Humans and Robots Should Work in Harmony
Automation technology like RPA is transforming repetitive customer care tasks, but businesses shouldn’t forget about the importance of human agents
By Yossi Abraham
Automation technology has been transforming customer care for years. With recent advancements in Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Natural Language Processing (NLP), and Artificial Intelligence (AI) that change is happening faster every day. Automated processes and self-service capabilities streamline customer service, reduce average handling time per interaction, and enhance customer service. Not every interaction should be streamlined, however.
The Harvard Business Review cites customer effort — “the work [customers] must do to get their problem solved” — as the number one factor driving customer satisfaction. For some tedious tasks, automation is the obvious choice to reduce customer effort and boost satisfaction. For other interactions, only a well trained, connected customer service agent can create a low-effort interaction.
At Zappix, we believe in the 20-80 rule: 20% of the reasons people might contact customer service cause 80% of interactions. Most of these cases are mundane and repetitive queries that can and should be automated.
“20% of the reasons people might contact customer service cause 80% of interactions.”
If 80% of customer interactions should be automated, that means 20% of customer care interactions shouldn’t be automated. There is an element of understanding, connection, and assurance that only a human interaction can foster. That critical human element is vital to encourage customers and properly solve their complaints. As we dive deeper into the automation age, we must always remember the importance of the human touch live customer service agents so expertly provide.
A recent survey by Radial and CFI Group found customers who interacted with a professional agent who seemed well-integrated and educated about the products and company were 20% more likely to recommend a company to a friend than the average consumer. That same survey found 80% use digital channels as their first choice for solving customer service issues.
Consumers hate dealing with tiresome customer service calls. For the third year in a row, self-service interactions have overtaken all other channels as customers’ preferred service channel, according to Forrester. RPA is the engine that powers self-service channels like Visual IVR or online chat channels. With self-service, customers gain access to most of the options and activities they used to need live contact center agents for. They complete those 80% of interactions on their own using digital self-service platforms. When these platforms handle interactions, RPA bots take action and complete solutions as requested.
These intuitive, efficient interactions help customers solve straightforward issues quickly and directly. Self-service capabilities also help live contact center agents. When repetitive, boring, and mundane tasks are solved by RPA bots, agents are can focus on handling complex cases, which are more compelling and satisfying to manage.
Some complex issues require live agents’ attention. At Zappix we call these value-added interactions. When customers present issues that are abnormal or require special exceptions, a live agent’s direct attention can bring more value to the situation than automated solutions.
I recently encountered one of these scenarios. As part of recent renovations, my wife and I ordered a mirror from a very popular online retailer. We were glad when the package arrived promptly but soon discovered one edge of the product had shattered while being transported to our home. We used the retailer’s online self-service return process to ship back our broken item and waited for a replacement. The process was fully satisfactory until our replacement product arrived shattered in a similar place as the first.
Unfortunately, there was no automated procedure for advising the company to improve their packaging process.
We needed more dynamic assistance. The retailer’s customer service channels smoothly transitioned me from automated self-service capabilities through to calling a live service representative. That agent quickly understood my issue, apologized for the difficulty I had already experienced, and informed me they would resolve the issue without any extra effort needed on my part. After two broken mirrors, my wife and I finally had a successful delivery experience, but thanks to the retailer’s proper balancing of automation and the human touch, every leg of our customer service experience had been satisfactory.
Meeting customer expectations and increasing customer satisfaction today means striking the right balance between digital self-service technologies and insightful, well-trained live customer service agents.