B2B brands that complement their human-to-human interactions with automation stay competitive and are better able to scale.
There’s an interesting duality in the customer/company relationship today – and B2B is no exception. As much as customers value efficiency, they also appreciate personalised service; customers want their needs met as soon as possible, whilst also making a personal connection with the company they’re doing business with. As a result, businesses now need to strike a balance between streamlined and high-touch customer service to meet experience expectations. The solution? Implementing purposeful automation alongside or in support of human-to-human interactions.
Using automation alongside points of human interaction isn’t a new concept. However, the motivations driving those decisions are shifting, meaning that the way in which automation and human interactions are used together needs to evolve too.
It’s no secret that customers have more questions and concerns than they did in 2019 – there has been a
in customers reaching out to companies in 2021. This rise in demand combined with customers valuing a high-touch experience means that finding the right balance between personalisation and automation is crucial.
Determining when to use automation and personalisation
When talking about customer service, automation is a strategy that refers to automating known, or frequent, types of interactions a company has with potential or existing customers. These automated interactions may take the form of an FAQ page on a website, text or email reminders, help desk receipts, and others.
The purpose of automation is to boost efficiency through the evaluation phase, or for any assistance needs while providing customers with an ‘always-on’ business experience. Regardless of holidays, company breaks, employee illness, understaffing, or other factors, automation provides a presence and assistance with common requests. With this, it also has associated cost savings for the business because it requires fewer resources, but its true purpose is to provide efficient, clear communication, which has the potential to increase customer acquisition and satisfaction.
Human interaction (personalised experiences such as chatting directly with your team) is designed to build relationships between the business and its individual customers, establish trust, and explore the nuance of needs and questions that have an added layer of complexity. Compared to automation, this has a higher potential to increase customer retention and loyalty.
Both automation and human interactions have a place in the customer journey. Automation is best used at the beginning of a customer relationship, especially when it comes to FAQs and working through preliminary onboarding. Human interactions, on the other hand, can greatly affect an ongoing relationship. Therefore, neither automation nor human interactions should be used exclusively at one phase of the customer journey.
As with so many strategies, they are best when used in tandem.
How each affects CX
Nowadays, B2B customers interact with businesses across several channels from websites and chat boxes to social media and email. When determining which tactic—automation or human interaction—to use on which channel, consider a customer’s motivation on each.
Automation should be used to deliver great experiences with operational efficiencies. This is especially important now with staffing shortages and dwindling customer patience. Leverage automation to have a presence, to maintain a connection with customers, where static information can be repurposed and disseminated in intuitive areas. This can mean deploying automation in chatbots on knowledge bases or forums to provide suggestions on what folks are looking for. Similarly, an automated response lets customers know a query has been received with an expected window for a response (you can even add resources catered to their question based on keywords).
Automation is an especially important tool to combat customer fatigue. People are tired of phone call after phone call, ample forms, and jumping through other hoops to have their problems resolved. Automation should be leveraged to help customers end up in the right place quickly, to create faster, better experiences.
By automating certain experiences, companies free up their people to add that personal touch in situations where it matters most. For customers, it’s incredibly frustrating to be taken through an automated experience that never gives a pathway to have their specific needs met.
Whilst automation is about commonalities, human interaction is about nuance. A phone call allows you to explore the context – and that context defines CX. It’s been shown that throughout the pandemic,
59% of customers
care more about CX when they decide what company to work with or buy from, and they’re willing to spend 17% more to do business with companies that deliver excellent service.
Using moments of human interaction, especially in high emotional intelligence industries, such as legal, finance, and healthcare where trust-building and compassion need to start immediately help to create those memorable experiences. Human interactions also provide a safety net if automation fails to address customer issues.
Why companies need both automation and real human interactions
Understanding how and when to use both automation and human interactions in the context of continually changing customer expectations can help with both acquisition and retention, even during times of seemingly never-ending business restraints and hurdles.
Looking at acquisition, the automation and dissemination of information allow customers to quickly evaluate a business and its fit for their needs. By saving them time during the initial evaluation process, they’ll associate the service experience with the same ease. Meanwhile, identifying areas during the introductory phase for personalised interactions builds a foundation of trust in which customers’ specific needs will be prioritised and shows them that they, as individuals, matter.
Throughout the experience, communication is key, and it can also be time-consuming and challenging. This is why the faster organisations can supply key information, the greater their chances of earning and retaining business. And the more positive the experience, the stronger the relationships that are built. One leads to the other, and one supports the other.
Now, technology can enable connections in ways that increase efficiency, all during a time when businesses need it most. For B2B companies, CX is still important, and the service delivered is as critical as how it’s done, every step of the way.
Just as automation should never replace human interactions, companies can’t solely exist on personalised service; it’s simply not sustainable. By letting one complement the other, and tailoring their use cases to a business’ services, a company can experience greater success because of its CX.
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