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Customer Expectations For Ecommerce Experience Are Higher Than Ever. Can Automation Help Ease Ticket Volume While Keeping Customers Happy?


It’s a challenging time to be in ecommerce customer support. On the one hand, there are the skyrocketing demands of customers who expect rapid-fire responses and Prime Now experiences at every turn. Should these needs not be met, brands risk losing those customers (and their lifetime values) forever. 

On the other hand, businesses are facing severe logistics issues: supply chain and shipping crises and deep uncertainty around staffing and employment. Major retailers are filling gaps with pay incentives as other brands scramble to hire and retain qualified customer service agents. Meanwhile, the “NOW Customer” waits impatiently for responses. 

Enter automation in customer service. 

Technology has always been a critical component of successful customer experience strategies. The key is to understand how (and when) to implement it and follow the best practices of successful ecommerce brands. 

What to expect in this article

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at automation, specifically:

  • The different types available
  • The benefits 
  • The challenges and risks 
  • How to choose the best solution for your business

What is automated customer service? 

Automated customer service is the use of technology to answer customer service questions. Examples include chatbots, self-service portals, and recorded phone prompts. These tools can be found via live chat, instant messaging, phone, or within a website’s knowledge base or help center.

Why do businesses use automated customer service?

Businesses use automated customer service to help scale customer support in a cost-efficient manner. By using a technology-based solution, companies can more efficiently manage ticket volume and use in-house teams for more complicated inquiries. Business Process Outsourcers (BPOs) and contact centers ar automation to help scale their capabilities and increase offerings to their clients.

What are the benefits of automated customer service?

There are four key benefits of automated customer service:

  1. Improved customer satisfaction
  2. Cost savings
  3. Time savings
  4. Improved employee experience

Automation can bring significant improvements to your business when implemented within a broader CX staffing and outsourcing strategy. Here’s how:

1. Improved customer satisfaction (on post-sale interactions)

While automation isn’t ideal for every step of the ecommerce customer journey, it works beautifully for very straightforward post-sale inquiries. Examples of these types of questions include:

  • “Where’s my order?” (aka WISMO)
  • “What’s your return policy?”
  • “How do I print a return label?” 

As supply chain issues continue to haunt online, retailers, having self-service portals and/or chatbots to handle the bulk of repetitive inquiries makes for a smoother, more satisfying customer experience. So long as the post-sale question doesn’t include a follow-up inquiry or a special circumstance, these tools should be able to handle the resolution without a hitch.

2. Cost savings

Many businesses implement automation for the simple fact that technology is more affordable than an exclusively human workforce. It handles simple issues. By taking a good chunk of support volume, it can help businesses save money that would have otherwise gone towards in-house staffing or contact center outsourcing. In some instances, tools can provide a much more affordable solution where no human intervention is required.

3. Time savings 

Artificial intelligence can save your customers time by quickly feeding them accurate answers. They can also save your service agents’ time through audience segmentation and improvements through machine learning. For example, a chat bubble can ask customers to pre-select a certain topic or service department in order to efficiently route the chat directly to the correct service agent. Because they’re online 24/7/365, AI bots keep first response times (FRT) down while keeping customer satisfaction high.

4. Improves employee experience

When working together with human backup, automation can make an agent’s job easier and more fulfilling. In fact, it can help in the following ways:

  • Shoulder the load of tier 1 inquiries, aka repetitive responses that would otherwise be draining and seemingly never-ending for a human agent. This also frees up the in-house team to tackle more challenging tasks that serve the overall health of the business. 
  • Machine learning can feed human agents valuable information about their customers, making it more likely for them to engage in valuable and satisfying conversations. 

What are the challenges and risks associated with customer service automation?

We’ve identified three risks and challenges associated with customer service automation:

  • Customer frustration and abandonment 
  • Lack of personalization
  • Drain on internal resources

The most important consideration is that technology is not a one-size-fits all solution. Companies must balance the right amount of personalization and efficiency with the demands of today’s customers. 

  1. Customer frustration and abandonment

This one’s a biggie. Chatbots have generally gotten a bad reputation for making customer service interactions harder rather than easier. When faced with a high-effort experience (ie one where a bot repeatedly asks for clarification), research shows that customers are less likely to repurchase from that company ever again. This is a major blow to a company’s revenue potential. To avoid this risk, it’s critical that your solution includes a detailed escalation-to-human strategy and that multi-part questions are directly routed to human agents. Also, it’s more important than ever that technology for pre-sale inquiries is closely watched by human agents as potential sales hang in the balance!

  1. Lack of personalization

Customer service has always been about human connection and personalized conversations. This is even more true today as brands’ customer service is expanding into social media comments, a place where customers are expecting the human touch.  

While automation has made terrific strides in creating personal, human-like experiences, in many circumstances it still has a way to go. We recommend always having a human agent ready to step in, either from your internal team, or outsourced staffing (like Simplr’s Human Cloud Network).

  1. Drain on internal resources

There’s a misconception that chatbots are a “set it and forget it” solution. Software companies often sell their software as a quick and easy solution. The reality, in fact, is that adopting automation for customer service requires:

  • Time and care in evaluating all the vendors 
  • Dedicated resources to implementing the solution on your website, and ensuring that there’s no downtime for your site visitors
  • Ongoing maintenance and fine-tuning of the technology. Machine learning, while an amazing tool in the long run, requires lots of monitoring by human agents. In some instances, chatbots can require more work of your employees than originally anticipated.

The best way to avoid this drain is to make sure you’re asking all the right questions when evaluating a solution. Also, selecting a tool that is already part of a help desk stack (i.e. Gorgias Bot) will make the selection easier. 

How to make the best decision about automated customer service

As you select the best software for your business, make sure your team is asking the following questions: 

  • Does the AI chatbot connect to my customer relationship management (CRM) software? If analytics is important to your business, you’ll want to make sure that these two tools connect seamlessly so you can have insights. There are chatbots that feature integrations with popular CRMs like Gorgias.
  • Is it pre-trained? Chatbots need to have some baseline training and knowledge so that you don’t have to spend internal resources on training this piece of technology to recognize patterns from the ground up.
  • What do I want to accomplish? Assess tools in relation to your primary business goals. Get with other departments in your business to align on which goals a chatbot or self-service can contribute to. 

Automation done right

Giving ecommerce customers the option to engage with automation on your website is a good (and necessary) business decision. However, selecting a trusted vendor and ensuring that there’s always a human backup is critical to its success. 

Julia Luce is the senior content manager at Simplr, home of NOW CX. Julia helps brands navigate today’s customer experience landscape through trends reports, mystery shops, and interviews with leaders in ecommerce. Prior to joining Simplr, Julia worked as a freelance writer for professional and lifestyle outlets. She lives in Nashville, TN.

Special thanks to our friends at Gorgias for their insights on this topic.
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