Ready, set, support: Empowering your support team with automation

8 min read
Artwork by Nicolae Negura

We’ve been talking about how chatbots and other AI-powered tools are the future of customer support for a long time. And we still believe it’s true. But the reality is that a lot of companies start pushing for automation right away, hardly thinking about the problems they’re trying to solve, or what should and shouldn’t be automated.

Automation is not a quick fix. When done wrong, it can actually backfire, duplicating customer queries and support operations, and annoying the customer in the process. When it comes to automation, we like to think there’s one rule of thumb: Automation is great, if — and only if — it brings you closer to your customer. Anything else is a bad move.

According to the latest Salesforce Report on the State of Customer Support, only 24% of companies are currently using AI in their strategy, and 37% to 57% of agents spend most of their time doing mundane, repetitive tasks, which is precisely what AI is good for.

But it’s not just about chatbots. There’s a whole world of tools that can be used internally to empower the members of your organization and help them provide better support to your customers. And that’s where we come in.

Hit the ground running

As a Sales Enablement professional, one of the most important aspects of my job is to ensure teams feel empowered to do theirs, and that they have all the tools and systems they need to thrive. I call this internal readiness:

The state of preparedness of persons, systems, or organizations to meet a situation and carry out a planned sequence of actions. Readiness is based on thoroughness of the planning, adequacy, and training of the personnel, and supply and reserve of support services or systems.

It’s not rocket science, but it can be quite time-consuming. However, its benefits far outweigh the headaches of implementing it, as productivity increases significantly, manual work is reduced, and cases can get solved faster, all of which contribute to customer satisfaction.

Jenna Cronin, our Director of Sales Enablement, and I devised a plan to implement this state of internal readiness, to understand what our support team needs to effectively do their job. But before asking them to adopt new tools and processes and changing their entire workflow, I had to stop and listen.

  1. Spend time shadowing your team. Look at what your they are doing, and more importantly, how they are doing it. Granted, it takes some self-control to stay a passive observer when you see something that’s not being done as efficiently as you wish, but it’s important that you interfere as little as possible for now. Try to understand why they are doing it. We’ve found that what and how questions such as “What steps do you take to make it happen?”, “How do you reply to customers in this situation?” and “What information are you using to say this?” really help get to the bottom of it, and recommend you take at least 45 min to oversee different tasks with copious note-taking.
  2. Transform your observations into a report. Divide it into different sections and categorize your notes accordingly. At Unbabel, we divide them in four different areas:
    • coaching and training — new things your support team needs to learn;
    • reinforcement — things your support team has learned, but is not applying;
    • process — evaluation of the current process and how it can improve;
    • tools — how they’re being used, and whether there are better tools out there to tackle current issues;
  3. Take actions. After analysing the report, you should define the actions that need to be taken. Divide and conquer — find out what things are easy wins, what is urgent and needs to be addressed ASAP, and what can wait. Keep in mind that you might have to involve other teams to put your plans into motion.

You’ll be amazed at the difference something so simple as observing your support team can make, and how, in just a couple of weeks, you can easily turn it into insights and actions to improve the team’s performance.

Introducing automation

Support platforms are very versatile. You can store macros and templates, route cases to people according to geography and languages, store internal FAQs, and even aggregate channels into a single UI.

By looking at our internal support team, and after analysing our report, we found out that there were three things we could implement to leverage automation and help them perform better on a daily basis.

The “Content” Bot

In a study conducted by eMarketer, when asked about the most important aspect of a good digital customer experience, 38% of users said it was getting their issue solved in a single interaction, while 26% said it was receiving a speedy and timely response. In order to provide fast and accurate responses, our support team needs to find market data, cheat sheets, case studies, and all kinds of content, in real time, anytime they need it.

And that’s why, after reading about Ben Cotton’s automation experiment at Hubspot, we’ve created RnB Bot — an internal bot that helps team find the content they need, in just a few simple clicks.

The bot was built in Slack, and it instantly aggregates the most common content requests. Through a series of pre-chosen options, your agents can push on-demand content when they need it the most.

The content paths were built on a Google Sheet, making it easier to update, and we’re able to keep track of which category is most popular with some simple stats. For example, we’re able to see how many clicks each category has on a monthly basis. With this, we can build engagement graphs, and we give feedback to the teams collaborating to create these collaterals.

The response has been really positive, so much that we’re releasing a version 2.0 soon, where we’ll implement a few extra features, such as keeping track of unique visitors, and feature the Top Choices on the first screen to make sure they can access those even faster.

FAQ Generator Bot

After watching a Microsoft webinar on The Evolving Role of Customer Service, and chatting with my friends on the Customer Happiness team, we’ve identified a few questions that agents get asked over and over again.

Sure, macros and templates exist for this very reason. But why not go one step further and turn your most frequently asked questions into actual FAQs for your help center? Analyzing all your emails and chat interactions on a monthly or quarterly basis can be very time-consuming, so, to tackle this, our Innovation Team has been working on a bot that can do just that, scan your entire interactions to find the most common questions from the customers, which can help you build FAQ articles that can then be published on your website, in multiple languages.

This is an easy way to keep those mundane tasks out of your team’s plate so they can concentrate on more complex issues, the ones that build loyalty. Not only will you help your team feel less overwhelmed, but it can also improve customer satisfaction by having self-service easily accessible on your website.

In fact, we’re rolling out a prototype of this bot very soon, so if you’re curious about giving the beta version a go, feel free to drop me a message on LinkedIn!

Job aids

Last but not least, we have job aids. These are tools, typically built in-house, easily tailored to each team’s needs, that can help them with their jobs. They come in various shapes and sizes — memory cards, checklists, step by steps, calculators, cheat sheets. The list is endless.

Recently, we’ve introduced events checklists, opportunity charters, tools paths, ROI calculators, and account mapping aids. All of them were born out of shadowing our teams and listening to them.

After identifying the tools, make sure to aggregate all the information in just one place, so that it can be easily found.

As the world becomes increasingly digital, and consumer’s expectations become increasingly higher, companies need to be faster at solving their customers’ problems, but also better at providing more meaningful conversations. You’re not just competing with companies that offer the same kind of services. You’re competing with every single service on the internet.

Bots and other AI-powered tools have proved to be a valuable asset time and time again, taking over those simple and repetitive tasks, and freeing support agents to do what humans do best — adding that personal touch. Only by augmenting your support team with automation, by combining human’s empathy and machines’ computational power, can you truly delight your customers.

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