The First Wave of Customer Support Automation: Task Automation

Support automation

If you work in customer service, you know that time is of the essence — and every minute your customers spend waiting for help is one minute closer to them giving up and going to a competitor. In fact, research shows that 66% of people say that the single most important thing a company can do is value their time during a service interaction.

But a company can only be so fast when customer support consists of… answering calls on the phone and manually completing tasks in order to help. Enter task automation, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: the application of technology to automate tasks, minimising (or eliminating) the need for human involvement. Pretty great, right? We interact with examples of task automation every day, from pulling out money from an ATM to signing up for subscription services.

But while the concept of automation is old — like, Homer in ancient Greece old — task automation started to change the game in customer service toward the end of the 20th century, as part of the first wave of customer support automation. 

The fundamentals of task automation

So, what has task automation meant for CS teams? 

Quite a lot: from giving customers the ability to automatically submit a ticket (instead of picking up a phone) to automated report creation for agents, there are a lot of processes that have been automated in a bid to give support teams better customer insights and help accelerate response times. For example, using macros to speed up email responses or applying triggers to automatically alert other teams have benefitted teams and customers. Bots have become more efficient at handling many of these customer-facing tasks, like call centre voice systems or content recommendations, helping to free up the humans behind support efforts.

In fact, according to a report published by the McKinsey Global Institute, “As many as 45 percent of the activities individuals are paid to perform can [now] be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies.” Plenty of those fall into the category of tasks that can help customer support teams decrease wait times and deliver a better customer experience — increasingly important at a time when 67% of customers say their standards for service experiences are higher than ever.*

Many customer support teams — and organisations as a whole — do still have room to grow when it comes to saving time through task automation. But task automation is, for lack of a better word, rote. It can speed up basic elements along the support funnel, but it can’t provide a dynamic experience or replace an agent.

The next wave?

Creating a great online experience became even more important over the past 18 months as COVID-19 forced many companies to close their physical locations and move all interactions to digital. As we’ve seen in our research, customer expectations have only increased — and at a time when support teams have been underwater and struggling more than ever to deliver answers.

But we’re also witnessing a unique moment in the evolution of AI’s impact on customer support. AI and digital are enabling new ways of connecting with customers — and the next wave of support automation will use natural language as a platform for engagement, opening up new possibilities for autonomy that can drive higher ROI and create happier customers.

Learn more next week as we continue our series by first unpacking the rise of workplace automation — and then diving into the “third wave” of automation with the dynamic impact of NLP. 

*Yext research, 2021

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