To Speak or Not to Speak? The Benefits of Automated Customer Service

In daily life, consumers are often given the choice to obtain information and complete tasks without speaking to a live person. Whether you wish to find movie showtimes, change your address with the post office, or even set up an appointment with your doctor, chances are that all these tasks may be done with a few clicks or press of a button online or over the phone–and on many channels such as web, SMS, chat, and mobile, to name a few. Indeed, speaking to a live agent in these scenarios might actually hinder customer service—paving the way for automated customer service.

Automated customer service refers to any customer engagement which occurs through automated means and without the assistance of a live agent. While some might argue that automation can take more time or complicate the customer service experience, it can be an excellent and efficient means of customer engagement when done well, saving time and money for businesses and consumers alike. For example, knowing that the target consumer is of a younger generation—let’s say, a fashion website geared toward young professionals–might prompt a company to offer live chat, SMS, or social media as channels for customer service to keep up with young people’s predilections. By contrast, an insurance company or bank may choose to prioritize automated calls with an option to speak to a live agent anytime, as the targeted consumer in this scenario is more likely to need eventual assistance and will need to input sensitive information that perhaps should not be shared over other channels.

In many ways, automation can serve as a complement to, and not a substitute for, live agent customer service. As highlighted at Opus Research’s Intelligent Assistants Conference 2014, enterprises such as Hyatt Hotels are using automated services to streamline the reservation process, while food industry chains such as Domino’s Pizza enable faster ordering and delivery. This doesn’t mean that the consumer cannot call for assistance, but the process is certainly made easier through automation. Infiniti Research predicted that the global Intelligent Virtual Assistant market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 39.32% over the period 2013-2018 while Grand View Research predicted that the global market for such technology would reach $3.1 billion by 2020.

Automation is effective for providing quick, efficient service tailored to a customer’s personal needs, all the while reducing costs for companies, shifting expenses to more critical tasks, and increasing live agent productivity. By tapping into the potential for serving customers across many channels, focusing on the needs of the targeted consumer, and balancing automation with live agent assistance, businesses may deliver stellar customer service which reflects the tendencies and tastes of their consumers.

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