I want to automate our telephone customer service, but how can I ensure the system helps my customers effectively without alienating them?

The secret to having automated customer service that both enriches the user experience and reduces costs is to ensure the system is designed around your customers’ needs, not the organisation’s.

Fran Fish, commercial director at self-service automation company VoxGen, says: “This means digging really deep into who your customers are, why they contact you and what kind of service and experience they expect from you.” She adds: “It’s essential you get input from frontline staff, brand and marketing departments, as well as the customers themselves.”

How the automated system integrates with other technology and channels such as a CRM database, iPhone app or website, is a major factor in its success. When customers contact a retailer, they expect a high quality, efficient experience. They want to get to the information or service they require quickly and easily. “Good integration ensures that customers can communicate via the channel of their choice and switch between them, without having to repeat the same information each time or in the event they’re transferred to an agent,” says Fish. “Having to repeat yourself is one of the biggest bugbears consumers have with customer service – automated or otherwise – so make sure it’s not part of your new experience.”

It’s vital to test any automated self-service application with customers before it goes live. “This is the best way to iron out any wrinkles,” Fish explains.

Finally, automated self-service isn’t something that can be implemented and left alone. If you want to maintain high levels of customer satisfaction and self-service, you must treat it as something that needs to be continuously managed and improved.