Every second your customer spends waiting on hold with support is a second they’re closer to switching to your competitor. According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2020, long wait times top the list of what makes for a bad customer service experience. However, there is a solution to those delays in service, one that customers increasingly expect: automated customer service. Your customers want to resolve their own problems when they can, and they’re open to interacting with bots and reading FAQs if it means quick resolution.

Some companies are still reluctant to engage with customer service automation because they fear robots will make their brand sound, well, robotic. But those who invest in automated solutions are in a better position to succeed. According to Gartner research, by 2022, 70% of all customer interactions will involve tools like chatbots, machine learning, and mobile messaging, up from 15% in 2018.

Those trends mean that automation is a vital part of any customer relationship management system. Let’s take a look at how it can benefit your business.

What is automated customer service?

It’s a set of tools that automate workflows or tasks for customer service teams. This might include artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots that answer customer questions, intelligent ticket routing, machine learning, automated email responses, virtual agents, or voice bots that triage customer calls. Integrated CRM software can automatically log every customer interaction to put the right information at your support team’s fingertips. “It could also be as simple as sharing information automatically when a call to your contact center gets transferred,” says Madison Davis, manager of content management at Zendesk. “So the agent has all the details and the customer doesn’t have to repeat themselves.”

What are the business benefits of customer service automation?

Time. AI automation tools often do quick work a person couldn’t—like hailing a ride from your favorite app. AI is swiftly coordinating your ride in seconds, freeing up human agents for more creative and strategic work. When KLM Royal Dutch Airlines introduced its AI-powered chatbot, customers were empowered to book flights on social media without ever having to talk to a person (unless they wanted to). The bot issued 50,000 boarding passes within the first three weeks of operation, taking care of a manual task so agents could focus on trickier tickets. Also, AI-powered chatbots never sleep, which means you can deliver customer support 24/7.

Customer satisfaction. When it comes to self-service, the data is clear: customers want you to help them help themselves. As Zendesk’s research shows, 69% of customers say they want to resolve as many issues as possible on their own, and 63% say they always or almost always start with a search on the company’s website when they have an issue. That is a huge opportunity for businesses, since only a third of companies offer their customers a FAQ or help articles.

Customer loyalty. When you deliver a great service experience, your customers are more likely to stick around. Customer retention is an important success metric for any business, and automation can help streamline and speed up resolution times, a key factor in keeping customers happy. What’s more, you can infuse it with a little bit of personality to boost your customer experience. Starbucks’ seasonal superstar, Pumpkin Spice Latte, got its very own chatbot in 2016. Fans of the autumnal favorite got to chat with PSL just for fun—and while its responses didn’t always actually answer a question, it was certainly charming.

Support automation won’t completely replace your customer service agents

There will always need to be a human element in customer service. “Automation isn’t meant to take over customer support,” says Christina Libs, manager of proactive support at Zendesk. It should serve as an intermediary to keep help centers going after business hours and to handle the simpler tasks so customers can be on their way. When an issue becomes too complex for a bot to handle, a system can intelligently hand it off to human agents. You need a mix of both to achieve a seamless customer experience across all channels.

When businesses become more customer centric, they become more committed to helping customers reach their goals. Customer service automation is a way to empower your clients to get the answers they’re looking for, when and how they want them. And, it’s a way to help your support team handle more help requests by automating answers to the easier questions.

To learn about some of the other benefits of using automation for customer support, check out this resource.