In the past few weeks, investment in digital transformation and technology processes has accelerated to keep pace with changing demands and to meet healthcare needs.

One industry that was already being transformed before the pandemic was that of customer service. There’s been a gradual introduction of new technology using artificial intelligence which can do many of the tasks traditionally done by humans.

Chances are, you’ve interacted with AI technology in the past week, even if you’re not aware of it. From grocery shopping to banking, ordering a takeaway, to checking the weather, we live in an increasingly automated world where technology reigns supreme.

But how much is too much?

With technologies ever-evolving, more and more businesses are turning to AI to improve their customer journey, signalling a shift for customer experience. But, striking this balance between human interaction and automation can feel like a minefield. Too little human interaction and your customers are becoming frustrated, too much and you’re simply wasting everyone’s time.

 

What are the benefits of customer service automation?

Streamlined processes

If you’re tired of pressing ‘one for service, two for booking,’ customer service representatives are just as tired of repeating the same answers again and again. For those mundane or regularly occurring issues, if a virtual assistant can interpret your request using an automated script response, it’s much more efficient than chatting with a human. Agents aren’t wasting time responding to the same queries that are most commonly asked. Instead, they are able to deal with more complex requests and critical interactions that require a human touch. Similarly, programs can easily automate follow-up emails or tasks, further saving your agents time and removing the margin for human error.

Predicting customer behaviour

Understanding what your customers want and need — ideally, before they even do — is the holy grail of successful customer service. By collecting data from previous interactions, new technologies are able to predict actions, both from the customer and the agent’s viewpoint. This personalisation not only speeds up the customer journey but also improves and enhances the customer experience.

 

The human touch

Some businesses can easily miss the point: great business is built on relationships, and these are essential to success. But without human interaction; these relationships cannot exist.

Of course, automation can solve efficiency issues, and it can be gold dust for the time-poor business. But nothing can beat human interaction. A chatbot can send people in the right direction if the question is simple, but it might not be able to fully ‘understand’ all issues. For many of us, empathy is an essential part of great customer service, along with being able to form an emotional connection, and this simply doesn’t exist when communicating with a chatbot. If we’re complaining about a product or service, as humans we often need someone to validate our feelings, and this emotional connection helps customers to remain loyal.

 

The future of customer service is a human-AI collaboration

While technology can help your customers to have the best experience with your business, it comes with its limitations, and a combination of human interaction and technology is blurring the lines of what good customer service looks like. How can you successfully automate your customer service with the perfect blend of emotion? The key is to keep that human interaction, but only where it’s needed.

Not everything needs to be automated – while a returning buyer doesn’t need AI assistance to purchase a product, a first-time site visitor will probably benefit from the advice of a chatbot as their questions will most likely have been asked time and time before. Businesses need to be selective about the areas where automation works best – namely those tasks that are repetitive or simple.

Make sure your customer service channels are consistent – There’s nothing more frustrating than having to repeat your order number, details and query over and over again, as not only will this put customers off, but important information might get lost in limbo. 33% of customers admit to feeling frustrated by having to repeat themselves to multiple support reps, showing it’s crucial for businesses to remain consistent across all their channels to improve your customer experience.

 

The best solution for managing customer relationships? The combination of human engagement with the efficiency automation provides.

Perfecting the perfect customer service system isn’t an easy task, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. For businesses, it’s all about getting this balance right, and recognising when a person should take over. With 78% of customers saying they’d back out of a purchase due to poor customer experience, it’s about finding what’s right for your specific customer. From offering the opportunity to chat with a human from the off to asking for customer feedback to assess effectiveness, customer service is constantly evolving, but businesses need to keep in mind that AI was designed to simplify human customer service, not eliminate it entirely.