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It’s no secret that the concept of automation is taking the business world by storm. From Redbox replacing Blockbuster to self-checkout and everything in between, the need for businesses to rely heavily on an exhaustive employee roster is decreasing.

Even in the B2B (business-to-business) world, it seems like there’s an automation “program” for everything – marketing, sales, and yes, even customer service. Companies behind these technologies are often eager to tout the overhead savings obtained by reducing head count after implementing automation solutions.

But are they right?

Let’s take a closer look at automation (including bots) in B2B customer service and its impact on helping businesses become more efficient in the future…

  • Customer-facing automation currently feels unnatural in B2B – Companies can spend a substantial amount of money with your business, and with that investment comes certain expectations. Arguably the most important expectation is that your business understands the needs of your customers. Business automation, including bot technology, can cause uneasiness and unnecessary friction. Some customers feel duped by companies who try to play off their bots as real chat agents, while others are less likely to trust automation solutions with payment and personal details in fears the information will be misused.
  • Too many automation systems try to accomplish too much – Let’s take a step back and look at automation in our homes for a minute. “Personal assistants” including Siri by Apple and Alexa by Amazon have emerged over the past decade and are becoming household staples around the world. But, while we can easily ask them to play a song or for a traffic update, we don’t ask them to complete complex math problems. Why? Because we know they won’t understand or be able to obtain the correct response. This concept should also apply to automation and bots in the B2B industry. Don’t try to link automation with complex B2B systems or else you’ll experience information gaps and errors that will require actual employee time to be fixed. Instead, stick to automation in customer service software with clear rules that can accomplish basic tasks on the back-end of the business. This can include automatically routing tickets to a certain agent or assigning products to a new customer in a specific industry.
  • B2B customers still desire a human connection – There’s a reason why you’re greeted by an actual person and not a robotic sounding self-service kiosk when you walk into a boutique store. Despite what futuristic publications may say, customers still prefer human interaction over bots and automation for primarily one reason – empathy. A bot currently can’t gauge the tone or complex nature of customer requests with the same accuracy and care as a human employee. Machine learning could improve this type of automation in the future, but overall the automation of empathy and critical thinking is still in the infancy stages of development. Trying to automate empathy leads to frustrated customers, an unauthentic brand voice, and employees that need to intervene and play catch up to resolve unnecessary customer conflict.

In short, while B2B customer service automation sounds great on paper, be cautious when evaluating these solutions. This is especially true for any type of bots – it’s currently the “Wild West” for bot technology and some companies are trying to sell solutions that don’t exist or are over promised and under developed. Ensure a you complete a full vetting process on these companies or both you and your customers may be disappointed.

Instead, choose a customer service software solution with clear and proven automation technology built-in so machines can do work on the back-end without directly affecting customer interaction. This type of automation makes your entire company work smoother and more efficiently. Automation should be deployed in unison with human agents to make their job easier, not replace them altogether. Helping the customer remains the top priority, and finding the right balance of automation and capable agents will enable you to provide a modern B2B service solution your customers will love!