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With labor shortages, supply chain issues, inflationary pressures and customers’ growing expectations for seamless service testing the boundaries of any business, organizations are looking for ways to help their workforce do more with less. This pressure is particularly acute for customer service teams who are already prone to burnout and high turnover.
By adopting automation technology, organizations can empower service agents to do their jobs more efficiently, reduce workplace stress and advance their careers. And since customer service teams are often the face of the brand, happy agents translate into happier customers, which also leads to better business results.
How automation helps improve customer service
At its heart, service automation is about making people’s lives easier. The technology consists 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 succeed with automation in service environments:
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1. Service teams are better at their jobs
Automation streamlines repetitive, simple tasks, helping agents become more efficient and productive and ultimately better serve customers. There are many ways companies can find tasks across an entire organization that are 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 personnel:
- Robots for process automation (RPA) enable agents to automate tedious workflows that require different 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 enter into various systems.
- Macros are a simple series of instructions that can be run automatically – allowing agents to complete a multi-step process with a single click, such as closing a case.
- Orchestration engines help agents collaborate on more complex business processes that require many steps and team members, such as processing a loan application or issuing a refund.
- Chatbots raise the level of customer self-service, saving agents time by instantly addressing common questions without the help 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 the life of agents easier by recommending next best actions when working with a customer, pre-populating fields agents often need to complete after a customer interaction, or processing customer input to route a request correctly.
- The no-code and low-code automation builder puts the power of automation in the hands of agents, 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, time savings add up quickly in a high-volume contact center. With automation, the service is also more consistent, with less room for human error or cases to fall through, especially with many new hires.
2. Agents are happier
No one likes spending time on repetitive tasks, digging for information across multiple systems, or dealing with frustrated customers who have waited too long for a response. It’s no surprise that customer service teams struggle with low job satisfaction and high turnover, increasing costs for businesses and a poorer customer experience.
According to Salesforce’s State of Service report, 67% of service decision makers say employee retention is a challenge in the current market. But as organizations invest in technologies like automation that empower agents to do their best work, more agents are beginning to consider long-term career opportunities in 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 agent boredom, stress and burnout by cutting down on manual tasks, taking over simple questions and breaking down complex customer issues with guided steps and recommendations.
As the service team becomes more efficient, customers are less likely to wait a long period for solutions and take their dissatisfaction out on agents. Service professionals can focus on tasks that require a human touch, such as connecting with customers in personal 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 managers identified a lack of access to career development opportunities as one of their departments’ biggest challenges. The absence of opportunities 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 continuously improve their skills and advance their careers. Time freed up thanks to automation can be used to perfect essential skills like active listening and empathy or to learn new skills like identifying a sales lead and technologies like no-code and low-code tools. These tools give agents a new technical skill set they can use to remove inefficiencies and better serve customers. Innovative learning platforms can even recommend learning content tailored to an agent’s skill level and integrated into their work.
Continuous learning on the job makes agents more satisfied and less likely to quit. It also sets them up to improve the customer experience and deliver on the promise of turning the service team into a value center.
Get started with automation
To reap the benefits of automation, start small. Identify a few valuable areas ripe for improvement, such as those around simple, large customer requests. Or start by automating a single step in a more complex process. Learn from this experience and then apply best practices to build on your success across the organization. Try to deploy these automation tools in close collaboration with the IT department to accelerate implementation and ensure readiness for future expansion. However, the most important thing is to get started – there is no time to waste in today’s business environment.
Nga Phan is SVP of Service Cloud Product Strategy at Salesforce
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