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With labor shortages, supply chain issues, inflationary pressure, and customers’ increasing expectation for seamless service testing every company’s limits, organizations are looking for ways to help their workforce do more with less. This pressure is especially acute for customer service teams already prone to burnout and high turnover.
By deploying automation technology, organizations can empower service agents to do their jobs more efficiently, lower workplace stress, and advance their careers. And since customer service teams are often the face of the brand, happier agents translate to more satisfied customers, which also leads to better business performance.
How automation helps improve customer service
At its heart, service automation is about making people’s lives easier. The technology is made up of a suite of tools that enable intelligent machines to take over time-consuming, repetitive tasks that humans used to do.
Here are three key benefits organizations see when they successfully leverage automation in service environments:
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1. Service teams are better at their jobs
Automation streamlines repetitive, menial tasks, helping agents become more efficient and productive and, ultimately, better serve customers. There are plenty of ways businesses can pinpoint tasks across an entire organization that is ripe for automation. Here are a handful of automation-based tools that can help save time, increase efficiency and improve the overall work experience for service professionals:
- Robotic process automation (RPA) bots enable agents to automate tedious workflows requiring various systems, documents, and images such as updating a customer’s account across applications, logging into multiple systems to start the day, or copying customer information from one place (that is, customer email) and inputting into various systems.
- Macros are a simple series of instructions that can run automatically — allowing agents to complete a multi-step process with a single click, such as when closing out a case.
- Orchestration engines help agents collaborate in more complex business processes that require many steps and team members, such as processing a loan application or issuing a refund.
- Chatbots increase the level of customer self-service, saving agents time by instantly addressing common queries without the assistance of an agent. They can also collect important background information from the customer before an agent engages to save time, ensure accuracy and personalize the interaction.
- Intelligent automation makes agents’ lives easier by recommending next best actions when working with a customer, pre-populating fields agents often need to fill out after a customer interaction, or processing customer input to correctly route a request.
- No-code and low-code automation builder puts the power of automation in agents’ hands, allowing them to quickly transform standard process steps, such as updating an address, into an automated workflow.
When tasks that took minutes or hours now take seconds, the time savings add up quickly in a high-volume contact center. With automation, service is also more consistent, with less room for human error or cases falling through the cracks, especially with many new employees.
2. Agents are happier
No one enjoys spending time on repetitive tasks, digging for information across multiple systems, or dealing with frustrated customers who’s waited too long for a response. It’s no surprise that customer service teams grapple with low job satisfaction and high turnover, driving up costs for companies and a poorer customer experience.
According to Salesforce’s State of Service report, 67% of service decision-makers say that retaining employees is a challenge in the current market. But, when organizations invest in technologies like automation that empower agents to do their best work, more agents have begun to consider long-term career opportunities within the service sector. In fact, 85% of agents see a clear path for career growth — up from 67% in 2020 and 59% in 2018.
When automation is done right, it removes items from “to do” lists rather than adding steps to existing processes. These tools can reduce tedium, stress, and burnout among agents by cutting down on manual tasks, taking over simple queries and breaking down complex customer issues with guided steps and recommendations.
With the service team growing more efficient, customers are less likely to wait an extended period for resolutions and take their dissatisfaction out on agents. Service professionals can focus on tasks that require a human touch, like connecting with customers in personalized ways that drive long-term brand loyalty.
3. Agents can gain new skills and advance their careers
In the same survey, nearly 70% of service leaders identified a lack of access to career development opportunities among their departments’ top challenges. The absence of avenues for career growth contributes to low morale and high turnover among agents and prevents departments from achieving a higher level of service.
Automation can free up time for agents to continually enhance their skills and advance their careers. Time freed up thanks to automation can be allocated to perfecting essential skills such as active listening and empathy or learning new skills such as identifying a sales lead and technologies such as no-code and low-code tools. These tools empower agents with a new technical skill set they can use to remove inefficiencies and better serve customers. Innovative learning platforms can even recommend bite-sized learning content customized to an agent’s skill level and incorporated into their work.
Continuous on-the-job learning makes agents more fulfilled and less likely to quit. It also sets them up to improve customer experience and deliver on the promise of turning the service team into a value center.
Getting started with automation
To take advantage of the benefits of automation, start small. Identify a few high-value areas that are ripe for improvement, such as those around simple, high-volume customer requests. Or begin by automating a single step in a more complex process. Learn from this experience and then adopt best practices to build on your success across the organization. Try to deploy these automation tools in close coordination with the IT department to speed up implementation and ensure readiness for future expansion. The most important thing, though, is to get started — there’s no time to waste in today’s business environment.
Nga Phan is SVP of service cloud product strategy at Salesforce
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