Don't Make These Four Big Automation Mistakes In Customer Support

February, 18 2019

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Written By
Alyssa Verzino

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Previously, we shared five things support leaders must do when bringing automation into their business. But modernizing support also means avoiding certain pitfalls. By building awareness of these, leaders improve their chance of a successful transformation initiative. They’ll reduce inefficiencies and get the most value out of their people, dollars and customer interactions.

Don’t: over, or under, do it

No matter where automation tools are applied, remember: customers or agents don’t need elaborate, they need right. A Corporate Executive Board study of more than 75,000 customers interacting with customer service agents or using self-service channels found that over-the-top service efforts made little difference. What people want are simple, quick solutions to their problems. Similarly, support leaders should also avoid underdoing automation initiatives, or opting for unintuitive, cheaper automation for budget sake. Take knowledge base search: tools should be able intuit answers even in the granularities of documents, passages or sentences. A brittle option that spits out a list of articles to look through may mean one less search query for an agent, but introduces new work to browse and digest. Automation should make work as easy – if not easier – than not having it.

Don’t: engage customers in ways that a human never would

Harvard Business Review warns that if an action would be annoying when performed by a person, it will be annoying when performed by technology. With automation, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. This simple rule keeps support leaders from overdoing the technological touches that automation allows. Excessive auto-response, virtual prompts, unsolicited SMS satisfaction surveys and phone tree complexity are ways that automation, while reducing human intervention, produces poor experiences.

Don’t: get in agents’ way

Leaders want speed, performance, improving metrics and premier support experiences. Juggling the expectations of a new system and calibrating to a new tech-infused reality is hard. Don’t undermine the customer experiences you intend to create by layering complex systems, steps or workflows. While there will always be a learning curve and leaders should push their teams to persevere outside their usual comfort zones, don’t confuse this with poor design and mechanics. HBR continues, “If properly designed, technology should craft an environment that enables employees to excel comfortably, without stress or angst, while not hindering the interaction.”

Don’t: leave the story unfinished

Roadmapping an automation plan early on brings clarity inside the business. Support leaders cannot forget: to them, this may be an obvious, value enhancing exercise. But to agents, whose livelihoods and value are often tied up in the work they do, automation can be scary. While no one loves busyness, there is a security in knowing that one’s tasks, however mundane, are essential. Support leaders must start out clear on the automation agenda. Although an incremental and test-and-see approach is wise, leaders should communicate their ultimate agenda by answering questions like:

  • Is automating going to move to other high-value work once it rids the company of the repeatable stuff?
  • Where will agents be alternatively deployed?
  • Will agents’ fear of marginalization impact uptake and project success?

In communicating an end-goal and offering renewed vision for the value of human agents, leaders can improve chances of success. While many today welcome the assist from automation, it’s safe to still assume a low level of understanding. Treat the conversation delicately – much like how ideas of outsourcing and offshoring were introduced into corporate environments in decades past.

With automation, the moral of the story is apply it in a measured way, reinforce the harmonious nature of people and technology, assume a steep learning curve for agents and customers and invest in quality.

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