While automation can provide focused business outcomes aligned with process improvement, cost reduction and headcount re-allocation, it can also be considered from the perspective of a superior customer experience.
Here are five questions to ask about using automation for customer-centric initiatives to improve sales, market traction and loyalty in disruptive markets.
1. Are my internal processes well defined, still relevant for us and customers, and being followed well?
There is an opportunity to really think about processes as you consider their automation. If they are not a good fit, re-engineering a process, before automating a broken one, is a better way forward.
In this case, general use of automation to shorten the time needed for a customer to go from “I am interested” to “I have been fulfilled and you have been paid” can be very successful.
2. If my driver is to reduce headcount, will I lose core knowledge as well, and how will staff react?
Your team needs to go on the automation journey with you. When used as an opportunity to improve efficiencies that people are frustrated by, and to deliver a better experience to customers, automation can be a strongly aligning process for your team.
In recent years many IT functions have been automated, but skills demand for a highly automated function like cloud is now white hot. That’s not ironic, it’s just a sign of jobs being shifted in a changing economy.
3. How well do my backend systems integrate with each other?
Whle integration between systems is powerful, it can be expensive and time-consuming to get right. Automation (especially Robotic Process Automation) can be used to bridge the integration gap while a better system that does integrate well is developed or procured.
Bots, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are driving some interesting outcomes for backend business processes such as resource planning and management.
4. Can automation improve the customer experience by making us more responsive, available and able to focus on more complex problems?
Customers can get frustrated by complex processes that take time or require them to re-explain themselves to each new operator as they are passed around inside a call centre, or through different departments.
Helping customers get to resources and serve themselves, or get to the right person more efficiently, can really help the customer experience. But bear in mind, some people will take time to catch up with this approach, so give them a way to speak to someone if they are really lost.
5. Is there a logical starting point to consider for automation in your business, to get the process, platform and people aspects right on a small scale?
Automation can be addictive, and quickly grow into a large project. It’s easy for organisations to get overwhelmed with the end-to-end nature of business transformation that presents as an opportunity from automation. Start with something small and test the process before developing a bigger plan.
This will also help folks come up to speed with the focus on re-skilling and on more complex tasks, rather than thinking about their job security.
Anthony Woodward is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Accelera