Skip to Content

Improve your customer experiences with the latest service insights.

Automation Can Improve Your Customer Service — These 5 Questions Will Get You Started

A team looks at notes on a wall to create a customer service automation process
For all our technological advancements, delivering responsive service is still a challenge. Teams need to be more efficient, and they need the right tools to get there. [Goodboy Picture Company / Getty Images]

Between customer expectations, digital transformation and workplace disruption, the demand is high for customer service teams. Here’s how to implement automation for less friction and more productivity.

Customers want a seamless experience — anytime, anywhere, across any channel. In fact, 82% of customers expect to solve complex problems by talking to one person, according to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report.

But customer service isn’t there yet. When you call a company with a problem, you’re likely to explain yourself repeatedly to more than one person. It’s frustrating, and it shows that for all our technological advancements, delivering responsive service is still a challenge. Teams need to be more efficient, and they need the right tools to get there.  

In fact, 84% of service professionals say that the pandemic has changed their customer service workflows and processes, according to Salesforce’s State of Service report. Still, many organizations suffer — and annoy their customers — due to inefficient service processes. 

Automation is when software handles tasks that are typically carried out by humans, to save time and resources. Automation tools help teams spend less time on repetitive, low-impact tasks, so that the customer remains at the top of their list.

When you automate service workflows, you can unlock a host of business opportunities. Your teams are freed of the burden of rote and menial tasks, your customers get better service, and you save money by lowering cost and improving efficiency. Automation doesn’t need to be expensive or difficult to implement, either. 

Ultimately, it sets your team up to deliver better customer service experiences.

Salesforce’s Trends in Workflow Automation reports that 95% of information technology and engineering leaders said their organizations prioritize workflow automation. And 71% of service decision-makers said they’re accelerating automation initiatives. But for many, figuring out where to start automating your customer service processes can seem daunting. 

That’s why we compiled five questions that can help you automate better for your team and your customers. 

Five questions to help your customer service automation process

1. What are your overall goals? 

First, get clear on what you want automation to achieve. Here are a few questions to ask regarding goals: 

Different KPIs carry different weights. Plus, making improvements in one area (like CSAT) can have negative effects in another (revenue leakage due to agents approving non-authorized returns). 

The goal is to align your organization’s goals with business objectives and return to these goals to measure the success of your effort.

2. What steps are involved in your service process?

Next, zero in on the bottlenecks in your system. These processes tend to repeat often, involve multiple people, and take up time with simple clicks. Pick three to five of these steps and rank them as potential candidates to automate.

Consider a customer returning a defective refrigerator under warranty. Let’s examine all the steps involved for a customer service team. A simple return request might involve many steps, such as:

  • Step one: check the warranty and obtain approvals to extend it. 
  • Step two: schedule an onsite repair, and check on part availability. 
  • Step three: notify the customer on progress, follow up, and implement resolution. 

The more steps involved, the more opportunity for errors, bottlenecks, and delays. Processes that frustrate your teams and customers are prime candidates for automation.

Now you can rank the steps that need automation. 

The more steps involved, the more opportunity for errors, bottlenecks, and delays. Processes that frustrate your teams and customers are prime candidates for automation.

3. How long does your customer service process take?

Once you’ve evaluated complexity, turn your attention to time spent. Here are some questions to ask your team:

  • How much time, on average, does the customer service process take to complete from beginning to end? 
  • How much time does each step in that process take? 
  • Are specific steps prone to delays and bottlenecks? 

Take the defective refrigerator example, which might stall at handoffs between departments or when connecting to your field service team. Zero in on the workflows that take up most of your service agent’s time. 

Say you’ve got a process that has four primary steps. The first two take 10 minutes each, the third takes 15 minutes, and the final step is five minutes. That’s 40 minutes end to end. If you receive hundreds of requests involving this process each day, consider automation to consolidate that time spent. Do more with less.

4. How much are your inefficient processes costing you?

How much money are you losing, and on what? Consider hard costs such as canceled subscriptions, product returns, and losses on Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

Some costs may not be as easy to quantify, but costly nevertheless. Factor in problems with agent burnout, retention, and churn, and missed opportunities to focus on higher-priority tasks. And of course, reduced customer satisfaction and loyalty.

5. Where can customer service automation process deliver the most value?

You’ve identified the most problematic workflows and quantified the costs of not automating. Now you can align your top opportunities with key business priorities. This is where automation can deliver the most immediate value.

Consider the level of effort required. Don’t tackle your most complex service process end to end. Instead, automate a single step (or two) causing the most roadblocks. 

Low-hanging fruit has potential to deliver high value. Consider, for example, a 15-minute step of that 40-minute example, resolved with automation in just a few clicks. Or maybe there’s a single step shared by several massively complex processes – focus on that. 

In the case of a customer calling about the warranty on a failing refrigerator, are there bottlenecks between legal, finance and service? Do these add costs or disrupt the customer experience? If so, look closely to see  where to start automating.

Automating your customer service steps increases productivity and engagement. It also creates efficiencies for your middle and back office teams to support your agents. 

Before jumping in, take some time to plan your customer service automation process. Identify the streamlined service workflows that will give you the biggest benefit. This will set you up to successfully automate each step. 

With the right workflow automation roadmap, you can have more control and support your team—not to mention the cost savings. And you can engage customers and build a more modern, responsive service operation. That’s a win-win if you ask us.

Scale your service with automation

Check out the complete guide for step-by-step, practical help getting started, creating your road map, and improving your processes.

Sophia Le-Dimitrova Director, Product Marketing

Sophia Le-Dimitrova is a Director of Product Marketing at Salesforce. She focuses on helping organizations deliver exceptional customer experiences at scale through Service Cloud solutions such as AI-powered automation, Customer Service Incident Management, and Slack swarming.

More by Sophia

Get the latest articles in your inbox.