1/13/2022

Customer Service Automation: Benefits, Use Cases and Challenges

Katie Smart's profile picture
Katie Smart Vice President, Global Marketing and Communications

What is customer service automation?

The definition of customer service automation (CSA) is a process by which human involvement in customer questions and troubleshooting issues is reduced or supplemented by technology.


CSA can save time, improve company resource use, and make customers feel more confident and empowered to resolve simple problems and more meaningfully engage with the appliances, tools, and equipment that power their lives.


Embracing customer service automation now is a timely response to a number of customer experience (CX) trends that have accelerated over the last several years. For example, research compiled by Forrester suggests that between 10% to 20% of American adults engaged with new digital touchpoints in 2020, such as by paying bills online or ordering food or groceries using a mobile app.


From a customer’s perspective, these platforms are often the most efficient way to arrive at a solution, and as a result, companies can meet them where they are by embracing greater digitization of their processes. And for the businesses that serve them, customer service automation can drive productivity gains among teams, reduce or eliminate human error, and ensure consistency on a case-by-case basis.


From implementing a straightforward self-service support option to positioning customer service automation within a broader digital process automation (DPA) framework, there are numerous ways businesses can harness this crucial component of the digital journey.

What are the benefits of implementing customer service automation?

Customer service experiences are traditionally characterized by built-in delays and complications, many of which are universally familiar. Time-consuming efforts to look up the right answer to a problem in manual databases, the need to dispatch multiple experts to a job site to make a diagnosis or resolve a problem, or time spent on hold as call centers patch a customer from one service provider to the next, can all act as a drag on optimal performance and satisfaction.


Increasing digitization and accompanying expectations of immediacy in service sectors is the direction for enterprises whether or not they face external disruptions like distribution issues, pandemic-related travel constraints, and more. Because automation both creates standardized processes and allows algorithm-led platforms to seamlessly direct customers to solutions, a new pathway is opened for resolving simple issues and allowing service providers to devote their focus to only the most complicated inquiries.


With digital systems like SightCall, customers are given the ability to show their problems in real-time and obtain fast, actionable solutions. This helps to maximize the effectiveness and impact of service departments.


With remote visual assistance added to the digital service suite, customers can be further engaged and supported, with self-service sessions able to be rapidly escalated to a live video support session. Data the agent needs to provide an informed answer has already been collected during the self-service session, preventing any need for a customer to recite the details of their inquiry or issue to multiple members of the team.


There are several examples of automated and digitized customer service benefits in practice.


Maximum convenience for the customer


With people regularly on the go and facing tight schedules, or with many businesses located at a geographical distance to where a problem arises, service automation delivers first-rate outcomes at a customer’s convenience, effectively meeting them where and when they want.


An automated option effectively yields access to essential information and issue resolution 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This is easily integrated with an after-hours service powered by service professionals who can organize in-person service visits for emergencies.


Empower self-service, even as a first step


Many issues are simple enough to be resolved by the customer themselves when accurate and easy-to-understand guidance is provided to them. Automated self-service is particularly beneficial for household equipment like washing machines, dishwashers, or heaters, where excessive downtime can produce significant frustration.


But self-service tools that also provide an option for visual assistance allow for easy remote assessment that ensures companies dispatch the precise tools and expertise needed for a successful visit – the first time.


Closer customer connections with better outcomes


The level of confidence that customers gain in knowing they were instrumental to the resolution of an issue should not be underestimated. Providing faster access to support helps to educate customers, which in turn can go a long way toward increasing loyalty and retention.


Enable successful platform integrations and maximum connectivity


For a company to include an automation solution alongside their entire service suite, a seamless, omnichannel integration is needed. Customers should be able to connect through whichever medium works best for their problem when a situation arises. Similarly, service organizations should have their visual support platforms integrated into their CRM or FSM so that their employees can quickly answer and respond to customer concerns from within the business systems that they use on a daily basis.


Reduction in the number of product return


Both product returns and technician dispatches can incur significant expenses for organizations. Automation, especially when backed by augmented reality support and artificial intelligence (AI) insights, can help avoid needless returns or redundant truck rolls through faster, more accurate, and more streamlined issue diagnostics.

What are the challenges of customer service automation?

Customer service automation is not a standalone answer to improve experiences. It also has to exist within, not only alongside, a broader capabilities suite.


Automated self-service, for example, will not be suitable for every circumstance, because, at present, companies will only be able to program their algorithms to respond to a certain number of prompts in a certain number of ways. There will also be times that concerned customers want a voice-to-voice interaction where a diagnosis or solution is explained to them.


While elements of automation are strongly beneficial for companies, service providers are rightly concerned about the risks involved in removing the “human element” for both customers and the workers that serve them.


However, digital process automation (DPA) is one answer, balancing technological sophistication with the human element that is essential for most cases.

Digital process automation and customer service

Digital process automation harnesses technology to standardize workflows, improve performance and mitigate errors that traditionally hold essential business processes back. It boosts the work of technicians and connection with customers.


SightCall’s own digital process automation solution, Digital Flows, raises service experiences to the next level by digitizing manual processes to improve efficiency and reduce manual error.


Standardized, step-by-step guidance, including detailed instructions and checklists, helps technicians and customers navigate tasks and work orders with no ambiguity or confusion. Customers can be empowered to complete complex procedures with the help of informative, on-screen instructions, powered by AI and AR technology.

How digital process automation works

Digital process automation has helped completely transform once onerous processes like the filing of insurance claims. Policyholders can complete customizable web forms, furnish supporting photo or video evidence, and send off their claims quickly and easily.


In one example, a global third-party administrator (TPA) working closely with insurance companies, their adjusters and homeowners needed a standardized way to ensure that repair work was performed and inspected to exacting standards while working with a large network of independent contractors.


This company offers customized managed repair, restoration, and mitigation through a large contractor network spanning nearly 2,000 locations. Providing a one-stop solution for securing high-quality repairs for property damage and restoration work meant the company earned a reputation among homeowners as one of the nation’s most trusted names in the restoration industry.


Nonetheless, such a large number of contractors working under their umbrella meant standardized repair processes were all but impossible to achieve without multiple inspections, additional site visits, contract delays, and safety and regulatory compliance issues all arising.


By contrast, with digital process automation, contractors throughout the network receive guidance for specific inspection processes, while also gathering all necessary documentation digitally. Through the SightCall platform, they get a text or email link to a Digital Flow, which can be completed on any mobile device regardless of wireless connectivity. Customized flows are completed before the work begins, while the work is performed, and after the work is completed and handed off.


During the repair process, SightCall Digital Flows can also be used to monitor the quality of the work. For instance, contractors are prompted to take videos with commentary about the work for each relevant room or area in the house. If any additional work needs are identified, they can be instantly sent directly to a project supervisor and an insurance adjuster for carrier approval.

Benefits of digital process automation in practice

Digitally automating the entire repair and inspection process means the third-party administrator ensures all contractors within their network complete essential repair work that complies with universal quality and safety standards. Full and auditable documentation acts as a quality check, while also producing increased efficiency.


For homeowners, who in many cases are interacting with the TPA and insurer after having faced damage from catastrophic events like fires and storms, repair projects are completed faster, with fewer errors, maximizing satisfaction.

Examples of customer service automation

Case Study 1: Insurance assures more efficient and consistent outcomes


The world’s largest insurance company, Allianz, has more than 85 million policyholders in property and casualty insurance, life and health insurance, and asset management across the globe. Always at the cutting edge, the company sought a way to digitally transform its entire claims process, transforming a traditionally slow and tedious procedure for customers, increasing the efficiency of field adjusters, and improving communication and repairs with its affiliate craftsmen.


Using SightCall allows for assessments of claims from remote locations, enabling agents to see what a customer sees, handling the claim directly through the latter’s mobile device. The customer is guided through the process supported by AR and AI, with valuable data like signatures, high-definition photos, and geolocation collected digitally.


With more than 100,000 claims processed this way, adjusters were saved from driving more than 6.3 million kilometers in unnecessary travel, while also boosting satisfaction levels among customers.


Case Study 2: Automated processes ensure better management of chronic conditions


1 True Health is a healthcare company providing better information, engagement, and protection to patients with chronic care conditions. The company engages with patients almost entirely remotely, achieving better engagement between them and their healthcare practitioners. Through the use of tools like remote visual assistance, the result has been the improved health and wellness of underserved populations, such as senior citizens.


The company created a Care Navigator role, where workers based out of call centers perform chronic care management through SightCall sessions launched with the click of a button in the patient file. With Medicare supporting these virtual patient encounters each month, the company’s Care Navigators track and follow up on care plans, disseminate health and wellness information, and link patients to doctors and specialists, all using the SightCall and Salesforce Health Cloud platforms.


This service is accessible to every patient, operating across a wide range of products, reception, and bandwidth levels with identical high call quality and HD picture.


Built-in features such as AR-enabled screen annotation and optical character recognition ensure consultations are well-documented, feed reliable information back to care providers, and relay the most accurate care advice possible to patients, wherever they are in their care journeys.


Backed by a platform well-suited for telehealth, chronic care patients benefit from easier access to care, without having to drive to a clinic, and can maintain a regular cadence with providers and stay on top of their health.

Target your company’s approach to automation

Above all, maximizing the benefits of automation for both your business and those it serves means deploying it as one of several customer-facing tools, targeted toward specific use cases that are supported by internal data.


Digitization can go a long way in improving day-to-day experiences as well as long-term trends and outcomes, but it is essential to balance the use of these technological tools with easy access to person-to-person support. Evidence-based implementation, combined with the right partner, is what makes this possible.


If you’re ready to learn more about how customer service automation will move your enterprise capabilities forward, contact us today to request a SightCall demo.

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