The customer service role has a complicated past. Initially, the role was designed to keep customers happy by processing returns and solving basic problems. However, because customer service reps (CSRs) spent much of their time on menial tasks instead of actively drawing in new profits, the department was often considered a cost center.
Now, things are changing. Thanks in part to technology improvements, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and better customer relationship management (CRM) systems, the customer support role has evolved. In some distribution companies, CSRs have become profitable sellers.
Customer Service as a Cost Center vs. a Profit Center
Your customer service department doesn’t have to be a cost center. An optimized customer service team doesn’t passively solve complaints and place orders – they improve your brand’s reputation, boost customer satisfaction and proactively pitch products on inbound calls.
CSRs spend most of their time interacting with customers and building relationships. Those relationships make a difference; happier customers have a higher probability to continue purchasing from your business. They are also more likely to recommend you to their peers. Zendesk found that among survey respondents, “97% say bad customer service changes buying behavior, and 87% say good customer service changes buying behavior.”
Additionally, Hubspot reported that an increase in customer retention of just 5% could lead to a 25% profit increase. Repeat customers are 300% more likely to spend with your brand. Long-term customers lead to long-term profits. Customer service teams who successfully retain buyers can significantly reduce customer acquisition costs, improving each account’s lifetime value.
A well-trained, helpful customer service team won’t drain your assets – it will help you grow them.
How AI Makes Customer Service Centers Highly Profitable
Customer service reps are in the perfect position to make sales. Because customers trust helpful CSRs, your support team can go beyond their traditional role to offer valuable upsell and cross-sell recommendations. To be effective, however, CSRs need the right sales-enablement tools.
AI-powered insights, CRM programs, bots and automation software help CSRs be more productive and profitable. Here’s how:
CSRs dedicate much of their time to manual tasks. They input customer information, process orders, submit refunds, review emails, forward documents, take notes, review customer account histories, transpose data, etc.
AI tools reduce the amount of time spent on menial tasks by automating these processes. For instance, AI models can transpose pdf email attachments into useable files or analyze newly submitted support tickets and route them to the appropriate department. With this technology, your team will spend less time keying in information and more time providing support and making sales.
With the help of natural language processing (NLP), chatbots can mimic human speech to answer common questions and assist customers. During their interaction, bots will monitor customer comments and tone to determine whether the customer should speak to a real person or not.
For example, suppose the bot determines that it needs to transfer a customer to the support team. In that case, it will gather necessary information (like the customer’s name, account number, order number, address, etc.) that will allow the CSR to jump directly into solving the customer’s problem without taking unnecessary time to identify their account information.
AI-powered bots lighten the load so CSRs can focus on complex customer issues.
After combining your data into an omnichannel environment, AI models gather helpful customer information from every department – sales, ecommerce, customer support, etc. The system then creates a holistic overview of each account, including sales history, channel preference, customer behavior, purchasing patterns, reorder needs, sales opportunities, open support tickets and payment history/credit approval.
With account overviews, your CSRs will have all the information they need at the touch of a button, reducing wait times and improving overall customer satisfaction.
AI models can pinpoint valuable upsell and cross-sell opportunities after analyzing each customer’s purchasing patterns and comparing their behaviors to similar accounts. While your CSRs speak to customers, the system will tell them what items to recommend based on possible inventory gaps and real-time demand. This enables CSRs to make highly relevant product suggestions during support calls to boost revenue and help customers fill gaps.
Your customer service department is an asset – not a liability. When leaders ensure their customer service teams have the right tools, they can improve customer lifetime value, boost profits and enhance the company’s brand image. AI tools help CSRs understand their customers on a deeper level, so they can go above and beyond their traditional roles and be proactive team members instead of passive problem solvers.