Automation Doesn't Always Help Customers

John Scott
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Many consumers have a love-hate relationship with automated systems. Sometimes they're convenient, and other times they're a hassle. For companies, automated email responses and interactive voice response (IVR) systems help control customer service costs, route emails and phone calls to proper departments, collect data, and provide general information to consumers. Automation is an important part of customer service, but it doesn’t benefit your company if it’s not helping your customers.

Your company’s automated systems should enhance human interaction, not eliminate it. By understanding your customers’ needs, giving automation a human touch, and knowing when customers need personal attention, it’s easy to implement automated phone and email systems that cut costs and keep consumers happy.

Often, callers fall into three categories: people looking for quick information, people with problems, and people who don’t trust automated systems. Callers don’t want to use automated systems if they get stuck in a phone loop, are on hold for a long time, or are unable to find information they need. In order to create a pleasant experience, your IVR system should:

  • Be easy to use
  • Identify callers first
  • Have clear, simple menu options
  • Give callers popular menu options first

It’s also important to educate callers about your IVR system. Don’t assume that your customers know all of you IVR system’s capabilities. Encourage phone agents to let callers know when the IVR system provides answers to the questions they ask. Prerecorded messages also help educate callers. While your customers are waiting to speak to a representative, play a message informing them that your automated system has the most up-to-date information that includes an option to transfer them back to the IVR.

Most companies use a two-step process to respond to customer emails – an automated email to let customers know their email was received and the response to the inquiry. It’s important that both emails are personalized and helpful.

Automated emails sent immediately after you receive a customer’s email should:

  • Use the customer’s name in the greeting and closing;
  • Give the customer a realistic response time; and
  • If possible, contain a reference to the customer’s question.

Email templates ensure customers receive accurate, professional responses, but customers don’t want generic, boilerplate responses. Adding a human touch to email responses shows your customers that your company cares about their question, concern or problem. It’s important that you create email templates that read like they were written by a human, not a robot. Also, train email service agents to:

  • Use the customer’s name in the greeting and closing.
  • Add a touch of personality to the email by changing the wording of the greeting and closing.
  • Combine sections of multiple templates to ensure each question and concern is addressed.
  • Show empathy to customers’ personal situations.
  • Include tidbits of the customer’s email in the response.

While poorly designed automated systems aren't helpful to customers, automation isn't always a bad thing. Automated systems that work well benefit companies by cutting costs and controlling customer inquiries, as well as help customers obtain information they need.


(Photo courtesy of stockimages /


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