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What Can and Can’t Be Automated in Customer Service?

What Can and Can’t Be Automated in Customer Service?

Automation can help boost your customer service in many ways, but isn’t always the solution. Here is what can and can’t be automated.

Automation technology has allowed major advancements in customer service. Unfortunately, 73% of service agents still think that managing case volume has become more challenging. In other words, as customers spend more of their time online and expectations grow, employees are increasingly under-resourced. This is not ideal for customer satisfaction. 

Simultaneously, 70% of executives agree that good employee experience creates good customer experience. Almost as many agree that customer service drives revenue. Automation – with its power to answer customer queries without always relying on a human customer service agent – might have the answer. 

Automation comes in all shapes and sizes, and is useful regardless of geography or maturity of the market. Automated processes can benefit small teams by complementing limited human resources. They can also help larger organisations prioritise processes that require more human input. 

Digital tools offer powerful solutions to some customer problems. That said, it’s imperative that we never forget the necessity of the human touch. Let’s have a look at what can and cannot be automated in customer service:

Automated workflows

One of the most significant developments in customer service over recent years has been the ability to automate workflows. 

Technology allows you to automate processes that would otherwise waste hours and resources. This automation can radically reduce the amount of time spent on a process for both the employee and the customer.

Global medical device company Dornier MedTech uses Service Cloud to provide more efficient and personalised support. Inquiries can now be automatically routed to the right team and support engineers are notified right away when a customer needs help. In the past, it could take up to four hours. By integrating Service Cloud with other Salesforce solutions it has also provided its employees with a better understanding of its customers preferences. 

Automated workflows remove the need for service agents to dedicate resources to time-consuming processes, freeing them up for tasks that require more human flair. It also minimises wait times for the customer. This is a win-win situation.

AI for customer service

Just as with automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI) comes in various forms. 

Generally speaking, AI is used to automate more complex interactions between employee and customer. With Einstein built in, Service Cloud can use AI technology to automate everything from answering queries to assessing insurance claims. It does so while reducing administrative load and delivering employees the customer data they need to provide the best service. 

A prime example of AI’s potential can be found in the insurance industry. Imagine that you accidentally hit a pole while driving. In the past, you would attempt to reach a customer service agent, who would then send out a surveyor to assess the damage. This drags out the process and delays the end result – fixing your car.

Now, insurance companies are turning to AI for this process, assessing damage automatically via video or photography. AI can detect the damage, then assess which parts require repair or replacement, and calculate the costs.

This increases satisfaction and frees up time for both the employee and customer. It also offers peace of mind to the customer in their moment of distress.

Field service automation

A great field service team can become the trusted face of your brand. However, they need the best support to do their jobs properly. 

Field service automation is used to enrich and streamline face-to-face situations. In traditional field service scenarios, like fixing a broken washing machine, technology allows the specific issue to be determined before face-to-face contact. It also ensures the right technician with the right skills is deployed to your home at the right time. 

AI and automation can assist other industries. Take healthcare, where technology can help schedule a nurse to tend to a patient. When properly set up, Service Cloud can allow a doctor to receive notification that a patient is in need, then send out a nurse to ensure the correct treatments are given.

In other words, automation is perfect for all kinds of field agents who are overwhelmed by basic tasks that get in the way of their ability to help customers. Service Cloud and the Customer 360 platform allow you to equip your team with AI-powered scheduling, resource optimisation, inventory, guided safety protocols, knowledge articles, and much more.


While not strictly an automated task, never underestimate the convenience of a good self-service portal. They can provide the customer with the information they need without having to resort to unnecessary person-to-person interaction. They also allow customer service agents to concentrate on more complex customer problems, just like automation. 

The best self-service options complement the total service experience, rather than detract from it. But the opposite can also be true. I’ll give you an example of an inadequate customer service portal. I once landed at an airport at roughly 8pm and noticed, via a self-service portal, that I had a $200 charge on my credit card. The customer service centre was closed until morning. When I finally was able to speak to a representative, I was reminded that I had pre-authorised the $200 charge three months before. I cancelled my credit card as soon as the conversation ended. 

Why? Because the self-service portal had not provided any specific information about the transaction other than an ID number. If it had listed who the payment had been made to, I wouldn’t have spent 12 hours worrying. There would have been no need to call customer support. Self-service automation, in this case, did not complement the larger customer service experience, but made it worse. 

The reason for this kind of poor self-service is almost always insufficient customer data. Your self-service portal should be integrated with the rest of your CRM. This allows customers to find answers and complete processes quickly, with all the relevant data presented to them at the right time.

So, what shouldn’t be automated?

As you can see, automation continues to be a game changer. That doesn’t mean it’s the solution to every problem. There are some tasks that should be left for a human to handle.

Here are some customer service tasks that shouldn’t be automated:

Providing comprehensive, five-star service: while automation can serve the customer, we are not yet at a point where a customer can be entirely served by automation. Some tasks require intervention and improvisation from an agent to deliver the best results.

Treating customers with empathy: By definition, automated customer service has to follow predefined steps. Unfortunately, this means that some interactions lack the empathetic touch that a human being can bring to customer service.  Sometimes, a customer in need requires a human being who can make an emotional connection.

Going the extra mile: Sometimes, the warmth, kindness, and personality of a service representative can have a huge impact. A customer could be in a state of distress or panic and their mood can be completely changed through conversation. Never underestimate the ability of an employee to save a customer’s day. It’s a reality that isn’t going away anytime soon.

Learn more in our report Trends in Workflow Automation, which covers the impact of automation on employee and customer engagement.

Abhay Kacker

Abhay Kacker is a Cloud and Platform evangelist with a passion for crafting innovative solutions to tackle business problems.  He has over 19 years of experience across different products, is an expert in CRM/CX, and has deep expertise in Service. Abhay is also an advocate of management techniques that achieve sustainable results for businesses.  Abhay is a dynamic communicator and trusted adviser for many of the large e-commerce, BFSI, and telecom companies across APAC. He is currently working with Salesforce Singapore as a Service specialist across APAC. Outside work, Abhay likes to spend time with his family. You can usually find him at the beach and trying different cuisines.

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