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How to Maintain a Human Touch While Embracing Customer Service Automation

by Nicole Robinson | Published On April 6, 2023 | Last Updated June 21, 2024

It’s no secret that many areas of everyday life and business are becoming increasingly digitized.

From shopping on Amazon via voice commands to 61% of consumers using online banking at least once a week, digital transformation removes many person-to-person interactions. For businesses, embracing customer service automation comes with many advantages. Consumers are empowered with self-service options to get help faster, and companies reap the benefits of lower operating costs, increased efficiency and productivity, and increased customer satisfaction.

However, people prefer human interactions; 42% of adults would choose face-to-face interactions over texting, video calls, or email. Therefore, when businesses are looking to differentiate themselves from competitors, one area in which they can uniquely shine is by providing a personalized, human customer service experience.

Benefits of Customer Service Automation

Customer service automation can offer many benefits for both businesses and customers, such as:

Improved customer satisfaction and loyalty:

Automation can help customers get faster, more accurate, and more convenient services, which can increase their satisfaction and loyalty. For example, automation can provide instant answers to frequently asked questions, 24/7 support, personalized recommendations, and proactive communication.

Reduced operational costs and increased revenue:

Automation can help businesses reduce the costs of hiring, training, and retaining human agents, as well as the costs of errors, delays, and inefficiencies. Automation can also help businesses increase their revenue by generating more leads, conversions, and upsells, and by enhancing their brand reputation and customer retention. Automation provides employees with instant feedback, guidance, and support, which helps them learn from their mistakes, improve their performance, and grow their confidence.

Enhanced employee engagement and performance:

Automation can help employees focus on more meaningful, challenging, and rewarding tasks, rather than repetitive, mundane, and tedious ones. This is done by automating routine inquiries, requests, and transactions, such as password resets, order confirmations, and billing issues, freeing up human agents to deal with more complex, sensitive, and emotional cases, such as complaints, disputes, and escalations.

Automation can also help employees improve their skills, knowledge, and productivity, and reduce their stress and burnout. Automation can provide employees with smart suggestions, recommendations, and insights, based on data analysis, natural language processing, and machine learning, enabling them to make better decisions, solve problems faster, and deliver more personalized and proactive service.

Challenges of Customer Service Automation

Customer service automation can also pose some challenges and risks for both businesses and customers, such as:

Loss of human touch and rapport:

Automation can make customers feel less valued, underappreciated, and misunderstood, especially if they perceive the automated responses as cold, impersonal, or irrelevant. Automation can also make customers feel less trust and confidence in the business, especially if they encounter technical glitches, errors, or misunderstandings throughout the interaction.

Lack of flexibility and adaptability:

Automation may not be able to handle complex, emotional, or sensitive situations that require empathy, creativity, or judgment. Automation may also not be able to adapt to changing customer needs, preferences, and expectations, or to new situations, scenarios, or problems.

Privacy and security concerns:

Automation may raise some privacy and security concerns for customers, especially if they have to share their personal or financial information with automated systems, or if they are not aware of how their data is collected, stored, used, or shared. Automation may also expose businesses to cyberattacks, data breaches, or legal liabilities.

Lock and security image

The Transformation of Customer Service

89% of companies have adopted a digital-first strategy, and with that comes moving customer service interactions online. Approximately 23% of companies are using chatbots, and customers frequently turn to social media to get in touch with brands. 86% of people prefer humans over chatbots, meaning we still need to maintain human channels. Many customer service tools are now digital and only 30% of people believe AI makes interactions easier. In today's digital age, brands are losing their human, personalized touch, negatively affecting their businesses.

Why Is a Human Touch in Customer Service Important?

Human touch, especially in a digital call center, is important in ensuring a positive customer experience. It is absolutely possible to leverage digital platforms and automation while maintaining a high-quality customer service experience. Human interaction creates a personalized experience that chatbots and other artificial intelligence tools simply can’t replicate. Humans communicate with empathy and can get a strong read on a customer’s emotions to offer the appropriate solution. Humans understand the tone of voice, inflection, and emotions in a digital call center, unlike a chatbot that responds to a sentence at face value.

Humans can also think outside the box and develop creative solutions for a specific customer’s problem. For example, a customer service representative knows of a special offer launching soon and knows they could offer it to the unhappy customer to make the situation right. A human might know a specific manager who would be incredibly empathetic to this customer’s unique situation and, because of their relationship, send the customer straight to the right person.

How to Elevate the Human Aspect in a Call Center

Here are a few ways to maintain a personalized experience and add a human touch to your customer service call center:

Showing Empathy

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes, and to understand their feelings, thoughts, and perspectives. It is essential for call center agents, as it allows them to connect with customers on an emotional level, and to show that they care about the customer’s problems, needs, and expectations. Empathy can also help to diffuse negative emotions, such as anger, frustration, or disappointment, and to create a more positive and cooperative atmosphere.

Some tips on how to show empathy in a call center are:

  • Use active listening skills, such as paraphrasing and asking open-ended questions, to show that you are paying attention and interested in what the customer is saying.
  • Use empathetic statements, such as "I understand how you feel," "That must be very frustrating," or "I appreciate your patience,” to acknowledge and validate the customer's emotions.
  • Use positive and supportive language, such as "I'm here to help you," "We will find a solution together," or "Thank you for choosing us," to express your willingness and commitment to assist the customer.
  • Use the customer's name and personal pronouns, such as "you" and "your," to create a more personal and friendly tone.
  • Avoid using jargon, acronyms, or technical terms that might confuse or alienate the customer. Instead, use simple and clear language that the customer can understand and relate to.
  • Avoid interrupting, arguing, or blaming the customer, as this can make them feel disrespected, ignored, or attacked. Instead, listen calmly, apologize sincerely, and take responsibility for the issue.

Building Rapport

Rapport is the feeling of trust, harmony, and mutual understanding that develops between two or more people. Rapport is important for call center agents, as it allows them to establish a positive and lasting relationship with customers and makes them feel valued, respected, and appreciated. Rapport can also help to increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and referrals, as well as reduce complaints, conflicts, and cancellations.

Some tips on how to build rapport in a call center are:

  • Use a warm and friendly greeting, such as "Hello, this is John from ABC Company. How are you today?", to start the conversation on a positive note and to show your interest in the customer.
  • Use small talk, such as commenting on the weather, the customer's location, or a common interest, to break the ice and to find something in common with the customer.
  • Use humor, such as making a joke or a light-hearted remark, to lighten the mood and to make the customer smile or laugh.
  • Use compliments, such as "You have a great voice," "You are very knowledgeable," or "You have made a smart choice," to boost the customer's confidence and self-esteem.
  • Use mirroring, such as matching the customer's tone, pace, and style of speech, to create a sense of similarity and familiarity with the customer.
  • Use positive feedback, such as "You are doing great," "You have been very helpful," or "You have been very cooperative," to reinforce the customer's behavior and to show your appreciation.

Personalizing the Service

Personalizing the service is the act of tailoring the service to the specific needs, preferences, and expectations of each customer. Personalizing the service is important for call center agents, as it allows them to deliver a more relevant, customized, and memorable service to customers and to make them feel special, recognized, and valued. Personalizing the service can also help to increase customer satisfaction, retention, and loyalty, as well as generate more sales, cross-selling, and up-selling opportunities.

Some tips on how to personalize the service in a call center are:

  • Use the customer's name and other personal details, such as their location, purchase history, or account information, to show that you know them and remember them.
  • Use personalization tools, such as CRM software, customer profiles, or notes, to access and update the customer's data and to provide them with relevant and accurate information.
  • Use personalization techniques, such as segmentation, targeting, or recommendation, to offer the customer the most suitable products, services, or solutions, based on their needs, preferences, or expectations.
  • Use personalization strategies, such as personal offers, discounts, or incentives, to reward the customer for their loyalty, feedback, or referrals, and to encourage them to buy more or to repeat the purchase.
  • Use personalization gestures, such as sending a thank-you note, a follow-up email, or a birthday card, to show that you care about the customer and that you value their relationship.

Benefits of a Human Touch in a Call Center

There are many advantages of maintaining this human touch.

Call center agent talking to a customer

Enhance Customer Loyalty

Especially during a recession when customers are looking to reduce their spending, a poor experience can quickly result in customer churn. Personalization allows for increased loyalty to a brand, and major complaints can be defused earlier. For example, a call center representative can quickly view in the CRM that this customer has purchased the same product for two full years on a subscription model. Knowing they purchase this product often, a call center representative could offer related products to be included in the next shipment. When customers feel loyal and connected, they’re less likely to cut ties when they have to tighten up their spending.

Increase Business Revenue

It costs 7X more to acquire a new customer than to simply retain an old one, and businesses spend significant time and money to acquire new customers. When the organization can focus on current customers, keeping them happy and enjoying even more products and services, they won’t waste money turning over their customer base every few months. Customers who feel helped and heard are more likely to be cross-sold and upsold, generating even more lifetime value from a single customer.

Accelerated Resolution Time

Humans can often solve complex problems faster than digital tools, and customers often feel more satisfied with these resolutions. A solution like ComputerTalk’s ice Contact Center has automation working in the background to save an agent’s time while they work empathetically with the customer.

Tips and Best Practices for Maintaining a Human Touch While Embracing Customer Service Automation

To overcome the challenges and risks of customer service automation, and to ensure a positive and satisfying customer experience, businesses need to follow some tips and best practices, such as:

Use automation for simple and repetitive tasks, and human agents for complex and emotional tasks:

Businesses should use automation for tasks that are simple, repetitive, and predictable, such as answering FAQs, providing information, booking appointments, or processing payments. Businesses should use human agents for tasks that are complex, emotional, or sensitive, such as resolving complaints, providing advice, or handling emergencies.

Design automation with customer-centricity and personalization:

Businesses should design their automated systems with customer-centricity and personalization in mind, and ensure that they provide relevant, accurate, and helpful responses that match the customer's needs, preferences, and expectations. Businesses should also use natural language, humor, and empathy to make their automated responses more human-like, friendly, and engaging.

Provide clear and easy options for customers to switch to human agents:

Businesses should provide clear and easy options for customers to switch to human agents at any point of their interaction with automated systems and ensure that the transition is smooth and seamless. Businesses should also inform customers upfront about the availability and limitations of automated and human support and set realistic expectations for both.

Train and empower human agents to complement automation:

Businesses should train and empower their human agents to complement automation, and ensure that they have the skills, knowledge, and tools to provide excellent customer service. Businesses should also encourage their human agents to use their empathy, creativity, and judgment to handle complex, emotional, or sensitive situations, and to add value and delight to the customer experience.

Monitor and evaluate the performance of and feedback on virtual and human agents:

Businesses should monitor and evaluate the performance of and feedback on both virtual and human agents and use data and analytics to measure their impact on customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention. Businesses should also use customer feedback and suggestions to improve and optimize their automated and human support, and to identify and resolve any issues or gaps.

Contact ComputerTalk to Create a More Humanized Customer Service Experience

96% of consumers say an amazing customer service experience helps build trust in a brand. Providing that personalized experience in your call center is incredibly important. ComputerTalk is no stranger to creating that human experience. Our team works with you to create a personalized solution that meets your business needs and ensures your customers are happy and keep returning. To learn more about powering a humanized omnichannel customer service experience, contact ComputerTalk for a demo.

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