3 Tips to Help You Automate Customer Service
Customer service is the most humanized extension of your brand. It’s the touch point where you directly interact with customers in a one-on-one manner and you don’t want to screw it up. With that being said, you may not have the resources necessary to take a totally manual approach to customer service. So the question becomes, how can you automate without compromising relationships and damaging your brand?
The Burden of Customer Service
Customer service is a big responsibility. It’s the channel through which you either satisfy the customer and keep them coming back for more, or frustrate them to the point that they move on and decide not to do business with you in the future.
As the Inc.com staff notes, “A widely quoted statistic gets to the heart of the value proposition behind customer service: The cost of acquiring a new customer is five times that of retaining an existing one. For businesses that succeed by forming a bond with the customer, the disparity is surely even greater.”
But, as previously mentioned, the frustrating thing about customer service is that it eats up a ton of time – time that you could be investing in sales, marketing, or R&D. So the challenge you have in front of you is how to simultaneously make customer service more efficient and more effective.
Three Ways to Streamline Customer Service
When leading businesses face the same conundrum that you’re presented with, they turn to automation. By streamlining customer service in the appropriate manner, they – as well as you – can strengthen customer relations without draining too much time. Here are some thoughts on the topic:
1. Automate Processes, Not Relationships
It’s tempting to use automation when you want to avoid interacting with customers or reduce expenses, but these aren’t valid reasons if you’re trying to establish a strong brand image for the future.
“Providing the best possible support experience is about finding the right mix of human contact and automation,” digital marketing specialist Brian Gladu says. “The rule of thumb then is that we should use automation only when it improves the customer experience by providing additional value.” In other words, you’re trying to automate processes, not relationships.
2. Outsource Certain Tasks
There are certain tasks that make more sense to outsource. One such task is email support, which can suck up hours of your day if you aren’t careful.
“When you’re trying to get things done, constantly getting bombarded with customer emails can slow you down and fill up your already busy schedule,” says Anupam Rajey of Acelerar. “But what if you could hire a virtual assistant to take care of email support? This allows you to maintain a strong commitment to customer service without compromising in other areas.”
Social media support is another customer service task that could easily be outsourced to someone like a virtual assistant or an independent contractor.
3. Preemptively Address Common Issues
The best customer service happens before a customer has to pick up the phone or type an email. Most companies have a handful of issues that command the bulk of their attention on the customer service front. It’s much more time- and cost-effective to preemptively address these issues before they reach your customer service department. It’ll require some resources on the front end, but all of the hard work will be well worth it in the future.
Proceed With Caution
At the end of the day, you need to proceed with a healthy measure of caution. Avoid putting too much emphasis on automation at the expense of making your customers feel as if you don’t care about them. But at the same time, it’s necessary to streamline certain tasks in an effort to be more efficient.
Anna is a freelance writer, researcher, and business consultant from Olympia, WA. A columnist for Entrepreneur.com, iMediaConnection.com and more, Anna specializes in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends. Follow her on Twitter and...