Customer service representatives (CSRs) are supposed to serve customers. And while that sounds straightforward, it's actually a job that’s much more difficult than the title might make it sound.

Being a great customer service representative requires high-touch interactions, service on a personal level, and a responsiveness to customer needs and concerns that exceeds expectations.

That’s because customer expectations are changing. They are demanding more in terms of support: live chat, social media and mobile functionality can all enhance the customer experience and boost advocacy. But delivering that level of service consistently is difficult.

Evolving Good CSR Reps to Great

The many manual processes that go into facilitating customer orders and inquiries often get in the way — and prevent good CSRs from becoming great. The reality is that many customer service departments spend as much or more time printing orders, entering orders and tracking documents as they do creating a great customer experience.

Most humans are either people oriented or task oriented. But we expect CSRs to do both, an assumption that complicates the hiring process. Focus on the interpersonal skills needed for great customer relations and you may not get the focus on details that you need for business processes, and vice versa.

The secret to having great client-facing service and flawless order processing is letting CSRs do what they do best and automating the rest.

Free CSRs to Think Proactively

Customers prefer CSRs who are proactive. They want to work with those who know why, when and where orders are being processed.

But it’s hard enough for CSRs to be efficient and knowledgeable — much less proactive — when they’re up to their ears in paper.

With automation, CSRs are free to focus on more proactive strategies thanks to a streamlined electronic workflow. Additionally, managers have enhanced visibility into the process, making it easy to identify areas of need, allocate resources, measure performance and promote the right people.

Automation Empowers Your Employees

Creating a great customer experience requires a fulfilling and encouraging environment for your staff.

It’s difficult for CSRs to deliver a positive experience to customers when they’re busy with data entry or frustrated with the low-value and unenjoyable manual aspects of their job.

Automating those tasks makes their work more enjoyable by freeing up their time to serve customers, ideally what they got into this career to do.

Automation Creates Loyal Customers

Loyalty comes from actions matching promises. Human-to-human interaction is often necessary when transactions turn difficult. These are often the moments when customer allegiance is won or lost.

As proof, according to the LivePerson 2013 Connecting with Customers report, 78 percent of customers are more likely to be loyal to a company that provides real-time, one-to-one support at critical moments.

By automating order processing, information is accurate, complete, and easily accessible because it was automatically processed and transferred into the ERP without the delay or errors that come from manual entry.

And if there’s one thing that inquiring customers never want to hear, it’s, “I’m going to have to call you back.”

Automation can eliminate that phrase from your business’ vocabulary. In addition to automating workflows, the right automation solution can provide online, self-service portals that customers can access for real-time information about their orders — instant gratification for the customer, and lower service costs for the company.

Automation Benefits the Business

Businesses often begin exploring automation solutions because of a singular problem. A recent acquisition may leave their current sales order fulfillment process insufficient.

They may be having difficulty reconciling orders with an internal system. Whatever it is, it’s specific. And while automation will solve that problem, there are other benefits that businesses will see. Those benefits are often tangible and quantifiable.

  • An average of 50 percent savings in order processing costs
  • Process orders an average of 80 percent faster with seamless integration into an ERP system
  • Increase visibility into operations by tracking and archiving order information
  • Reduction in the physical space needed to archive documents and the costs that are associated with it

Breakaway from Tradition

Traditional order processing requires a lot of staff and a lot of resources to manage all incoming orders. And if customer expectations around what is considered good support hadn’t changed, then the traditional processes would still work.

But expectations have changed. Customers are demanding that new channels of support be made available. Live chat, social media, and mobile functionality are extremely effective, but they are just the beginning.

By automating the business processes, companies are able to manage growing order volumes without adding staff, focus CSRs on higher-purpose tasks, and engage customers through an online, self-service portal.

Customers get the service levels they want and the business is able to focus on keeping its employees happy and its customers loyal.

Title image by Rob Bye