The pros and cons of automation in customer support

The pros and cons of automation in customer support

TL:DR

  • Like every other tool, automation for customer support has its pros and cons.
  • It can help you save time, scale your business, improve customer experiences and use data for personalization if implemented correctly.
  • On the other hand, it can cause needless frustration and lower metrics like CSAT, CES and NPS when used incorrectly.
  • It's important to carefully consider situations in which it is appropriate to use — and situations that are best left to human support agents.
  • Automation can be very effective for ticketing, omni-channel support and level 1 customer queries.
  • Automation isn't as suitable for technical level 2 and 3 support, and shouldn't be employed to discourage people from getting in contact with you directly.

Love it or loathe it, automation is here to stay. It’s become such an integral part of so many facets of our life — both personally and professionally — that it is hard to picture what things looked like before it got here. 

Customer support is no different. Tech like AI chatbots and conversational intelligence software have completely changed the landscape in the last couple of years. And, have, for the most part, received a warm welcome. 

But it is worth it to take a second to ask ourselves what we stand to gain from more automation — and what we stand to lose from too much automation. 

After all, it wouldn’t do to fall so in love with a technology that we start to treat it as the answer to every problem. The human touch still counts for a lot. Especially in the business of building customer relationships.

In this article, we’ll first dive deeper into the pros and cons of automation in customer support. Then, we’ll discuss the right and wrong ways to use automation. 

The pros of automation

There’s absolutely no doubt that automation can go a long way in saving time, creating better customer experiences (when used correctly), and helping you scale your business and customer support operation a lot faster than if you had to do everything manually. 

Automation can save you time and money

Handling all support tickets and solving customer queries manually can lead to backed up support queues, frustrated users and stressed out support agents. 

Automating the more mundane customer requests can go a long way towards ensuring that only the complicated support tickets that actually require a human to answer filter through the noise. 

Automation can help you scale faster

If you’re a smaller company — or you just don’t have that big of a support team — then it absolutely makes sense to automate as much as you can to reduce your support burden while scaling your support operations to adequately deal with all incoming requests. 

You can also use automation to help you proactively solve customer issues before they even get in touch with your support team. You can for example, use an automated email system to send out relevant help articles or FAQs depending on what point of the customer lifecycle a user is. 

Automation can help improve customer experiences

Customers rate good customer experiences as crucial to the way they feel about a company and are even willing to pay for better CX. Because automated systems can often be programmed to make the experience more personal for each user, they can go a long way towards improving their experience with your company. They can also create better experiences in other ways, by decreasing wait times or speeding up time to resolution. 

Automation can help you use data to improve support

One of the natural consequences of employing automation in your support workflows and processes is that, over time, you’ll have more and better data to work with to improve your support. However, in order to be able to take advantage of this in the best possible way, you’ll need to make sure you include a data strategy as one part of your larger customer experience strategy.

The cons of automation

Automation can be a powerful tool if implemented correctly, but using it indiscriminately can do more to harm your business than to help it. 

Automation shouldn’t replace human interaction

By and large, customers still seem to prefer talking to actual people rather than AI chatbots, so it wouldn’t be wise to replace all your human support agents with virtual ones. The best strategy is to automate the easiest support queries and save the ones that require more explanation for human agents. 

Lack of flexibility 

Although automation tools can be personalized to some extent, they still suffer from a lack of flexibility. Every customer and every conversation is different, and a human support agent can adapt to this difference. An AI chatbot cannot, so they can sometimes be frustrating to encounter as a customer. The best practice here is to give users a way to easily bypass the chatbot with the option of directly connecting with an agent. 

Automation can introduce concerns around data privacy and security

If you use automation tools, chances are that some of your data is going to be stored in remote servers that are outside of your control. That’s why it is very important to make sure that all the tools you use for customer support maintain the highest levels of security and are fully compliant with applicable laws — GDPR for instance. 

Bad automation can impact CSAT, CES and NPS scores. 

For support teams, CSAT, CES and NPS are always front-of-mind. Every new tool, software or process that is introduced or retooled is to increase these crucial metrics. Because of the issues we’ve already gone into above, automation can actually end up hurting these scores — especially if it makes it difficult for people who want to speak to a support agent to be put through to them. That’s why it is essential to have an off-ramp when tickets need to be escalated. While it’s tempting to try and solve everything with a chatbot or help center, do not do this to the detriment of your CX metrics. 

When you should use automation

Now that we’ve covered some general pros and cons of automation in customer support, here are some examples of when — and how – you should make use of it. 

Use automation for ticketing

This one’s a no-brainer. Your agents should not be spending valuable time creating support tickets. Help desk software is great for this sort of thing. Once a customer writes in with a support query, a ticket is automatically created. It contains all the information you’ll need to resolve it, including customer details like payment history or plan details. These help desk platforms also feature powerful integrations to help you manage any kind of query. For example, if you want to be able to start a cobrowsing session or view user sessions from the software you already use for ticketing, Fullview offers integrations with platforms like Intercom and Zendesk.  

Use automation for omni-channel support

Another no-brainer is setting up automation to start supporting your customers no matter the channel they get in touch with you on. Most customers these days expect to be able to reach a company on multiple platforms and they also expect consistent CX across all platforms. Investing in a platform like Dixa for omni-channel support can help you automate some important processes (like bringing your voice, chat, email and social channels under one roof) so it’s easier and quicker to support customers wherever they may be. 

(Pssst! Fullview also offers an integration with Dixa.)

Use automation for level one support 

Most level one support queries are relatively simple to resolve, so automating them to some extent is smart. For example, you can program AI chatbots to suggest relevant help articles when a customer asks a question. You can also present your customer with a list of FAQs before giving them the option to speak to an agent directly. Often, customers will appreciate the convenience and ease of solving easy problems this way. 

When you shouldn’t use automation for customer support 

There’s plenty of great reasons to use customer support automation, but it isn’t suitable for everything. The best practice may just be to let robots do what robots are going to do and let humans do what humans are going to do. 

Don’t use automation to discourage people from contacting you directly

When a customer reaches out to you with a question, it’s perfectly alright to program a chatbot to try to answer it, but if that leads to a ton of unhelpful suggestions, it’s going to cause frustration — and understandably so. 

You have to remember that, when a customer reaches out, they’re probably already a little frustrated. Maybe they’re working under some time pressure. It’s important not to give them the run-around. If they want to bypass your automation entirely and speak directly to a support agent, in most cases, let them. 

Don’t use automation for technical customer support

While you can safely get away with using automation for most aspects of level 1 support, you shouldn’t rely on it excessively for level 2 and 3 support requests. These are often technical and require the input of SMEs and technical support specialists — people who are not easily replaced by a help center article or FAQ. 

These support requests are also challenging to solve and can lead to customer churn if they aren’t handled properly. Making use of technology like session replays and console logs to figure out what the issue is and cobrowsing to solve it yourself (rather than instructing your user on how to solve it) can go a long way towards building trust and loyalty with your customers.

Wrapping things up

So there you have it: our breakdown of when you should and shouldn't use automation in customer support.

As we've mentioned previously, we're big believers in leveraging technology to bring the human element back to support. There are right and wrong ways to leverage customer support automation to do that.

We hope we've given you some helpful ways to think about the topic and some ideas on how you can leverage automation in your situation.

Author

Shifa Rahaman

Content Marketing Manager

Contributor