We’ve all been on the receiving end of poor customer service.

Long wait times; and then having to painstakingly input our details into an archaic IVR system, only to have to repeat the very same information to a live agent – and sometimes…often times….having to start that process all over again after being transferred between departments.

You know that feeling. The frustration that comes when you’ve spent your hard-earned money with a company, made an investment in their product or service, and then been treated like crap.

Like you don’t matter. Like your business is worthless.

And then, in that state of frustration, we have all likely switched brands because of those poor experiences. In fact, as a whole, U.S. companies lose more than $62 billion annually due to negative customer experience.



It’s a costly proposition no doubt. And to try and curtail this persistent hemorrhage, companies continue to make massive investments to improve the customer experience. Support headcount is growing, BPO call centre costs are spiralling out of control, digital live agent infrastructure is massive.

And in spite of these investments, customers still do not feel they are having good experiences.

According to Bain & Co., 80% of CEO’s believe they are delivering a great customer experience. But only 8% of customers feel they are receiving one.

That’s a monumental miss. Why the disconnect? What do customers actually want?

What customers want is quite different than what most companies are delivering.

Customer expectations have changed. They want to self serve, on demand, on the channel of their choice. Especially millennial customers, who are accustomed to having their needs met 24/7, on their mobile device, with the click of a button.

Customers want to transact in the language of their choice, no matter where the company is headquartered, and they want you to remember their preferences, and account details, so they don’t have to repeat themselves over and over.

Customers want to be valued, and understood. They want experiences that are primarily automated – but with seamless access to meaningful live support if/when it is warranted. And when they reach those live agents, customers don’t want to start all over again. They want a consolidated experience that takes past transactions and interactions into account.

So how can companies do a better job of meeting these customer interests?

For starters, companies need to consider an automation-first strategy. Upfront automation is faster, cheaper, omni-channel – and most importantly, it’s what your customers want.

A chatbot, or an IVR system, can’t be ‘set it and forget it’ point solutions. Automation should underpin your entire support organization and this requires a reorientation of resources – a culture shift of sorts.

Automation-first means your greatest investment should be in automation – not live resources. You need to start with automation – make it available to customers wherever they are. Not because a slick sales rep twisted your arm, or because all the cool companies are doing it, but because it just makes sense – financially and practically.

When you automate the vast majority of customer inquiries, you are able to:

  • Radically diminish the costs associated with customer support
  • Free live resources from having to deal with very frequent, mundane and straightforward transactions and requests so they can be available (without wait times) to support mission-critical customer inquiries
  • Gather important data to offer a consolidated view of the customer, over time and across channels
  • Introduce up-sell and cross-sell opportunities to transform your customer service organization from a cost centre to a profit centre

An automation-first strategy is absolutely the way forward. It will empower you to get off the treadmill and stop treating your customers like crap. No doubt, it requires the right tooling and infrastructure, along with a reorientation of your existing CX resources.

But you can do it. Many disruptive, leading edge companies have made the change successfully, and their CSAT scores are soaring as a result.

To learn more about best practices and how automation is transforming customer service into a self-service model, check-out this Automation 101 Guide.

Originally published here.