What is customer support automation?
Customer support is a challenging but essential part of any business. There will always be customers who need assistance or have questions that can’t be answered in your FAQs. That’s where having an automated customer support process comes in handy.
Whether you hire a third-party company to manage it for you or you handle it yourself, automating your customer support process will save you a lot of time and energy. Plus, with the right tools and processes, automating your customer support can be easy and stress-free.
But buyer beware! Too much automation can also be a bad thing. It frustrates customers who overwhelmingly prefer to talk to an actual person and may cause them to churn.
In this article, we'll go over everything you need to know so that you can automate your customer support and serve your customers better. We’ll also talk about what you should — and shouldn’t — automate.
Why you should consider automating customer support
The main reason you should consider automating your customer support is because it's scalable.
Automating customer support gives you the ability to scale your support with the growth of your organization. This is especially important for companies that are scaling quickly or for those that are seeing high volumes of customers.
When you’re growing as a company, it can be difficult to keep up with all of your customers. When you’re manually managing all aspects of support, it can be difficult to stay on top of all the different issues, requests, and questions that customers are asking. With an automated support system, you can easily receive and respond to incoming customer requests.
How To Automate Customer Support
The first step to automating your customer support is to create a customer support plan. You can do this by mapping out everything related to your customer support, including your communication channels, hours, and FAQs.
You’ll also need to figure out if you want to manage your customer support in-house or use a third-party software or tool. If you want to use a third-party software, make sure to do your research first. Once you know what tools you’ll need and where you want to manage your support, you can start automating your customer support.
Here is a step-by-step guide on what you’ll need to do:
- Define your customer support goals
- Create your customer support process
- Test your customer support process
- Make your customer support process live
Define your customer support goals
Before you start automating your customer support, you need to know what your goals are. What are you trying to achieve with your customer support process? What type of support do you want to provide?
Keep in mind that each type of support should not be fully automated.
For example, you’d probably want to offer live chat alongside your automated email support. And technical customer support — the kind that requires developers and other subject matter experts to get involved — should almost never be automated. Use a solution like Fullview Cobrowsing and Fullview Replays instead.
Create your customer support process
Once you know what you're aiming for, you can start creating your customer support process. From mapping out your communication channels to determining the best way to handle FAQs, you'll need to take everything into consideration. Remember, automating your customer support is all about making life easier for you and your customers. We've recently put together a mega list of all the best customer support software by category, so make sure you check that out to find the right tech stack for you.
Test your customer support process
Before making your customer support process live, you'll want to test it to make sure everything works as it should. You'll want to make sure your support channels are easy for people to find and that you're answering their questions correctly. You’ll also want to make sure you’re not missing any critical information, like hours and contact information.
Make your customer support process live
Once your customer support process is working as it should, you can make it live. Make sure to let your customers know about your automated support channels and let them know what hours and days to expect a response. This will eliminate confusion and reduce the number of off-hour tickets and inquiries you receive.
6 ways to automate customer support
The process described above is a good general infrastructure that, if followed, will allow you to automate your customer support processes. But what are the specific steps you should follow to achieve this?
Well, there are many tools and techniques that can help. Let's go over six of the principal methods used by companies to automate their customer support so that you can see how these strategies work, why they are effective, and why you might want to implement them.
Here are the ways you can automate customer support:
- Automated Tech Support
- Help Desk and Ticketing
- Customer Feedback Surveys
- Automate customer support tasks
Automated tech support
First things first, let’s talk about automated tech support. If you have an e-commerce storefront, chances are you’ve come across this before. This method of support basically allows customers to interact with a piece of software instead of a human being.
This is often used to troubleshoot issues like out-of-stock products, credit card problems, and more.
But automated tech support can be used for more than just resolving issues. If you integrate it into your customer support process, it can actually help you boost sales by offering upsells, cross-sells, and even recommendations based on your customers’ needs and past purchases.
When most people think of automated customer support, they imagine chatbots. These are computer programs that use AI to simulate human interaction. Chatbots usually have a set of rules built into them that guide the flow of the conversation. When a customer messages your company’s bot, it will respond with a set of pre-written messages.
These messages will either answer the customer’s question or redirect them to a different medium like a help desk ticketing system. And if you integrate the bot with your CRM, you can also use it to record the customer’s engagement with your business. This can come in handy later when you review customer feedback, like product reviews, for example.
Help desk and ticketing
Help desk platforms and ticketing software are great examples of automation in customer support. They allow you to create a standardized way of handling support cases.
Besides being a straightforward process, these platforms also come with a ton of features and integrations that can make your life as a business owner much easier.
Some of these include notifications and reminders for staff, reporting tools for analytics, and integrations for various software programs like CRMs. You might have already noticed that most help desk software integrations are designed for customer support. But some of them are sophisticated enough to also handle other business processes as well.
Customer feedback surveys
You can also turn a customer support interaction into an opportunity to gather feedback. For example, you can ask your customers to take a short survey after they’ve received their orders or received customer support. And then, you can use that info to make improvements to your business.
You might also choose a survey tool and create a customer feedback survey template to integrate into your automated customer support process. This way, you'll have customer feedback while they're engaged with your business. And you can make changes based on the results. And that brings us to the next method of automation:
A workflow is a series of tasks that are linked together and triggered by a certain event. So, for example, when you receive a customer support ticket, you can create a workflow that routes it to the appropriate member of your team. Once the task is completed, the workflow can trigger another task. This could be sending a follow-up email to the customer, for instance, as a way to say “thank you” for their feedback.
You can also create a workflow to help you create content for your business. For example, you can create a workflow that helps you create your company’s Instagram posts. You can create different workflows for different processes in your business. You can even create workflows that integrate with your customer support process. This could be a great way to automate customer support while also applying some creativity.
Automate customer support tasks
Another way to automate your customer support process is to create tasks that are triggered by certain events. For example, you can create a task that reminds your team to follow up with a customer who hasn’t replied to a support ticket in seven days.
You can also create tasks that help you improve your business. For instance, you can create a task that sends you a reminder to create a new blog post when your to-do list is full. Or you can create a task that sends you a reminder to review your customer feedback reports.
5 pros of automating customer support
Here are some of the main benefits you are likely to experience after you've automated elements of your customer support workflow and processes.
It’ll save you a lot of time and energy
When you handle support manually, customers can be put on hold for hours or be transferred between agents numerous times. It's a stressful situation for both you and your customers. With an automated customer support process, however, you can greatly reduce the amount of time each customer needs from you.
You should be able to respond to the most common questions customers have in your FAQs. If you’re getting more inquiries that aren’t in the FAQs, you can direct them to the automated customer support system. This way, you’re spending less time answering the same questions over and over again and more time on strategic tasks.
It’ll allow you to scale your business easier
As your customer base grows, you’ll need to hire more support agents or find ways to simplify your customer support process. Automating your customer support will allow you to scale your business more easily, as you can easily add more agents or use a chatbot to take care of simple customer questions. Automated customer support systems can handle basic support questions, and more advanced ones can be integrated with your product to provide step-by-step instructions on how to use them.
You can also use an automated customer support system to scale your support in other ways. You can schedule it to send out FAQs on certain days or times. Alternatively, you can add a feedback feature that will allow customers to submit their questions anonymously. This will let you respond to more customer questions while you’re away.
Customers will have a better experience contacting you
People tend to associate positive experiences with companies that have positive customer service. They’re more likely to purchase from you again and refer your brand to others. Automating your customer support can make your customers feel more comfortable contacting you, especially if they’re new to your product.
Automated customer support systems are often more personalized, as you can program them to display different messages to different customers. That means they can be more helpful to customers who have specific questions about your product or service.
You can even program them to give customers information about your company, provide product recommendations, or deliver helpful tips. This will show them you care about their experience, and it will make them more likely to come back to you in the future.
You can use the data to improve your business
One of the added benefits of automating your customer support process is that you can use the data to improve your business in the future. For example, you can use customer support data to write better FAQs, or you can use it to identify customer pain points and find ways to fix them.
You can also use it to find out what times are most popular for customers to contact you. This will help you schedule your support hours more effectively. You can use customer support data to forecast future demand, make pricing decisions, and identify new markets. You can even use the data to write better marketing copy.
It’ll make it easier for you to comply with regulations
Finally, if you plan on growing your business to a global scale, you’ll have to consider your customer support process. It’s important to let your customers know what to expect when they contact you, as well as inform them about their rights.
While you don’t have to follow specific guidelines, you should have a general idea of what to include in your support process. Automating your customer support will allow you to easily add the information your customers need. This will make it easier for you to scale your business to different regions and comply with regulations.
5 cons of automating customer support
While automating customer support can help ease your team's support burdens and make your workflows more efficient, there are definitely some downsides to automation. Here are a few of the most important ones.
The main drawbacks are:
- Lack of human interaction
- Lack of flexibility
- High costs to maintain and update
- Loss of control over your data
- Automated processes can be confusing for customers
- Difficult to escalate support tickets
Lack of human interaction
If you are providing support for a product or service, there is a good chance that you’ll need to communicate with your customers on a regular basis. This communication might be done via email, phone calls, live chat or cobrowsing sessions.
In many instances, you may need your customers to sign up for an account, provide information about their usage, or ask for assistance with an issue they’re experiencing. This type of communication requires empathy, patience, and a willingness to hear from your customers. Automating issues like this can often lead to customer churn because of how frustrating the process of solving more issues via automation can be. In these cases, cobrowsing software is your best friend! With it, you can immediately get on a call with your user and control their screen to solve problems collaboratively.
Lack of flexibility
Customers are unique and have varying needs and expectations. When you automate your customer support process, you’ll need to select a specific set of rules that will be applied in every situation. Often customers will want a certain outcome, but the rules you’ve selected might not always allow for an acceptable solution.
High costs to maintain and update
Automated customer support processes are often created using a SaaS (Software as a Service) tool. These tools are typically hosted in the cloud and can be accessed remotely by employees at all times. When deciding which SaaS tools to use, you’ll want to make sure you have the budget to pay for the services. Additionally, you’ll need to ensure that you have the budget to pay for the maintenance, as well as any necessary updates.
Loss of control over your data
When you automate your customer support processes, you’ll be sending your customers’ data to a remote server. There, your data will be stored in a database and accessed by the software. You may have the ability to access this information, but the data isn’t entirely under your control.
This is a concern, especially if you’re in the healthcare or financial services industry. If your business processes involve collecting and storing sensitive customer data, you’ll want to make sure that you maintain full control over it.
This is one of the reasons it’s critical that your customer support tech providers take GDPR and compliance very seriously. At Fullview, we’ve made this a central part of our value proposition to our users. As a European company, we are fully GDPR compliant and all data is stored on our servers located within the EU in Germany.
Automated processes can be confusing for customers
A key component of customer support is helping your customers understand the reasons behind certain outcomes. However, sometimes automated processes can be confusing. This confusion can be amplified when support representatives are left with no other option but to apply the automated rules.
For example, if you need to terminate an account due to non-payment, you may have an automated rule that terminates an account after three failed attempts at payment. This might be an appropriate rule, but it could also be confusing for the customer, especially if that wasn’t explained in your FAQs.
Difficult to escalate support tickets
When you automate customer support, it is essential that your automated workflow has off-ramps that allow you to take over when a support ticket becomes too tricky or complicated. These tickets require human intervention to prevent customer frustration and churn.
We’ve thought long and hard about this problem at Fullview. Not only do we offer integrations with automated CRM and ticketing solutions so you can cobrowsing with users or watch user sessions from within those products, we’ve also made it very easy to escalate a level 1 support tickets to level 2 or even 3 when the need arises.
For example, if you are a support agent watching a user session replay in your Fullview account and you notice a bug or issue, you can immediately see if that user is online on your Fullview dashboard and call them in-app with the press of a button to start a cobrowsing session. This saves you from having to send meeting requests or zoom links. Your users also don’t have to download or install anything to enable this functionality — it’s built right into your app when you do the Fullview integration.
Automated customer support does have its advantages over traditional support practices. However, you can’t completely replace human agents — especially for level 2 and 3 customer support. Instead, you should find ways to integrate automated support with human support. This will help you get the best of both worlds and provide a quality customer support experience.