perfect synergy between skilled live agents and powerful automated solutions. The matrix for evolutionary automation balances the complexity of various call dispositions and the frequency of those calls. This matrix will let forward-thinking businesses committed to excellent customer service keep pace with the fast, on-demand expectations of consumers.