Throughout the end of 2022, experts far and wide predicted that the global economy would cool significantly, potentially entering a recession.
Well, here in 2023, there are already signs that it could be happening. One by one, big businesses kicked off the year with layoffs, signaling that corporate belt-tightening is already underway.
This means it likely won’t be long until small businesses start feeling the pinch, as they always do when economic headwinds pick up.
That makes now the right time for small businesses to identify parts of their operations where they can do more with less.
For most, this means skimping on certain types of marketing or cutting back on employee perks and the like.
And while those things help, they’re not exactly big budget line items. For that reason, small businesses should seek to make a dent into bigger cost drivers—like customer service operations.
The question is how to do that without damaging customer relationships and harming sales.
And believe it or not, there is an answer: communications automation. By automating parts of the customer communications pipeline, small businesses can cut back on customer service spending without harming their bottom lines.
To help, here are four ways small businesses can use automation for this purpose.
Automated FAQs And Frontline Customer Service
Perhaps the best way to help minimize the workload of a customer service operation is to deploy automation as a type of triage system.
By using technologies like chatbots, small businesses can turn their standard online FAQs into interactive customer service tools.
Doing so relieves customer service agents from the burden of spending time answering simple questions.
And it serves as a vital data collection point to enable the triage of incoming customer issues and to give live agents a head-start on finding answers to customer queries.
Phone Trees And Auto-attendants
Another great way small businesses can automate a big portion of their customer communication operations is by using phone trees and auto-attendants.
This is now an accessible solution to small businesses thanks to the panoply of online business phone system options on the market.
Many include advanced call-handling features like interactive voice response (IVR) functionality.
This allows a small business to roll out an automated voice-based customer service option simply by choosing an appropriate business voice solution and configuring it to suit their needs.
Automated Email Support
Even though experts keep predicting that email will soon fall by the wayside as a customer service tool, there’s still no sign of it happening.
The problem is that email-based customer support is time-consuming and can be a customer relationship nightmare.
For example, a recent survey found that 45% of people have received an email with their name misspelled.
That’s the kind of oversight that can make a customer rethink their relationship with a small business.
The good news is that small businesses can turn to customer service email management software to both standardize and automate the process.
Doing so can trim the workload of customer service agents, eliminate embarrassing errors in emails to customers, and create a high-quality and consistent customer service experience.
Social Media Automation
Although most small businesses are, by now, familiar with the automation tools available to help them manage their social media accounts, not as many know that it’s also possible to automate social channels for customer service purposes, too.
For example, small businesses could use Facebook automated messages to respond quickly to customer queries.
They can do the same via AI-powered chatbots on Twitter. The point is that there’s a customer service automation option for every social media platform imaginable, and small businesses can deploy them to great effect.
The Bottom Line
The four options detailed above all represent chances for small businesses to automate customer communications in ways that won’t harm their brand or their bottom lines.
In fact, they all bring small businesses closer in line with the customer support options provided by Fortune 500 companies.
And, like it or not, those companies’ ways of doing things shape customer expectations.
So, that makes these customer communication automation options a good idea strategically as well as financially.
As 2023 rolls on, and especially if the economic headwinds continue to increase, it’s going to become increasingly important for small businesses to get creative to cut costs.
That makes the cost savings involved in automation a must. In that way, the options above check all the boxes—improving customer relations, enhancing business capabilities, and saving money.
In other words, they’re the right moves for small businesses to make for today and tomorrow.