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Four Things To Consider when Automating Support

To a manager looking to cut costs in Customer Support, automations may seem like a golden goose.  They’re cheap, efficient, and can handle a full gamut of services normally performed by a support agent. On paper, it may look rosy, but be careful; automations are not always a saving grace.   

Automations should not be viewed as a penny-pinching option.  They are a tool, and like any tool, they must be used in a way that makes sense.  When making decisions about how to best use automations to improve your support, there are four things you should consider:  

How does this benefit the customer?

When considering automations in your support, your primary concern should be about how it will benefit the customer.  To do this effectively, there are two questions you need to ask: Does the automation plan improve the customer experience?  Will my customers feel more cared for if automations are used? If you don’t know the answers, then it’s time to pause and figure them out.

A good place to start is to consider the context of the automation and consider how it changes engagement with your company. If, for example, you plan to automate reminder emails rather than have agents manually send them out, think about how this affects the customer. If you plan to automate responses from your help center, consider how customers may respond.  It’s important to make sure that your automations match the emotional and rhetorical context of the customer.  If they don’t, then you’ll end up with confused, frustrated customers.

How does this affect my team?

Automations can help support move efficiently by removing some of the burden from support agents, but that also means that your team is not engaging with every situation that comes through the help desk. This disconnect can be dangerous, especially if your automations eventually lead to engagement between the customer and a support agent.  If the agent doesn’t understand the problem, then the customer will become frustrated at having to explain it over again.  One of the fastest paths to angry customers is a support desk in which the agents seem confused and uninformed.  

Automation processes also should be looked at from the perspective of the support team.  Specifically, it’s crucial to see how this changes process.  If automating a particular part of support requires your agents to do additional research into the situation, or if it creates new steps that he or she must take to resolve issues, then you may want to do an analysis and see if the automation is really saving your agents time, and if it will actually make your support more efficient.

 How does this affect my product?

One of the advantages of human engagement is that your support team experiences firsthand the frustrations and concerns of your customers.  This means they know what problems are are most urgent to fix in terms of keeping your community happy.  Automations can destroy this.  

It’s important to think about where you plan to automate so that you don’t lose valuable information about how to improve your product.  While quantitative data is helpful, there’s really no substitute for good qualitative understanding of what customers are experiencing.  The only way to get that is through human interactions.  Keep this in mind when making your automation plan.


Have I thought my plan through?

One of the biggest issues with automations is that the triggers which control them can be extremely sensitive. Something as simple as a customer updating his or her information can break the entire system if it’s not gamed correctly. It’s also not uncommon for multiple automations to accidentally trigger at once, causing customers to receive a barrage of engagements they don’t need. This can be a huge problem, as research shows that these kind of system glitches are often perceived as incompetence or carelessness.  And that is the last perception you want customers to have.

When setting up automations, make sure you have a very detailed plan that outlines the journey of the customer through automations.  And then Test it.  Test it a lot.  Test it until you are absolutely sure that it works from every possible variation.  Yes, that can be tedious.  But a good customer experience is worth that time and effort.

Also published on Medium.

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