The ultimate guide to customer service automation

Customer Experience

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Automation is helping businesses in all industries optimize their business operations. When it’s used to enhance your customer’s experience of interacting with your support or customer service teams, you can increase customer satisfaction and loyalty and reduce customer churn by solving a customer problem with expediency. 

Recent technological advancements and machine learning are used to make automation more efficient and helpful for business owners. Artificial intelligence, chatbots, automated sharing of information, and self-service support channels are helping customer service teams solve their customer queries and problems faster and more cost-effectively than if an agent had to talk to each person individually. 

In this guide, we’ll share more about how and why your business should use customer service automation. We’ll discuss the following: 

  • What is customer service automation?
  • What are examples of automated customer service?
  • Pros and cons: How does automation help customer service
  • What businesses benefit from automating customer service
  • Is automation making customer service better or worse?
  • How to automate customer service  
  • Top software to automate customer service
  • The future of customer service

What is customer service automation? 

Customer service automation is how businesses manage customer conversations in full or part through automated processes, limiting the intervention of live agents. Automations are controlled through software and processes that eliminate the need for live staff to manually interact with every customer service inquiry. 

Automated customer service systems work well for many business processes, including  repetitive tasks. These are tasks where many customers have the same problem and the answer customer service teams give is the same for everyone. 

Customer service can be automated by processing customer inquiries using machine learning to enable rapid analysis and sorting of their requests. It can pick out keywords and intent to connect the customer with the most appropriate team member or department or send them the information they need through automations. 

What are examples of automated customer service? 

When you automate customer service, you are helping customers get what they need faster and with more consistency, compared to waiting for a staff member to respond. Here are some examples of how you can use customer service automation to optimize your business processes:

Chatbot ticket routing (full-service)

A customer answers a series of questions that are pre-programmed into the chatbot. The AI will provide answers or links to the answers they’re seeking. This usually provides the customer with a canned answer in just a few questions. 

Chatbot ticket routing (agent-assisted)

After filling in the chatbot questions, they are connected with a live agent, who will receive a copy of their chatbot conversation and can pick up the conversation immediately. 

Email routing

Through a web form or help desk system, user inquiries are automatically forwarded to the person or department best suited to respond. (Idiomatic does this for you based on pre-programmed values and machine learning)

Auto-response email replies

You can write automated responses and then use automation to send automatic replies to a customer upon emailing a specific email address or when their email includes certain keywords. Machine learning can detect customer requests and send the correct email. 

Better informing live help desk reps

A customer service agent automatically receives a copy of all customer information so they can quickly review it before talking directly to the customer about their query. This helps the agent be better informed about the customer and their needs.

Updated phone message

Include important service and company information on your phone’s answering message or the message that plays before the call is forwarded to a team member. This can help mitigate issues like expected platform downtime, unexpected or expected system outages, and other timely updates. It’s also a suitable platform to share basic information about operating hours or specific support contacts people often request. 

Voice recognition software

Use voice recognition on phone calls for the customer to share their information with you before speaking to an agent. Your customer can respond to audio prompts to provide their name, account number, and description of their query rather than entering answers on their keypad. This can be combined with computer algorithms and automation to direct their phone query to the correct department. 

Self-service resources

Create self-service support channels like a knowledge base, video tutorials, and frequently asked questions documents to help customers find their answers without waiting to talk to a rep. Provide customers with resources and support in multiple formats or channels to access 24-7. It’s like providing proactive support before they become frustrated customers. You can solve their problem before it causes them too much grief, earning more satisfied customers.  

Link automation with your other systems

To benefit from automated customer service processes, link your chosen automation platform to your other systems and databases. When your online systems “talk” to each other (by sharing information), you better understand the specific customer’s experience and journey to date. 

For example, when a customer opens a help desk live chat window, you can ask them a few basic details to help identify the customer and their problems. You could ask for their name, email, and a description of their problem. With this information, your automation can search your database for a user with that contact information and display it on the agent’s screen seconds before the agent hops into the chat. In this hybrid automated system, your live agents will automatically receive all customer details and information they need to provide personalized, excellent customer service. 

Pros and cons: How does automation help your customer service team? 

While, in theory, customer automation seems like a wise business decision, it can have drawbacks if not correctly executed. Here are the pros and cons of adding customer service automation to your company:


  • Decreased customer service costs: Every customer service call takes time when managed by a human agent. The number of support queries human agents can handle is limited by time, whereas automations allow you to help many people at once. When you can ease the workload of current staff, you may not need to hire as many support staff as your business grows.  
  • Faster response times: With automated systems, you will either solve the customer’s problem using a series of rules or have their request automatically forwarded to the correct person immediately. No more forwarding emails around the company to find someone who can help. No more waiting on hold for hours to speak to a live agent when customers have a question that can be simply answered.
  • 24/7 support: When you have automated customer service tools, they can run 24/7, even when your customer service agents are off duty or working in a different time zone. This means your customers can solve their problems, even outside business hours. 
  • Support how and where customers need it: Customers have different ways they want to get support. Some may wish to speak to a support rep on the phone, over email, or through a SMS or a web chat box. Encourage self-service options for business efficiency but provide traditional support avenues for those who want human interaction with support teams. 


  • Loss of personalization: When processes are automated, there is an element of templates and generic responses shown to the customer. This generally tends to remove the personal touch that many customers like. 
  • Potential for misinterpretation: With automation, there is the possibility of error or misinterpretation of your customers’ needs if the automation rules are not detailed enough. 
  • Tough to solve complex problems: Automation won’t help solve more complex or unique customer complaints. These requests are best handled by people rather than automation. 
  • Set-up cost: There will be costs associated with purchasing or custom-creating automation software and systems. It’s usually a higher upfront cost with a monthly maintenance or software licensing fee, depending on the support automation software used.
  • Can lead to customer dissatisfaction: If not done well, problems in automation can lead to increased customer dissatisfaction. If they get the wrong message or are taken down an incorrect process flow, they’ll likely get frustrated and call your customer support teams to complain. 

What businesses benefit from automating customer service 

Businesses of all sizes and industries can benefit from automating some of their customer service processes: 

Software and SaaS companies

Technology companies receive high volumes of support and help desk inquiries. Most of these inquiries are due to user error or inexperience and are always answered by support teams in the same way. With automated customer service software, your help desk team can prepare standard responses to common technical questions and get customers the information they need without bothering a live agent. 

Large national and international businesses

Automating customer service tasks can help larger businesses handle the high volumes of customer inquiries while keeping the process scalable as they grow. Automating customer support tasks helps you provide a more consistent customer service experience for every customer, regardless of where they are in the world. With solely human support staff, there is room for human error and inconsistent messaging. 

Small businesses

People expect personalized service from a small business, but you likely don’t have as many staff as a large multinational corporation, so providing that dedicated 1:1 support can be tricky. However, when you can automate more tasks (for example by using a chatbot on your website or Facebook Business Page), you can save precious time for the more complex support issues, knowing the simpler support queries are being handled through automation. 

Is automation making customer service better or worse? 

The answer to this question isn’t clear-cut, as there are pros and cons to using automated customer support systems. However, to ensure you’re using them to make the customer experience better, here are some questions to ask:

  1. Is it customer-focused? – Will the automation benefit the customer or make their life more difficult?
  2. Does it provide personalized support? – Can you use the automated process to provide personalized support, or will it sound like it’s coming from a “bot” spouting out generic content at them?
  3. Is it easy to manage? – Is automation more work to manage than the time it’ll save your team? 
  4. Will it improve customer relationships? Is the automation personalized enough to get people what they need quicker than waiting for a human agent for support? 

Ultimately, it’s a good thing if you’re using customer service automation to provide better service to your customers. If you’re doing it solely to ease the workload of your internal teams, then it’s not as efficient as it should be. 

How to automate customer service

Implementing customer service tasks starts with creating a customer service strategy that is unique to your company. Here’s how you and your support team can implement customer service automation:

Step 1: Evaluate current processes

First, look at your support services to list your repeatable processes and queries. These may be FAQs your team gets regularly or customer data that can be collected or aggregated for customer service teams to better help customers. 

Talk to your support teams about their areas of frustration. What do they need to do their job better, or to focus more on VIPs or clients with more complicated issues that require a human touch? 

Step 2: Categorize customer problems

Look deeper at the types of questions your customer support agents get. For example:

  • Do you get a lot of password reset questions? 
  • Are people confused about how to return a product?
  • Are customers asking about invoicing or payment issues?
  • Are you getting queries about product or service specifications?

Many of their queries can be answered with the same response, no matter who the customer is. These make good candidates for customer support automation using technology like chatbots and automated email responses. If customer concerns don’t have a one-size-fits-all answer, these are often best left for a human agent to support. You can support your agents by creating a more robust training program or by providing more templated content that they send to the customer once they’ve determined what the customer complaint is.  

Once you understand and have classified common customer problems, you can set-up automated ticket routing so queries are automatically sent to the correct agent or an automated email response is sent. 

Categorize your client interactions by their suitability for:

  • Full-service automation (the process is handled fully through automated processes and workflows)
  • Agent-assisted automation (where the customer deals with a real person)
  • A hybrid approach (such as a human deciding how to route support tickets into the automation sequences, or a customer who engages with a live agent after answering some automated categorization questions in a chat bot.) 

Also, note their customer journey stage, as it may impact how or where you implement your automated customer service processes. 

Idiomatic can help you identify your customer feedback and support ticket specifics to recommend which customer problems are ideal candidates for automation. 

Once you have this information, you can move to the next step. 

Step 3: Choose automation software and solutions

Your answer is likely going to be a combination of automations. You may start by publishing an FAQ or knowledge base on your website for those who prefer to find their solutions independent of contacting an agent. You’ll likely also need to implement customer service software and programs to support other automated processes. 

Automation software will likely include many features you can use to make solving support queries easier for customers and staff. These features may include:

  • Aggregating customer data from other databases and systems (like your CRM, customer-supplied account information, and analytics related to their usage of your product or digital assets like your website). 
  • Customizable rules to help sort and triage customer requests
  • Ability to send queries via email or text to the right support team member 
  • Provide analytics data on support processes to measure your success or identify problems with automations

Keep reading to get our automation software suggestions later in this guide. 

Step 4: Program your automation

Once you have chosen your automation platforms, it’s time to input data to make them smart enough to boost the customer experience. Add scripts, rules, and app integrations to link your customer service tools, so they work together to provide the best possible customer experience. Run tests of your automated support systems to ensure they direct customers to the right answer in as few steps as possible and respond with the correct answer or expected outcome. 

For example, you may want to check that:

  • All email notifications are sent and received promptly and with the correct content (especially if you’re populating communications with dynamic user content).
  • If you’re aggregating customer conversations in one spot, ensure the app integrations are sending the data you require. 
  • If you have an AI chatbot, test it extensively with different queries to ensure it gives the answer that customers expect.  

Step 5: Survey customers consistently

Your automated customer service strategy may not work perfectly the first time. Make a point to gather feedback from your customers after every customer service interaction to see if the customer service experience met their expectations. If not, you’ll notice a trend in their responses quickly (even faster if you use customer satisfaction software like Idiomatic for survey data analysis). 

Learn more about how Idiomatic’s customer satisfaction software can help you interpret customer feedback and better understand the customer experience. 

Top software and systems to automate customer service 

There are many apps and systems for customer service automation. Here are a few examples:


Idiomatic is the first step in starting an automated support strategy for many businesses, particularly those with large amounts of data from many sources. It’s an advanced piece of your customer service automation stack and helps you get a complete picture of your current customer support process to identify areas that can be optimized through automation. This platform takes massive amounts of your data from owned and third-party databases and analyzes it in seconds using sophisticated machine learning. 

By aggregating your customer data points with Idiomatic, the sophisticated machine learning can identify what aspects of your support systems you could automate. It can take data from past support tickets, website inquiries, customer demographic data, customer interaction information, purchase history, and more. 

Idiomatic can summarize large amounts of data into easily understandable insights. These are the insights you need to make the right business decisions to help inform your automated customer service platform choice and strategy.


Zapier is a program that allows you to connect two apps and perform a series of automated actions. For example, you can create a “zap” to send a specific person an email when a new help desk ticket is created with a unique category tag. It features over 5000 popular app integrations, but you are limited to a specific set of triggers and actions.   


Hubspot features interconnected apps to simplify marketing and customer service, from prospecting and lead nurturing to client onboarding and ongoing customer support. It’s an integrated CRM platform that creates automation like email notifications, help desk ticketing, and gathering all customer interactions in one place for easy management. 


Freshdesk helps you engage with your customers through an omnichannel approach for deeper customer support. It features AI-powered chatbots and integrations to optimize support processes through email, your website, over chat, phone, social media, and WhatsApp. They also provide self-service tools, including help widgets, forum moderation workflows, and a knowledge base platform. 

The future of customer service automation 

With advanced customer service optimization processes, technology can make your life easier by better understanding your customers. More detailed knowledge about your customers informs smarter product and business decisions to better meet the needs of your customers. In many cases, you can use technology to solve your customer’s common, everyday problems without engaging live support reps. 

Idiomatic makes customer support easier. Curious to see how easy it is? Request a free demo today, and you’ll be one step closer to learning how you can uncover the best strategies for providing a scalable customer service automation process.

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