December 21, 2021
Ten considerations when selecting customer service automation software
A guide for mid-sized businesses when short listing customer support automation tools.
When you’ve decided to introduce customer support automation software or replace an existing solution, it can be hard to know what you need to prioritise the system to do. There are usually so many things that you need it to do, right?
This decision is complicated – given the volume and complexity of your contacts, your goals, agent productivity, existing technical considerations and investments, the urgency of your implementation timeframe, channel mix, and so on. And then, there are hundreds of different solutions available.
We’ve pulled together a list of questions specific to mid-sized businesses running customer support teams with 2 to 15 frontline agents that you should ask yourself to identify which automation software maybe best for you. After all, it’s an investment that impacts your customer satisfaction, churn rate, and bottom line. It is worth taking the time to get it right.
1. What is your current cost per contact? And by channel?
As with most things, cost per contact can be calculated indifferent ways. Usually, it includes the annual operating expenses of the contact centre (salaries, incentives, tools and software etc) divided by the contact volume from all sources, like voice, email, chat and web. On average the cost per contact is around $7.00 to $8.00 USD – so obviously this forms a baseline for comparison for any automation improvements that you make.
Many organisations will have a deeper understanding of their cost per agent-assisted contact as well as the cost per contact from all channels (including AI and self-service tools). When you can calculate the marginal cost associated with other channels like chatbots, live chat and knowledge base tools, then calculating the ROI on this investment is easier. And it usually outperforms all other available channels, including agents and IVR.
2. Do you need a customer automation solution with all the bells and whistles?
Customer service automation tools have exploded – and there is a wide variety of features that they include. For example, some customer automation tools promote themselves as customer automation for marketers - being able to sell more products to more people faster. So, this kind of tooling is known as conversational marketing automation.
While other tools are designed for frontline teams managing mainly transactional questions about the products and services you provide.
Or perhaps you need something that can do both? A chatbot with live chat and potentially a self-service help site, together with conversational marketing capability to tailor messaging and link to campaigns.
This combination ensures that you have the day-to-day customer management measures in hand, while the additive power of live chat and tailored, context-sensitive messaging ensure that your customer satisfaction ratings go through the roof when contacts need a more personal touch.
Importantly, when you’re only buying software with the functionality you need, you aren’t wasting money on features that you’ll never use.
3. What is your customer profile?
If your customer base is younger, chances are they are more tech-savvy. Research has shown that 40% of consumers don’t care if a chatbot or human helps them (Source: Hubspot). This indifference is driving the uptick in use of chatbot and self-service tools. Community-based or bot-based self-service tools, like knowledge bases, are taking off with younger users. And when you couple this with the fact that 75% of customers expect a response within 5 minutes (Source: IBM), you have a pretty compelling case for a toolkit that includes a chatbot, with live chat and a self-service knowledge base.
And as customer profiles change over time with product and market maturity, it is worth keeping in mind any projected changes to your customer profile in the short term when deciding on customer support automation tools.
4. How mature is your approach to customer success?
Related to customer profile is understanding your customer success maturity level. The importance of this is often underplayed. When a company is only a few years old and has only a handful of employees and relatively fewer customers, customer support automation tools can often be light in their approach, as 1:1 customer relationships are still critical to success.
However, as you gain customers, you’ll need to streamline queries, build your internal knowledge base and have tools to manage requests. At this point, when constraints are tight, and contacts are increasing, tools such as chatbots and live chat allow you to scale quickly and reliably with relatively small investment - especially when compared to hiring extra staff. Agent-assisted interactions often cost upwards of $7.00 per contact, whilst self-service interaction can be as low as $0.20 per hour (and even lower when thinking about how many queries this technology can manage at the same time).
And finally, when your customer growth is ramping up, you’ll need to consider tools that improve efficiency and self-service, such as customer self-service knowledge bases, too, for example.
5. Can the software be easily integrated with other software?
It is undoubtedly worth probing any potential vendors about this as there is a broad acceptance of what is regarded as easily integrating. So, for example, you’d certainly want to hook up to your CRM tooling easily. And if off-the-shelf integrations aren’t available, a mature API or webhooks will be a must!
6. Is there room to grow, and does it multiply your effectiveness?
A key business growth success factor is whether the existing tech stack can adapt to growing demand seamlessly – and that means having highly configurable software that can be easily adapted to incorporate new messaging and communication channels, supports new staff to come on-board easily and requires little work to get great ROI.
The analytics and data insights that come from your customer service platform help you understand what is going right and where opportunities for improvement lie with your customer journey, products or processes. Look out for products that give you insights into the voice of the customer and trends over time.
7. Are you going to be charged for your initial set-up or every time you some support?
Support should be free. Some vendors view support as a cash cow and hide fees or limit their support services in the fine print. Ask about the support process, response times, and for reviews of support performance before signing up.
8. Self-configured or employ a consultant to set up?
Software that can be easily self-configured and managed wins hands down – both on set up, as consultancy costs rack up easily and impact time to benefit – and ongoing, especially the long term impact on ROI.
Even if software appears to offer great technical capability– if you’re unable to easily modify behaviour yourself, it can decrease the actual effectiveness of the product dramatically.
9. Are new features being added regularly?
Look for vendors that have a rolling programme of updates that are managed in the cloud. This means that new features will be updated and added behind the scenes - without the need for you to do anything.
10. What is the licensing model?
Does the vendor want to lock you into annual contracts (or longer) with hefty upfront implementation fees? Today businesses need flexible contract terms to reflect the ever-changing economic landscape and annual contracts are out of touch with the need to be agile. True cloud-ready solutions that enable you to scale up and down as needed are gold.
Now you’ve answered these questions, it’s time to start road testing which software would be a good fit and should be on your shortlist.
If you’re looking to get hands-on with our chatbot software (that also supports live chat and self-service help sites), go here to get started in just five minutes. (Oh, did we mention that the trial is free for 30 days?)