If you were a movie buff back in the 1990s, there’s a good chance you remember MovieFone. MovieFone was a simple phone service where you’d call in, enter your zip code, and hear a list of all the movies playing near you—complete with theaters and showtimes.
This was the pre-Internet era, when it was a hassle to hunt down this information through newspapers or by calling theaters directly. MovieFone changed the game, providing easy-to-access, personalized information in a convenient self-serve model—and they reaped handsome rewards. In 1999, AOL purchased the brand for $388 million, the equivalent of nearly $700 million today.
MovieFone was ahead of its time—but the principles underlying its success couldn't be more relevant today. Studies show that 89% of customers expect a self-service portal. And if they do require help from a human being, they want it fast: McKinsey reveals that 75% of online consumers expect to receive help within a five-minute window. In fact, 73% of customers believe it’s a critical factor in evaluating whether they had a “good” or a “poor” customer service experience.
MovieFone’s innovation was a prime example of how automation improves the customer experience. It simplified, streamlined, and sped up a process that made life easier for the end user. No matter the size of your business, you can use automation to improve the customer experience—both directly, through explicit customer interactions, and indirectly, by empowering employees to create more value. Let’s take a closer look at opportunities to do both.
Give customers the ability to self-serve.
Modern customers have come to expect self-service. One Harvard Business Review study revealed that 81% of customers attempted to resolve their own issues via self-service, rather than waiting for an agent.
MovieFone succeeded by leaning into this customer preference. Callers didn’t need to wait on hold for a real person to find the information they needed; they could get it at the touch of a button. Meanwhile, offloading that task to technology meant staffers at movie theaters could spend less time fielding incoming calls about showtimes, freeing them up to better serve in-person visitors.
Nearly every industry would benefit from having robots on call. Automation can help your customers self-serve with greater ease and convenience. Here are just a few examples of information customers are looking for in a pinch:
Payment due dates
Utility meter readings
These are just a few examples—your business has its own unique list of routine items customers seek on a daily basis depending on your industry and speciality. Develop an automation game plan that provides self-service options to answer these repetitive and mundane questions, from interactive voice response to online chatbots. Find a way to give your customers 24/7 access to this data—even when your team can’t be there.
Empower teams to better serve customers.
Self-service is one of the most powerful ways automation can enhance the customer experience. But it can also work behind the scenes to enhance your employees’ customer-facing work. How can automation empower your teams to create a better customer experience?
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples:
1. Make more human connections in sales and marketing
Sales, marketing, and customer service have one thing in common—they all make the customer feel heard, understood, and supported. In fact, you can often trace back a failure in any one of these functions back to a communication deficiency. For one reason or another, customers didn’t receive the message they needed or expected—resulting in a bad experience. This can happen when a company relies on manual processes to deliver fast, personalized, and accurate communications—something that’s difficult to do at scale.
But it’s worth getting right. Quality customer engagement can increase brand loyalty by a whopping 73%. Automation can take much of the guesswork and time-consuming manual labor out of these processes. RPA can consolidate data about customers from multiple sources, making it easier for marketing teams to tailor their communications. They can further make sure that all this data is available to the different channels used in marketing, thereby ensuring consistency.
Meanwhile, employees freed from these manual tasks can apply the saved hours (or days!) toward providing a more human touch to other marketing solutions—making creative decisions that foster a human connection between the brand and the customer.
2. Ease headaches in billing and accounting
When a company scales, processing invoices often becomes overwhelming. Automating invoicing, as an example, can speed up the process and minimize errors, which makes things much smoother for the customer: they can expect timely billing without long uncertain waiting periods.
Bank reconciliation is another task that can prove demanding when handled manually. Spotting discrepancies, ensuring every transaction is present across all records, and correcting errors are all time-intensive tasks that must take place every month. They’re a burden for your staff, but even more for customers: they may face blocked funds, lack of access to key services, and other operational difficulties.
Automation takes this task off your employees’ plates—resulting in faster processing time and fewer accounting errors or hassles that impact your customers.
Automation done right is a revelation.
As MovieFone showed us, simple automation can deliver transformative results for businesses and their customers. Your company may not sell theater tickets, but you can still benefit from incorporating automation into your business model. That’s true on both the front-end and back-end of your business: just because customers don’t interact with bots directly doesn’t mean that those bots aren’t having a measurable impact on their experience and satisfaction.
At R-Path, we work with organizations every day to identify the best opportunities for automation—and develop a strategy that puts them into action. Talk to us today to get started.