Article

How an automation-first strategy delivers better human support

By Ruth Zive

Published February 25, 2020
Last updated February 25, 2020

The rumors of a war between live support and automation have been greatly exaggerated.

There’s a long-held and widespread belief that agents and artificial intelligence (AI) do not get along, stemming in part from a fear that automation is only here to replace people. Not only is this incorrect—Forrester’s research reveals that introducing automation will only result in a 16 percent reduction of jobs by 2030, and that customer-facing roles still rely on empathy and creativity that elude AI—but this misconception makes it harder to plan a successful customer experience (CX) strategy.

By thinking about live agents and automation as separate channels or opposing forces, businesses miss out on a huge win-win opportunity. Instead, business leaders should consider how technology—AI and automation specifically—can serve customers while also enabling agents.

There's a long-held and widespread belief that agents and artificial intelligence (AI) do not get along, stemming in part from a fear that automation is only here to replace people.

An automation-first strategy delivers a better human support experience, one that allows businesses to use their humans wisely. AI-powered CX tools enable this in three main ways:

[Related read: Optimizing agent performance is everyone’s job]

1. AI can diminish the low-value inquiries, and accompanying frustration, that agents face

Repetitive, mundane work is one of the key contributors to agent dissatisfaction, and the deflection of repetitive, mundane inquiries is one of the biggest benefits of AI.

With an automation-first approach, businesses roll out an AI-powered tool on every support channel. This tool will act as an always-on self-service option, deflecting support volume while slashing customers’ wait times,

An automation-first approach creates a best-of-all-worlds scenario, where agents get to use their empathy, critical thinking, and creativity on problems that matter most and deflect the rest.

An automation-first approach creates a best-of-all-worlds scenario, where agents get to use their empathy, critical thinking, and creativity on problems that matter most and deflect the rest.

UpWork, the largest freelancing company in the world, was able to deflect inquiries and provide a more consistent experience after launching a chatbot and automation-first strategy. Joji Maekawa, a senior program manager for the CX team, noted that “prior to Ada, customer support reps would see all the different types of cases, [from] quick how-to questions to something more involved that needed an escalation.” With automation, Upwork was able to deflect 50 percent of support inquiries and raised customer satisfaction scores to 80, all while leveraging its investment in live support.

[Related read: To excel at customer intimacy, you will need data]

2. AI can provide better context before the inquiry even reaches an agent

Enabling agents means not only providing a positive work environment, but also giving agents the tools and information they need to support good customer experiences.

Both customers and CX leaders agree the context is key to successful support experience. On the consumer side, 71 percent of customers expect companies to collaborate on their behalf so that they don’t have to repeat information.
On the business side, 91% of customer service leaders believe a key part of CX is understanding the customers’ context, according to a report from Forrester Consulting.

Using an AI-powered tool that provides context for agents can enable them to meet customers’ expectations and provide a consistent user experience. Ada’s seamless handoff guides customers from automated chat to human support, arming agents with a detailed transcript. This transcript allows agents to catch up on the conversation, then jump in to assist.

[Related read: Let email lead the way with AI in customer service]

3. Automation frees agents to have more meaningful interactions with higher-value customers so they can upsell, cross-sell, and help improve CSAT

The irony of CX is that most inquiries are pretty rudimentary—questions like: “How can I reset my password?” or “What is your cancellation policy?” or “Can I change my reservation?” or “Can I top-up my data package?”

Using an AI-powered tool that provides context for agents can enable them to meet customers’ expectations and provide a consistent user experience.

When you automate the 50 percent or more of questions currently monopolizing the time and attention of your human resources, you suddenly free those live resources to address the more complex, high-value inquiries that matter most to your customers.

This allows agents to go beyond churn and retention metrics, and have a direct impact on the bottom line.

[Related read: Personalization’s deep data foundations]

There’s no need to fear automation

The right automation-first strategy will empower agents, letting them play to their strengths and automate the least-exciting parts of their roles. AI can equip agents with the information they need to succeed, finding ways to provide context and create a seamless user experience on the customer side. These changes will allow agents to use their time wisely and focus more on high-value problems, as well as unique opportunities, like up-selling and cross-selling. These changes to the agent-chatbot dynamic go against conventional wisdom, but they’re a win for all involved.

Ruth Zive is Head of Marketing at Ada. Ruth is a skilled and metrics-driven marketing strategist who believes in evidence-based revenue growth through the coordination and alignment of marketing and sales processes. Ruth has worked for two decades serving B2B clients in the technology, financial services, and nonprofit industries. Currently, Ruth is Head of Marketing at Ada, where she oversees Growth, Product Marketing, Brand Strategy, and Business Development. Ada is the leader in Automated Customer Experience, and enterprise customers across the globe use Ada's software platform.