This post was originally published at Toolbox.

When I was younger, I lived and taught for a year at a place called Hidden Villa, a farm and wilderness preserve south of San Francisco. Kids visited from local schools, we hiked them around the wilderness and showed them the garden and farm animals. We taught those young explorers the many ways in which they were connected to the creek, cow, or broccoli that we asked them to taste. And to remember those lessons, we sang a little ditty throughout the day: “Connected, connected, everything’s connected. Connected, connected, to everything else.”

Now I work in a less bucolic field. I lead a team that markets our AI-driven search engine for customer service solutions. Rather than the connections between a chicken and an ear of corn, we teach our audience about the connection between customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX). As it turns out, that connection can be just as organic as chicken-to-corn. At Lucidworks, we call this the Connected Experience Cloud.

Do Not Fear Automation in Customer Support

Customer service automation has been painted as a great zero-sum struggle between support agents and the software they use in the contact center. Those agents often fear automation as a potential job killer, but that idea contains a fatally flawed assumption that humans and algorithms are equally suited to do the same activities. This is wrong because they are not interchangeable. Humans hate doing the repetitive tasks that software does automatically at scale, and machine learning has no heart, feels no pain. Not only can humans and machines peacefully coexist, but they can also make each other better. This is a significant opportunity for customer care executives to empower support agents to do their best work with the support of automation. This can have a ripple effect across the organization, opening doors to adopt machine learning and automation elsewhere. Here are a few examples of how an augmented intelligence platform can make EX better for customer support agents, making CX more pleasant for the customer.

1. Make customer self-service conversational

Companies need to engage their customers across all channels, and they need to maintain a consistent experience throughout every touchpoint. Chatbots and virtual assistants (i.e., conversational interfaces) should be on the front line of customer support to catch all those questions about phone numbers and product offerings.

The day I am writing this, I spoke with one of Gartner’s experts on Knowledge-Centered Service. We discussed how the leader in the contact center should care about call deflection, even if she does not know how many calls get deflected. Why? Because each request a chatbot deflects makes the agent’s life a bit happier, especially during times of peak activity. Connected, connected.

Automation via personalized chatbot support can help employees focus on more complicated, valuable support questions with enough breathing room to get the service right. Lucidworks offers Smart Answers, deep learning middleware that extends the functionality of chatbots and virtual assistants so that customers can ask questions in a natural way and get immediate, relevant, and contextual answers. The lack of this “human tone” is one of the top reasons why chatbots fail.

2. Know who is on the other side of the phone (or chat)

A customer’s experience with your contact center is high stakes. You could win a customer for life or trigger a slew of bad reviews. Your contact center software should be able to deliver the most relevant internal documents to your agents the second an agent needs them. Further, it needs to adjust to the context of each conversation.

Businesses often think that harnessing the “Voice of the Customer” is about sending thousands of surveys asking for feedback. But customers continuously share insights with businesses all the time — if companies take the time to listen. Emails, phone calls, kiosks, and website searches all contain signals about what customers think and feel. Harnessing these signals and translating them into relevant recommendations can improve customer and employee experiences. By automating the capture of those signals, smart leaders provide employees the information they need to delight customers with the best answers. For example, Lucidworks customer Red Hat nearly quadrupled their call deflection rate after deploying Fusion, saving them money and allowing them to focus on the most challenging and important customer issues.

3. Happier customer service agents make customers happier

In a recent study, Forrester found that only 34% of respondents said they are very good at capturing, measuring, evaluating, and taking action on customer intent. Automation removes many barriers between customers and support agents. By connecting employees’ experiences with customers’ experiences and treating them as the same experience, support organizations can make everyone happier.

Improving the experience on both sides of the phone (or chat) also results in serious cost savings. For example, an enterprise data management firm saved over five million dollars in support costs after deploying Lucidworks. Gartner reports, “By 2025, customer service organizations that embed AI in their multichannel customer engagement platform will elevate operational efficiency by 25%.” Efficiency up by 25% means costs down by 25% (for the same result). Those savings can buy a lot more corn and chickens.

Win With Automation

If you want to be on the winning side of history, explore how you can make automation an asset instead of a foe. For customer service agents and other knowledge workers, automation of customer service solutions is a chance to make EX and CX better together. Connected, connected, everything’s connected.

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