Automating for the human touch

When we think of how automation assists us in our daily lives, we tend to think of speed and access to information – self check-in at the airport, GPS guidance while driving, meeting reminders on the desktop, or mobile apps that help us accomplish various tasks.

But automation can sometimes have an exclusionary nature, pushing us farther away from human interactions. So how can we ensure that automation is helping us move in the right direction – toward greater efficiency – while still allowing us to maintain a human touch and ensure a personal customer experience?

This can be accomplished, but it requires that the right tasks are targeted for automation and that employees are freed up to provide the necessary human touch when needed.

Shouldn’t the service agent focus on you?

Think of automation in customer service. We first use self-service options through the web, mobile apps, and phone menu systems.  Each of these systems has preconfigured integrations to all the necessary systems and tools need to accomplish a set of tasks.   But if the quest to find answers via automation is unsuccessful, we often find ourselves facing an employee at a store or contact center that also has a plethora of running applications, documentation and screens to navigate at the moment of truth. 

According to a recent survey, most customer-facing employees are managing six or more systems when interacting with customers. Add to this mix various compliance requirements and upselling efforts, and you have easily created an environment where employees are often more focused on their “systems” and less concerned about the person on the other end of the phone or across the counter.

Connecting with the customer

The idea behind automation is great, but when things get tough, customers like talking to people. And when they do, they appreciate the human touch and appreciate a listening agent, not a distracted one. This is where a different type of automation comes in – one that runs in tandem with agent assistance, helping agents quickly access the most relevant information about the customer without toggling between different screens and documents. This allows agents to be more professional, and it promotes service that is moreconsistent and streamlined from touch point to touch point, on the journey from self-service to direct channels.  

In addition, automation can actually increase personalization by helping to identify customer preferences. Service can then be tailored around:

  • Customer Intent and Value
  • Feedback from previous interactions that could affect the current situation
  • Life-changing events (marriage, children, new home purchases) that could be detected in conversation but never collected in any system.
  • Detailed customer preferences when talking to VIP customers

Remove distractions, increase quality interactions

For the sake of humanity, remember that not all parts of a customer interaction should be automated. Rather, automation should be used to ensure that the processing of information during these interactions doesn’t distract service agents from the task at hand. The idea is to optimize service – this means that with the help of automation agents can spend more time building rapport with customers, earning trust, and getting closer to their customers.

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