Digital transformation has swept through virtually every business and is now the driving force at the heart of many.
During the pandemic companies were driven to deploy automation technologies to deliver services remotely. Furthermore, an increase in resignations and redundancies, as well as a post-Brexit labour shortage, made automation a necessity to offset a shrinking workforce and maintain supply chain stability.
However, with consumers suffering digital and virtual fatigue, how will this continued surge impact businesses that thrive through human contact and put value on customer experience?
In today’s world, virtually everything can be automated, but does that mean it should be?
What are the benefits?
Automation is undoubtedly a fantastic tool for fast-moving businesses looking to boost productivity and efficiency. AI-driven robotics, ecommerce tools, marketing and social media automation are just some of the areas where businesses and individuals benefit.
Cost savings – Streamlining labour-intense processes improves efficiencies and reduces cost. What is more, most software today is available as SaaS, removing the need to invest in expensive hardware. This not only reduces overall cost but frees up time and resource, enabling staff to focus on the bigger picture.
Scalability – Standardising and automating processes across a business increases the ability to scale and grow. It also provides the opportunity to review how you do things, find efficiencies and streamline. With standardised, integrated processes there is greater transparency across teams, increasing the potential for collaboration.
Customer experience – With multiple channels through which to engage, customers have greater choice and convenience, improving their overall buying experience. They can select the channels that suit them, be that messaging or web chat for quick queries or a phone call for more sensitive or involved discussions. They also benefit from improved service through automated communications and service updates.
Employee satisfaction – By automating mundane, repetitive tasks such as administration and data collection, employees have more time to use their skills and creativity to add value in their role. This, combined with the fact they have tools that enable them to do their job more easily and effectively, can significantly increase employee satisfaction.
What are the common risks?
Despite these benefits, digital automation and increased reliance on technology does expose companies to significant risk in a number of areas.
Security, data compliance and privacy – The ability to collect vast amounts of data brings with it increased responsibility for keeping that data safe and secure. According to Cyberedge 2021, a massive 86% of UK businesses experienced a successful cyberattack in 2020/2021.
Poor implementation - While automating some processes will drive efficiencies in your business, it is essential that the processes being automated are already optimised. It is equally essential to ensure you are only automating processes that truly require very little human contact and are straight forward and rules-based. Failing to do the groundwork, automating already inefficient processes or automating the wrong things can do more harm than good.
Customer experience - Studies show the importance of human interaction in delivering a positive experience so it is vital not to over-automate. By removing every element of human contact, the simplest processes can be very frustrating - a chat bot spitting out irrelevant canned responses, for example. Real humans can elevate and differentiate CX with significant benefits for your brand, future growth and profitability.
Employee satisfaction – As employees deal with more and more technology there is a risk that they feel constrained and isolated from human interaction which may cause mental health issues. A technology-driven, ‘always on culture’ can also impact work/life balance and wellbeing, with many workers now bombarded by emails or messages outside of the working day and often in their homes.
Automation itself is never the problem, however, there are definitely processes that require a human touch and recognising that is key to successful implementation. Overall, it is essential to ensure that the automation of processes has long-term strategic commitment across the whole organisation with the appropriate resources assigned. Done ad-hoc without full buy-in at senior levels, it may actually create more problems than it resolves.
Find out what the human voice adds to the customer experience
Whilst automation promises many benefits, done badly, inefficient practices can actually increase costs and overheads. Brands also risk reputational damage through an over-automated, impersonal customer experience.