What if someone offered you a simple solution that eliminates the need for a dedicated customer service team? How would you feel about cutting the costs, saving time, and getting rid of human factor?
What if I told you that there is a way to achieve your business goals and forget about hiring, onboarding, and constantly training a team of customer service reps?
The secret is in hyper-automation.
Put it simply, you let the robots do their job and let your human team go.
Strong customer service is the backbone of every business — especially if your online store is small. Big enterprises can afford to lose a few dozens of customers due to the slow response speed or poor service while for small and medium-size stores every unaddressed issue costs a fortune.
When your online store starts making profit, you’ll have to decide whether you dare to scale or maintain sales momentum. Either way, you’ll need help.
You might feel like a multitasking superhero and try to handle everything yourself but most likely it will only bring you to a deadlock.
So let’s just agree that customer service matters.
What it Takes to Hire a Customer Service Team
Now, what it takes and how much does it cost to get professional customer service help?
Again, you’ve got two options: employ your own reps or outsource a call center. Both options are popular but are they really efficient?
In-house Customer Service
Let’s say your US-based shop has about 50,000 monthly visitors and you’re planning on maintaining or scaling up a little. In order to keep the service on a high level, you’ll need at least two customer service reps with an average annual salary of $33,000. Add up the taxes, bonuses, and other expenses, and you’ll end up with approximately $78,000 per year.
Apart from staffing expenses, you’ll have to invest your time and put effort into searching, onboarding, and training your new reps. According to statistics, the full cycle of hiring a customer service rep takes somewhere between 1 and 3 months.
Once you managed to put your team together, prepare to supervise their work and conduct regular training. Well-trained agents with strong product knowledge will drive retention and even help you gain new customers.
But even experienced customer service reps are not immune to making mistakes. Besides, depending on their personality, they can be too pushy or not active enough, which can result in breaking a sale.
Another issue is the prioritization of customer requests. Typically, service reps tend to process them one by one ignoring the fact that some inquiries are more important than others. And if the reps are not equipped with the proper eCommerce tools their job is doomed to be less productive.
Since your team consists of real people, they will take breaks, paid leaves, holidays, procrastinate, and won’t be able to work 24/7 unless you hire a few more agents to do the graveyard hours.
And then the worst part. All your investments and training might eventually come to nothing if your team member decides to quit. Keep in mind that staff turnover in the customer service field is higher than in many other industries, approximately 30% to 45%.
Can outsourcing a call center be a better bargain?
Outsourcing a Call Center
First off, American call centers aren’t cheap that’s why everyone is trying to go international. For reference, an hourly rate for outsourcing a call center in the US varies from $20 to $30, while in India it costs at most $10. One would think that it makes perfect sense to hire internationally, optimize the expenses, and improve revenue. However, the cost-effectiveness of such an affair is questionable and many etailers quickly reject the idea due to low performance.
You need to understand that no matter how qualified employees of a call center are, they will never be one hundred percent involved with your business. Your product grid will keep on changing along with the call center employees and you will end up constantly worried and stuck with repetitive tasks.
Worst-case scenario, the call center agents won’t understand the product correctly and crumb the deal.
All things considered, outsourcing a call center is not the greatest solution: it’s still expensive, you’re not in control, and for the small-sized businesses it can be counter-productive.
Is There an Alternative?
Once you take a long look at your options searching for help in unexpected places won’t seem so farfetched anymore. Especially, if it means advancing your approach with a dedicated technology.
Imagine if you had a Virtual Assistant that takes care of both sales and support. Apart from the obvious advantages such as 24/7 availability, perfect accuracy, and reliability, there are other benefits. Virtual Assistant customized to satisfy the needs of the eCommerce stores can replace the entire customer service team and it will only cost you from $500 to $1,000 per month.
What are the advantages?
VA Knows Everything About Your Product
VA has impeccable product knowledge and makes no mistakes. It can evaluate whether a customer needs help, consult them, and even suggest an alternative if the product they are looking for is out of stock. Or ask for an email and notify them when it’s available again.
VA Collects Data and Uses it to Help Customers
It automatically collects customer’s data, analyzes their behavior, predicts slips, and gently pushes a customer towards a purchase. Besides, it won’t just try to push a customer into buying for the sake of selling. Based on the customer data it gathered, VA will recommend the best-fitting product.
VA is Fast and Selective
When it comes to customer service, fast response time is a crucial factor. Virtual Assistant uses smart chat prioritization and serves those people who need more attention first. For example, new customers or those in the process of making a purchase should always be taken care of on a first-priority basis.
VA is Likable
If you’re worried that these conversations will lack a personal touch and sound robotic, that’s not the case. VA sounds natural and human-like, it is capable of making small talk and entertaining your customers too. For instance, it can play a game with your customers and award the winners with discounts.
And after all, as long as your customers receive a good service, they wouldn’t care who they were chatting with: a bot, a robot, or a real person.
It’s only a matter of time before AI-powered solutions become an integral part of etailers’ daily routine. Thanks to the self-learning ability, the VA technology is constantly advancing itself and there’s no doubt that in the near future the need for a dedicated customer service team will be removed.
Now, is this ethical?
Most likely, you won’t even have to decide whether it’s fair to dismiss your entire customer service team. We all have to accept the fact that in the age of artificial intelligence and machine learning breakthrough some jobs will disappear. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since people would be able to dedicate their time to things they’re really passionate about.
Why are we so sure that Virtual Assistant is destined to disrupt the eCommerce market? Because we’re building one.