How (and Why) to Automate Customer Service for Your Online Business

Even in the age of online shopping, customer service is key to creating a positive experience for your customers. From problems with technology to questions about products, customers will want the option to contact a customer service representative or find a helpful video that answers their queries.

One of the biggest benefits of shopping online is convenience, and customers want that same convenience when it comes to customer service. That means they want customer service 24/7, any day of the year, and as quickly and frictionlessly as possible.

This level of customer service can prove difficult to provide without the help of automation. Automation gives customers the ability to get in contact with your business at any hour and potentially have their questions answered more quickly. It also frees up your human agents to devote their time to more complex issues that a chatbot or autoresponder isn’t equipped to solve.

The numbers speak for themselves: businesses that use customer service automation tools can save an average of 20-40% on service costs. These businesses also report a 15-20% increase in customer satisfaction and see around a 20% boost in conversion rates and growth.

At Optimyze Digital, we use customer service automation as part of our toolkit to craft efficient, profitable online businesses for our clients. Paired with a great marketing strategy, expert product research analysis, and high-converting custom websites, our programs have been building wealth for our clients for years. Find out if our DFY eCommerce programs are right for your business.

The Most Important Online Automated Customer Service Software

Automated customer service can refer to a variety of different systems. These range from a searchable knowledge base or FAQ page to email automation to chatbots. Depending on your business’s needs, you may need one or all of these systems. Regardless of which ones you implement, the most important consideration to keep in mind is that automation should support your customer service representatives, not replace the human element altogether.

A searchable knowledge base or FAQ section is the first place many customers search for answers to their questions or solutions to their issues. Research shows that 73% of customers want to solve problems on their own rather than having to go through the hassle of contacting customer service. A knowledge base that is easy to navigate will reduce the amount of queries you receive through other channels and improve customer satisfaction.

Up next are automated workflows, help desks, and ticketing. This type of automation ensures that the right help tickets reach the right customer service representatives, that no customer request falls through the cracks, and that issues get taken care of by your reps in a timely and efficient fashion. These systems also create automatic reports to keep track of past interactions with specific customers, enabling your reps to have more information at their disposal for future queries by these customers.

Customer feedback surveys can also be automated, either to collect feedback on customer service interactions (so you can improve them in the future), to get to know your audience better (so you can customize the shopping experience for them), or to generate leads on prospective customers. You can automate these surveys by sharing them with customers at specific points in their journey, such as after interacting with a chatbot, making a purchase, or calling your business on the phone.

Many businesses employ canned responses or autoresponders, which are usually transmitted to customers through email or live chat. An autoresponder is a generic email that gets sent out automatically. While it’s often essential in email marketing, it can be frustrating for customers to receive an autoresponder message when they ask a support question.

Canned responses, however, are pre-written messages that answer frequently asked questions. These messages can be sent out to your customers by a customer service rep (who can tailor the message to the specific customer) or sent out automatically by a chatbot when it detects certain keywords. Canned responses often include links to your knowledge base, directing customers to additional information about their query.

Finally, we come to chatbots, a category that overlaps with many of the systems we’ve already discussed. Chatbots make it possible to offer live chat on your online store and social media pages at all times.

More than half of customers are more likely to keep shopping from a business that offers live chat support, so many businesses consider live chat a requirement. Most consumers, especially younger ones, consider live chat their preferred channel for interacting with a brand, well above email and phone conversations.

Chatbots use AI (Artificial Intelligence) to answer customer questions, direct customers to relevant pages in your knowledge base, or connect them with a human representative for more difficult queries. Chatbots can also create tickets, book meetings or appointments, gather contact information, and generate leads.

At Optimyze Digital, we use ManyChat as a key part of our eCommerce toolkit. This software provides AI-powered chat support for customers reaching out through Facebook, Instagram, or SMS. ManyChat users see CTR (Click-Through Rates) 130% higher than the industry average.

What Automated Customer Service Can (and Can’t) Do

As we mentioned before, automation should never replace human connection altogether. Instead, automation helps take the pressure off customer service representatives to speed up, streamline, and even add more personalization to the customer service experience.

Automation should be only part of your customer service strategy, and you should deploy it to fulfill the tasks it’s most suited to. When properly used, automation should make it easier to build relationships with your customers, especially as your business grows.

Automated customer support excels at answering simple questions that you receive often, sharing updates on your customer’s orders, and directing customers to a specific resource on your knowledge base. Automated software can also help you be proactive with your customer care by resolving problems before the customer even notices them, such as by notifying them of abandoned carts or shipping delays.

Some of the tasks you may want to automate include sending messages that inform customers their message has been received, prompting customers to reset their passwords, helping customers verify their accounts, and doing basic troubleshooting for your various platforms or products. 

Again, automation can be an excellent tool to help increase productivity and maintain organization for customer service reps. By automatically assigning help tickets and prioritizing serious support requests and sensitive customers, automation allows your customer service agents to provide top-notch assistance.

On a similar note, you shouldn’t rely on AI for dealing with “high-touch” customers who need lots of assistance or customers with sensitive issues who could benefit from empathy and human contact.

All your automated customer service systems should be integrated via a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platform to centralize all your customer information. Both human reps and chatbots can use this information, which includes contact information, transaction history, pages viewed on your website, and previous customer service interactions, to provide a more personalized experience.

It’s also essential to gather feedback on customers’ experience with your automated customer support software. Discovering what works and doesn’t work is the key to improving the customer experience overall.

Omnichannel Support for a Cross-Platform Shopping Experience

Online shopping today is an omnichannel experience, with conversion paths spanning from discovering a brand on social media to seeing Google ads to browsing reviews and comparing prices on Amazon to finally making a purchase. Customers now expect to be able to continue their shopping journey seamlessly from one platform to another or, if they prefer, to shop directly through social media platforms.

That same omnichannel experience should extend to customer service. Customers want to be able to contact you via different platforms according to their individual preferences, the nature of their question, or the channel they happen to be using. A good customer support automation system should include omnichannel support.

With automation, you don’t have to have reps monitoring all channels at all times. Automation software can also help you keep track of customers across platforms so that you store all their contact information, order history, and previous interactions with your business in a centralized help desk.

At Optimyze, we use Zapier to integrate the different apps we use to communicate with our clients’ customers. Zapier removes the need for additional coding by connecting two or more apps that your business uses and automating repetitive tasks that occur in those apps. Zapier is an excellent resource for expanding your business’s omnichannel customer service capabilities.

Personalization: A Must-Have for Automated Customer Service

As we discussed in previous blog posts, today’s customers expect a high level of personalization in their online shopping experience. In fact, 63% of customers will stop buying from a brand if it doesn’t offer good personalization.

It can seem difficult to provide personalization with automated customer service. However, in many cases, automation can actually make it easier to offer your customers a personalized experience.

Freeing up your customer service representatives from having to deal with repetitive, high-volume, simple tasks allows them to handle problems with more empathy and care when customers need them most.

If it’s integrated with your CRM platform, automation can route help desk tickets to the correct representative more easily. It can also provide your reps with accurate information about your customer’s experience so far, preventing redundancy.

Customers hate having to repeat themselves over and over without seeing any results, and a well-managed automation system can help avoid that. Sophisticated chatbot AI can detect a customer’s recent activity and avoid suggesting that the customer visit the same knowledge base resource they just came from.

No matter what, automated customer support should always have an “escape hatch” that allows customers to contact human representatives if chatbots or other automated systems are not cutting it. Automated systems usually can’t identify frustrated customers and may not always know when to escalate to a representative. Because of this gap in AI capability, it’s important to provide your customers with the power to escalate on their own.

If their problem occurs outside of business hours, most customers will be willing to wait to have their issue resolved by a knowledgeable employee rather than going around and around with a chatbot that repeats the same insufficient responses. While customers and businesses alike place high importance on speed, 95% of customers prefer slower but higher-quality customer service over faster, lower-quality assistance.

The Bottom Line of Customer Service Automation

While customers used to associate automated customer support with being unable to speak with a real person on the phone, many online shoppers today consider chatbots and other automated systems to be a convenience. Younger generations especially view chatbots as their first point of contact with a business, though they are still frustrated if they can’t speak to a real person when necessary.

While your business may not currently need automation if you only have a few customer service interactions a day, automation is becoming more and more of an industry standard. It can help you connect with customers all day, everyday, improve your overall customer service, reduce your costs, and increase your conversion rates.

If you’re interested in working with a team of experts in eCommerce to create an integrated customer service system that boosts customer satisfaction and builds your brand’s value, contact our team today.