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Bot or Person? The Customer Automation Conundrum.

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Customer automation has drummed up a bad reputation in recent years, mostly due to those infuriating touch-phone options that are an endless spider web making it impossible to talk to a “real person.”

The actual goal of customer automation is making the process easier for both the business and customers. There are many types of automation including live chat options, video-based help centers and those classic touch phone systems. Given the options, is it better to go personalized or de-personalized?

Related: Automating Your Online Business

Many companies are suffering, compliments of automation, the lingering side effects of de-personalized customer service. Even worse, many don’t even know it. When is the last time you surveyed your customers for satisfaction, explicitly asking for feedback on automation, what they’d like to see different and asking their suggestions how to improve? Even if it’s been recently and comprehensive, when did you take action? Right now is the best time to make changes and strike a balance between personal and not so much.

Ask the customer. Working with a customer service consultant is the best way to create a survey to see just how your customers are feeling. Mix that with hard data, such as website analytics, and you’ll get an instant picture of where you stand. Even if you already do a good job of creating surveys, an expert’s perspective will still give you a different lens, approach and ideas.

Once you know where you stand, compare your budget for customer service with what steps you need to take. Maybe a majority of your customers wants a “press zero for the operator” function early on in the touch message system. Maybe quite a few simply want to find an email address on your website without filling out a form. These are relatively quick, easy and affordable changes.

Ignorance is not bliss when it can severely hurt your business. It is a tough pill to swallow if you discover many customers are unhappy with your automation options and have been for awhile. The good news is, it only means you picked the wrong technology or used it in a not-so-great way. Quality automation improves customer relations, so reversing dissatisifaction is 100 percent in your control. You can start right now.

Related: We Test-Drive a Personal Chat Bot for Customer Service

Making improvements. Improved, friendlier automation can bring back customers you may have lost and attract brand new ones. Implement positive automation changes and let it be known that you have. Highlight your “new, improved, personalized just-for-you” approach on social media, your website, mailers and your company blog.

The most common customer automation mistake companies make is mismatching their customer demographic with the wrong technology or the right technology used the wrong way.

A company that offers online tutoring services for college freshmen, the vast majority of them in their late teens and adept at using the latest technology, can use cutting-edge options. They should not use an approach that requires patience, which few freshmen have.

A site catering to retirees needs to adopt entirely different technology. This demographic probably won’t be interested in video chatting with representatives, but they’re familiar with touch-phone systems, which they will prefer assuming the options are brief and minimal.

Look at your demographic, consider their preferences and strengths, match your automation accordingly.

Related: Marketing Automation Explained (Infographic)

Larry Alton

Written By

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.