How Technology Can Enhance Customer Service

A female customer service representative smiles as she sits at a desk with laptop and black phone headset.

Technology has touched nearly every corner of business, with one of the most profound shifts happening in customer service. Software as a Service companies, or SaaS, have made it possible for businesses to punch above their weight with automated replies, on-screen chatbots and sophisticated self-help options. But the sudden ubiquity of AI-backed customer support may be overwhelming for consumers in a quickly-changing landscape.

According to a 2019 study for Invoca Research, experts predict that in 2020, 85 percent of customer interactions will be done without a human on the customer support side. The same poll found that 52 percent of people are frustrated when they are not given the opportunity to connect with a live human for customer support, and nearly a fifth are downright angry.

How can businesses find a balance? Consider the evolution of Automated Teller Machines. Decades ago, banks began to offer ATMs as a customer service alternative to approaching a live bank teller. It took years of building trust with ATM users—and then ATMs became the default process for personal banking. Even though the majority of Americans now use ATMs regularly, there are still real bank tellers to help with more advanced, advisory services.

No doubt, being able to solve common problems through efficient online replies are beneficial to both customer and company. But there are times when there is no substitute for an actual human.

The key is to strike a balance: Deliver the efficiency offered by automated and self-service options, while also knowing when only a real person will do.

Answering Common Questions Quickly

Customers will always have questions and problems in setting up a product or starting up an online service. And it's likely that many of these questions will be the same. In these cases, people want a quick, no-hassle customer service response to solve their issue and move on. This is a space in which customer service tech applications thrive.

Companies can identify 90 percent of their most common questions and offer their solutions in a simple digital format, whether that be through chatbots answering questions, or through an “common problems” or an FAQ interface where customers need only click on their issue to find its resolution.

Strengthening Customer Relationships

Where technology shines is in cultivating relationships with existing customers. These customers typically have lower costs of recruitment and retention, and higher sentiments of loyalty and pride. They are worth keeping—and keeping happy.

Reaching out to existing customers with notes of sincere thanks and asking a simple question such as “How are we doing?” and “What can we do to improve?” can lead to a more personalized, higher touch with a key customer demographic. This tells customers that the point of sale was only the beginning of the relationship, that there are real people behind the product and service, and that the business is looking for new ways to improve their experience.

Using Data to Spot Issues and Make Improvements

Over time, SaaS customer service can do more than answer quick questions or keep companies in contact with customers. In fact, one of the biggest benefits of this technology is its ability to analyze customer feedback data to spot patterns.

These insights can be key for improving the design of products and services—or introducing new ones.

In fact, by identifying a preponderance of snags and choke points in customers’ interactions, product design teams have a clear window into how customers interact with their company or product. In the analog form, this process can require focus groups, surveys and meetings to identify what can now be gleaned from data in seconds.

Knowing When Human Interaction Matters

Just because companies can use technology, doesn’t mean they always should. Some companies harbor the notion that technology and SaaS customer service can supplant human interaction. No matter how far technology has brought us, real human interaction should still be an option in the customer service matrix. This is particularly true when customers are anxious or the stakes are high.

This is also a crucial moment where a well-trained customer service department can make your company the subject of raves or rants. The better the experience is for these customer service outliers, the more likely they will pass along that experience to their friends, family and future customers.

And when they have a bad experience? In a recent survey by Retently, a customer service platform company, 67 percent of respondents said they canceled a service because of poor customer service, while 84 percent said they would pay more for better customer service.

Like many other areas of business, technology has made operations more efficient and scalable. It's reduced processing times and allowed people to focus on the crucial inflection points for human interaction. For customer service, SaaS solutions can reduce an otherwise weighty workload of common issues to quick automated replies, keep labor costs down and allow customer support teams to focus on adding value when human interaction can make or break a business relationship.

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Fifth Third Bank, National Association, and are solely the opinions of the author. This article is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute the rendering of legal, accounting, or other professional services by Fifth Third Bank, National Association or any of their subsidiaries or affiliates, and are provided without any warranty whatsoever. Deposit and credit products provided by Fifth Third Bank, Member FDIC.