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What is support automation? Benefits, examples, and strategies for implementation

Support automation is a driving force behind a transformative shift in the world of customer service. It’s no wonder that our Customer Service Trends Report 2023 revealed that 71% of support leaders are planning to invest in automation to supercharge their team's efficiency in the coming year.¹

And, as reported by McKinsey & Company in its 2022 Global Survey on automation, the adoption continues growing across industries and regions. According to the survey, 70% of organizations are at least piloting automation in one or more business functions – up from 66 percent in 2020 and 57 percent in 2018.²

In this article, you’ll learn more about the benefits of support automation, what to look for in a support automation tool, and how to implement the technology at your own company.

What is support automation?

Support automation is the use of software to simplify support team operations and reduce manual work. It helps identify and eliminate process bottlenecks, freeing up your teams to concentrate on more challenging tasks. As a result, it can enhance efficiency and elevate the quality of customer service while simultaneously saving time and resources.

In the context of IT support, automation involves using technology to streamline various aspects of technical support and assistance for users within an organization.

Support automation benefits

Reduces human error

Support automation minimizes human error by automating manual tasks. It ensures that processes – including updating customer records or logging interactions – are executed flawlessly. Further, automation streamlines the workflow with one-click actions, effectively guaranteeing that essential information is inserted accurately every time. 

This not only enhances precision but also allows your team to focus on quality assurance, acting as a safeguard against errors rather than manually driving each step of the process.

Boosts productivity

According to our 2023 report, State of AI in Customer Service, two-thirds of support leaders are excited about leveraging AI and automation to increase the efficiency of their teams in the year ahead

Automation goes beyond offering instant resolutions to customers' simple queries with an automated chatbot or handling other repetitive, low-demand tasks. Perhaps equally important, it frees up reps to tackle other tasks that boost productivity, like fine-tuning workflows and optimizing knowledge bases.

When it comes to IT support automation, it also provides broader, more holistic benefits by empowering your entire workforce. By establishing an internal knowledge base, for example, employees gain the independence to troubleshoot frequent problems themselves, like resetting passwords or installing software.

Optimizes resources

Our Customer Service Trends Report 2023 shows that 68% of support leaders intend to invest more in automation over the next year to manage support costs.

By implementing automated customer service solutions, you can effortlessly expand your support capacity, resolve a higher volume of customer queries, and deliver exceptional service without overwhelming your support team.

Overall, automating processes from start to finish will translate to significant cost savings by more efficiently utilizing your resources. Regardless of the size of your team, automation facilitates scalable success.

Provides proactive support

Sometimes it takes time and effort for customers to learn how to use a new product or service effectively. Complex features, advanced functionalities, or a steep learning curve can hinder adoption and limit customers' ability to fully leverage the product's potential.

In such cases, an automated platform can offer usage tips, or suggest help articles at points in the journey where you know that customers tend to have the most issues. It allows you to onboard, educate, and reach out to your customers with messages that are useful, appropriate, and contextually relevant.

Creates a better employee experience

One of the most notable advantages of automation lies in the improved experiences it offers to support teams, especially when dealing with customer requests. 

More leaders are turning to technology to boost employee engagement, with automation standing out as prime evidence of this shift. Intercom’s Customer Service Trends Report found that 81% of customer support leaders are confident that technology – including automated support tools – holds the key to enhancing the employee experience and minimizing attrition

This marks an increase from the previous year, underscoring the growing significance of technology in fostering satisfaction and engagement among your support team in 2023.

What to look for in a customer support automation tool

When evaluating tools for your support automation, it’s important to keep an eye out for a few vital features and capabilities.


Customer service chatbots provide indispensable support automation that directly benefits the end user. Through text or voice interactions, they engage customers by processing message inputs to return appropriate responses.

There are two main types of chatbots:

  • AI-powered chatbots: they incorporate machine learning, natural language processing, and generative AI to understand language nuances and handle a wide range of conversations. Trained on conversational data, they can discern intent and context to generate relevant replies.

  • Rule-based chatbots: they rely entirely on predefined scripts to communicate. You can map out potential conversation paths in detail and pair specific user inputs with tailored responses. This approach allows them to select suitable replies for well-defined customer queries.

Both rule-based and AI-powered chatbots can be used for customer support automation – including in tandem. Rule-based chatbots can efficiently collect basic customer details like names, emails, and phone numbers. An AI chatbot, meanwhile, can then use this personalized data to ensure context-sensitive support. 

Verifying identity and eligibility for services are also well-suited to rule-based platforms before incorporating AI chatbots for more intricate queries.

These examples demonstrate how traditional and advanced chatbot technologies complement each other, working cooperatively to enhance the customer experience through a collaborative approach.

With a chatbot, you can also offer an omnichannel experience that ensures that customers can engage with your support team through their preferred channel, whether that’s email, WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, or another platform. 

Proactive support automation

Another way to automate support is by being proactive in your customer engagement. This means sending contextually relevant messages to customers when they're most likely to take action.

For example, if a user is doing a product tour, timely prompts can encourage them to follow the next steps to continue their journey. Or, when questions arise, the automation platform can direct them to self-service tools like help center articles.

For new customers, guided onboarding experiences incorporating tasks and goal-setting help you establish a positive first impression. Moreover, automated checklists seamlessly walk users through key onboarding or implementation stages at their convenience.

Automated ticketing system

An automated ticketing system plays a pivotal role in efficient customer issue resolution. 

Through help desk automation, incoming tickets can be promptly routed to the appropriate department or agent based on various factors such as message content, user attributes, or company data.

When a customer submits a query or request for resolution, a ticket is automatically generated, making it easily accessible to both the customer and your dedicated support team. 

Through a support automation process, you can guarantee each ticket is directed to an appropriate specialized team member capable of handling the specific nature of the request.

In addition, an automated ticketing system simplifies ticket prioritization by assigning levels of urgency. For example, it can prioritize requests based on the customer's service level agreement (SLA), which outlines the expected resolution time. 

As a result, the team can effectively concentrate on addressing the most critical issues right away, without having to waste precious time determining the respective urgency levels of different tickets. 

If you want to know more about automated ticketing systems, read this article: Switch to an automated ticketing system and say goodbye to manual processes.

Workflow builder

In Intercom’s platform, the aforementioned features – chatbots, messaging, and ticket routing – can be automated by a workflow builder, allowing for rapid deployment of support automation.

Within a matter of minutes and without requiring a single line of code, you can configure automations that are immediately integrated into your entire customer service department. By providing a user-friendly interface, you can make the workflow builder accessible to everyone on your support team, allowing them to create and customize workflows regardless of their technical expertise.

Additionally, Intercom offers optimization possibilities via triggers, conditions, and rules. For instance, with our workflow, you can easily establish criterias to:

  • Let Fin, Intercom’s AI chatbot, jump in and answer customers whenever you choose.

  • Collect and update customer data attributes such as name and contact details.

  • Follow up with inactive customers.

  • Tag conversations and assign them to the right team.

  • Close or snooze inactive conversations in the inbox.

How to implement support automation

1. Assess your customer journey

One step that is often overlooked is mapping out the customer journey to gain an understanding of the entire, end-to-end support life cycle. 

By doing so, you can both effectively identify areas where automation can be applied and confirm the effectiveness of your current practices.

We recommend that you build out the customer journey from their perspective, identifying the actions they take and the platforms or channels they use. 

Do their interactions occur on your website, mobile app, or other media? Pinpoint exactly where users encounter challenges and actually seek support. Determine if they primarily reach out through email, or if they prefer immediate assistance via live chat. Understanding these patterns will give you insights into how customers engage with your support channels.

By examining the customer journey, you can uncover the most common paths they take – recognizing, of course, that not all of them follow the same route. This knowledge allows you to tailor your support automation efforts to address specific pain points or streamline support for multiple paths.

2. Consider your existing support process

In addition to mapping the customer journey, it’s crucial to thoroughly analyze your existing support processes. When you understand the inner workings of your support team, you can identify key areas where automation can bring improvements.

So make sure to take a closer look at what happens behind the scenes

For instance, when a customer is submitting an email, where is that being routed to? Whose inbox is it going to? And what type of information is being collected and provided to representatives for context? Sufficiently answering these questions may require deeper exploration, especially if you're not directly involved in the operational details. 

This is where involving your support representatives becomes necessary. Because their unique insights can offer valuable perspectives, it's essential to include them in the support automation process. By making them part of the journey, furthermore, you are vastly increasing the chances that they’ll embrace the new strategy.

You should also be encouraging your team to make the most out of automation implementation. Go beyond just training your support reps on the software tools – take steps to empower them to perceive automation's potential for transforming their strategic roles.

Guide your team to look past the specific individual applications of automation and see the bigger picture. They can actively identify new opportunities to streamline workflows, boost productivity, and elevate their responsibilities.

Teams that understand automation's strategic power will unlock novel solutions and maximize its benefits. 

3. Set clear goals for your support automation efforts

When implementing new technology, we believe you should always set clear goals and benchmarks to measure success. Define what value looks like for your support team before onboarding support automation tools.

For example, your primary goal can be to use automation to reduce repetitive inbound queries without compromising the customer experience. 

From there, you can select relevant key metrics to track the tool's impact on your objective(s). Customer satisfaction and resolution rate are good ways to measure bottom-line value. 

Besides customer-focused metrics, don’t overlook the internal efficiencies gained through automation. Consider the productivity gains that can be achieved within your team.

With metrics like these established, capture benchmark figures reflecting the team's performance without automation. This provides a baseline to compare against once the technology is in place.

Monitor data over the initial weeks and months to assess if the platform is delivering the intended improvements. If your goals aren't being met, some tweaks may be needed until the technology starts optimizing your team's performance.

Defining success upfront and tracking progress ensures you implement technology thoughtfully and measure its true value for your support operation.

Read more: The power of IT support automation for business efficiency

4. Choose the right support automation tools

When considering support automation tools for your team, prioritize solutions that offer seamless development, organization, and updates. As you explore different platforms, keep the following key factors in mind to make an informed decision:

  • Easy Setup: Look for intuitive user interfaces and clear guides that allow quick implementation without extensive training. A simple setup process eases the transition to automated workflows.

  • Flexibility: Choose a platform that can be customized to suit your unique needs and that can adapt as your support processes evolve over time. This ensures seamless integration with your current workflows.

  • Scalability: Consider how the tool handles increased volumes as your support demands change. It should efficiently support higher workloads without compromising performance.

  • Integrations: Evaluate the tool's integration capabilities with your existing systems and applications. Look for a solution that seamlessly integrates with the software you are already using, enabling smooth data exchange and workflow continuity.

  • Analytics: Access to thorough analytics and reporting can provide additional opportunities for optimization. Data-driven insights help improve processes, service, and strategic decision-making.

5. Take small steps and build your way up

It's easy to feel overwhelmed when exploring automation, given the vast number of pathways to implementation and subsequent improvement. The key is to start small – don't aim for perfection right away, a lofty goal that can often hinder progress.

Focus first on one or two priority areas to automate. Even after mapping all customer journeys and pain points, try breaking things down into levels of severity. Address the most pressing issues first before moving to lower-priority areas.

Building up gradually allows you to learn as you go while still driving meaningful change. Smaller wins may not make a monumental difference to your business on their own, but they can help build momentum and enthusiasm for expanding support automation over time.

The goal is to bring automation into focus gradually rather than maximize its usage all at once. Target changes that deliver outsized impact relative to the effort required. With a thoughtful and selective approach, you can steadily build up automation in ways that improve experiences for both customers and your team.

6. Launch a pilot program

When implementing major automation changes that alter customer interactions, you need to make sure to roll them out in the right sequences.

Start with an internal trial program to test support automation with your team. The specifics of this pilot program will depend on the priorities of your strategy, but you’ll essentially be asking your team to simulate customers and evaluate the performance of the automation tools from a customer’s perspective. 

Once you’ve gathered insights and fine-tuned automation based on these internal trials, it's time to expand the implementation process to a small customer segment. At this stage, you might consider including a control group without automation for comparison purposes. 

Keep a close eye on both groups to ensure that everything is functioning as intended. It's also important to keep your team informed about these developments, ensuring that they’re aware of the changes and their various potential impacts. 

With a successful trial under your belt, begin steadily expanding support automation's reach. Continue focusing on evaluation and refinement – there’s almost always room for further improvement and optimization. Keep monitoring the automation tools’ effectiveness, gather feedback from both your team and your customers, and make necessary tweaks to reach peak performance.

How to kickstart your automated support strategy? Register now to watch our recorded webinar.

Intercom helps your support automation

As we hope this article has demonstrated, support automation greatly enhances efficiency and productivity by enabling your team to accomplish more with less time and effort.

Intercom helps you easily build powerful automation with bots, triggers, conditions, and rules that create amazing experiences for both customers and support reps – all in one place. Our automation platform allows you to:

  • Deploy workflows that automate manual tasks.

  • Build personalized journeys that deliver real value for your customers.

  • Automatically solve customer issues with safe, accurate, conversational answers from our AI-powered chatbot.

  • Get a head start with dozens of pre-built templates for popular use cases.

See what our customers love about Intercom automation solutions:

Being able to scale our onboarding using Intercom’s automation capabilities has also allowed us to move away from a 1:1 onboarding model, which means I’m getting around 20-25% of my week back thanks to our new scaled onboarding program.
Russell Mitchell

Head of Customer Success at Trumpet

Thanks to Intercom, we’re seeing 82% support automation efficiency. This increased efficiency allows us to maintain a healthy culture of highly professional individuals, instead of a churning system of junior support agents.
Matt Lewis

Head of User Operations at AI21 Labs

Check all of Intercom’s features for yourself and unleash the power of automation: ask for a demo or start a free trial today.

What’s next for your automation efforts? Read more:


1. Intercom. Customer Service Trends Report 2023. We commissioned an independent market research firm to survey a random sample of 1,775 global customer service leaders and decision makers. The study’s margin of error is +/- 2.3% at the 95% level of significance.

2. McKinsey & Company. McKinsey Global Survey on automation. The online survey was in the field from October 5 to October 22, 2021, and garnered responses from 639 participants representing the full range of regions, industries, company sizes, functional specialties, and tenures.

3. Intercom. The State of AI in Customer Service Report 2023. We commissioned an independent market research firm to survey a random sample of 1,013 global support leaders and practitioners. The margin of error for this study is +/- 3.7% at the 95% confidence level.