When we think of customer service automation, people tend to think about chatbots. But for most brands it’s not the simplest place to start a customer service automation journey. Embedding a chatbot requires a chat widget, which not all brands have, and it requires the chatbot to be set up to be effective. We’ve seen chatbots that send customers around in circles and try to route them to places they don’t want to go.
Instead, an easier place to start might be email. Let’s explain. In customer support, not all channels are created equal. One channel that sticks out like a sore thumb is email.
If a customer is on the phone to customer support, they have a specific expectation. The expectation is that they will speak to someone who will answer their request there and then. The same goes for live chat – the customer expects a customer service agent to be typing a response in the moment. By extension, the customer expects the chatbot to be able to answer the question there and then.
With email, the expectations change completely. When a customer sends an email to customer support, they want a quick response, but the parameters of what is “quick” change completely. A response within an hour on the phone would be unacceptable, but via email – hey that’s not so bad.
Because all most all support requests require some conversation back and forth, this can take even longer via email because customers don’t always respond immediately, so the conversation goes on for days.
Email can be annoying for a customer service team because it can slow down all of your metrics, and it sits there in the background getting in the way. That’s why it’s ripe for customer service automation.
Understanding Email Automation in Customer Service
Email automation is a powerful tool that lets customer service teams provide fast, consistent responses. But what does it involve?
At its core, email automation uses AI to read incoming emails and respond based on set criteria. It’s like having an extra team member who never sleeps or takes breaks. Because it’s automatic, you can respond much faster at scale than a human could, meaning it’s easy to juggle multiple conversations at once.
This approach can help with repetitive queries by providing immediate answers outside office hours. We have heard from customers who have this running that their own customers are amazed to be receiving responses out of hours, not realising that it’s an automated email.
Getting started with email can be easier than starting with chatbots because all you really need are some simple email templates that can be plugged into your customer service software or helpdesk.
Don’t be fooled by providing a catch-all automated email response that attempts to respond to every single possible customer query. Customers don’t like that – it’s not personalised and it’s not relevant.
AI can help by detecting the intent in the email and providing a more relevant automatic response, which you can create using your email template.
Live Channels vs Asynchronous Channels in Customer Service
The world of customer service is split into two camps: live channels and asynchronous ones. Live channels like phone calls or chats demand immediate attention, while email, an example of an asynchronous channel, doesn’t need instant response.
Chatting in the here and now with your customers is what live chat involves. It’s a bit like playing ping-pong – the quicker you respond to their questions or problems, the happier they’ll be. But there’s a catch – it can feel hectic for support agents juggling multiple conversations at once.
In contrast, emails allow for thoughtful replies that aren’t rushed by immediacy demands. Your team gets time to craft personalised responses which customers appreciate as per SuperOffice research. The downside? Slower response times may frustrate some clients who expect swift help.
For some customers, sending an email is a way of just ticking off a question and they aren’t expecting an immediate response. Obviously if you can get back to them quicker, you have more chance of getting to the bottom of the query and leaving them with a happy outcome.
A big advantage of email automation? Its ability to operate out-of-hours. Even if your support team isn’t working round-the-clock shifts yet (we see you night owls), automated responses let users know when they’ll get answers without leaving them hanging.
Exploring Solutions to Common Frustrations with Email Automation
When people think of automated emails they think of impersonal auto responses, but there is no reason they need to feel so cold. If you can correctly detect the intent you can either route it to the right team to pick up when they come online, or if it’s possible you can even solve the problem within the automated system.
For example if an AI can connect to your carriers, it can find out what the status of an order is and can then answer questions related to that order. That means all WISMO queries that come in via email can start to be dealt with automatically.
Beyond that, you can start to bring in more personalisation. Using customer data effectively allows us to tailor responses and make them more relevant. You can even reference past interactions – all through automation.
This takes some work in building the workflows and if/then decisions to be able to respond effectively, but there is no reason why an email automation cannot follow the same basic steps as an agent, provided it can connect to the same systems.
Frustration also arises from slow response times with email automation, especially outside office hours. With email automation, there is no need to wait for an agent to become available, the automated system can respond immediately.
If you are looking to embrace conversational AI, you might want to test it on email first. The pace is slow, so it’s easy to speed up. The tickets there can be annoying for your team to always be aware of.
This can also be an opportunity. If a customer fires off an email, there’s a chance that by the time they get your response, they have forgotten about the issue and are no longer interested. By speeding up the back and forth you can keep them engaged and potentially make a sale.
Secondly, customers sometimes send emails because they don’t have the time or availability to sit on the phone during working hours. If you can stay on top of the email responses and respond quickly you can keep customers happy and engaged with your brand.
If you want to discuss how to use customer service automation in email effectively, make sure you speak to our team.