Automation vs Manual - What's Better for Customer Service?
All business owners know that good customer service is the cornerstone to a successful business. Why? Because your customer service reflects how likely a client is to return to your business or recommend your products/services to others.
Many businesses implement customer service systems that allow them to streamline their work while maximising their customer/client relationships, and most of the time this involves using customer service software tools that offer automation.
Softwares such as Zendesk and Freshdesk are deemed invaluable to businesses who need a system that can support their customer service processes in a B2B scenario.
When it comes to automation vs manual, there are still those that prefer the manual approach. But which one is better and how can one or the other affect the way your company approaches customer service? Let’s find out.
First Point of Contact
When most businesses hear chatbots and artificial intelligence, the image of canned responses and impersonal conversations is very easily conjured and we understand their worry.
Until recently this has been the main issue with using chatbots instead of real people and since these live chats are often the first point of contact for most customers, businesses would rather not risk putting their customers off. But, as technology is ever developing, artificial intelligence has undergone a major upgrade.
Chatbots are now able to handle complex queries, formulate responses that sympathise with the customer’s issue, giving them the tonality of a real human. And as an added bonus, AI can also add the personal touch of using a customer's name in conversation so you don’t have to worry about losing that too.
However, the most valuable thing about chatbots is their availability. Where customer service reps might not be available 24/7, a chatbot is, meaning that clients and customers don’t have to wait for someone to pick up and answer their query.
Omni-channel Customer Service
In today’s world, good customer service isn’t just about being sympathetic to your customers needs but also being accessible. If your customers can only reach you via one platform, you may be cutting off avenues in which your customers can communicate with you.
Software platforms, like the omni-channel Paldesk, allow customers to speak to you via different mediums and apps, such as your website or Facebook Instant Messenger, allowing you to be available any time of the day and in multiple locations online. It isn’t just websites and Facebook Messenger, it’s email, SMS, WhatsApp.
Being omni-channel allows you to be constantly accessible to all types of customers and potential customers. To do this manually means that you will need to be able to spread your customer service reps across platforms to be able to manage each form of communication, which may be okay if you have a sizeable customer service team. However, for smaller businesses, having an automated system can take the edge off having to man every platform.
Automation can support your customer service team by making sure things get to the right people and places, or with smaller tasks like organizing tickets and decluttering inboxes.
It can also automate assignments for other members of staff in other departments. Say a customer needs an upgrade to their software so they can use certain features, an automated system can send a notification to the sales team.
Automation can also make sure you’re speaking to the right people at the right time by segmenting your customers into specific contact groups and identifying the customers who bring the highest value to your business.
All of the above is possible to carry out manually but it will take time and perhaps more than one person if you have a large influx of information to organize. By automating this process, you’ll be shaving hours off your team’s to-do list and freeing them up for the more bulkier tasks.
Despite being designed to make your customer service approach smoother, automation does require setup work, monitoring and overall management which may not suit those who are looking for a complete hands off customer service solution.
In this case it may be better to outsource your customer service to a managed service company. External management not only takes the pressure off having to build a customer service plan, team or put the hours in yourself, but can also support your business in terms of customer growth and nurture the kind of approach you’d like to adopt but don’t have the resources to implement.
Information & Data
On a basic level, whether you use an automated system or manually connect with your customers, you should be collecting information about them: Name, Business, Location, Position in Business, industry etc.
You can even shape which kind of data you wish to collect by making predefined questions and selections.
The main difference in terms of automation and manual is how this information is processed. Once collected, an automated system can process this data by segmentation. This can also be done manually but this, as you have probably guessed, will take time. By having this information already processed, your teams can move forward with looking at how the data can inform their work more quickly.
Engaging with your customers can provide valuable insights to improve your business’ approach, from questions like, “Where do our customers contact us most?” to the big questions, “How can we make the point of contact to resolution as seamless as possible?”.
This data also has the potential to improve the quality of work across other departments. For example, marketing and sales teams may benefit from data provided by customers to inform their approaches to inbound marketing.
Automation or Manual?
That depends on you and your business. Small businesses with low sales can probably get away with sticking to manual tactics, however, that does not mean they won’t benefit from automation, particularly if they’re looking to grow their business.
Automation can allow you to gain back time to work on growing your customer base or work on other areas of their business.
And while manual customer service does come with the added benefit of real human interaction, automation tools like AI chatbots are now developed enough to add that human touch to conversations.
So the big question comes down to, how much time have you got to dedicate to manual customer service?
There is no reason why some businesses can’t adopt a mix of the two if they want to take a more hands-on approach during business hours. That way you can ensure quality control and still give your customers the top notch experience they expect.
Have you ever considered outsourcing?