The adoption of Automation and AI is rapidly increasing across the global business landscape in a way that wouldn’t have been possible even a mere five years ago. Over the next decade and beyond, the adoption of AI and automation technologies in the workplace is set to rise to even greater levels, transforming our workplaces in a multitude of ways. These technologies will evolve how businesses operate, how they hire, how they approach their customers, and much more. For example, experts predict that we’ll see a shift in which workplace skills are in high demand. One study by revered management consulting company, McKinsey, predicts that physical and manual skills will become less desired, and businesses will be seeking employees with social and emotional skills, as well as strong technological skills.
This is an example of how automation is predicted to change the very fabric of our organizations and their cultures as we move into the future. But what about the day to day changes? Why are businesses automating, and how do you know it’s time to automate? The decision-makers in organizations are fraught with questions about the how, why, and when of automation. No two businesses are the same and they all have their own unique set of risks when it comes to implementing emerging technology. This leads to a situation where people don’t know when to act. Businesses may worry that automation isn’t for them. Maybe they believe that automation is only for enterprise organizations. Or conversely, maybe they feel confident that their enterprise is functioning well enough without it. We hope to answer these questions and demonstrate why automation is for all businesses, how it’s particularly crucial for enterprise-level businesses, and how the time is now.
The market in digital process automation is growing at a rapid rate. In fact, last year the market grew over 63% and is expected to reach a whopping 12.61 billion by 2023, up from 6.76 billion in 2018. So, why is the industry growing so rapidly?
There are a ton of benefits to automation that we’ll get into the meat of in our “Why You Should Automate Your Business Section”, so here we’re going to focus on something a little different but equally significant. Businesses are automating because their competitors are and because it’s finally possible.
Companies are now adopting automation at an extremely high pace, and across all industries. This means that companies that remain resistant to the change will get left behind. These companies may not suffer severe consequences initially, but they will over time. Let’s consider call centers for a moment. Call centers have a uniquely human element to them. If a customer is calling your call center, either because of an issue or to discuss buying a product, they want to be put at ease. Businesses are moving towards a model where the customer can choose how to communicate, and if they choose to communicate through a call, then they want a positive human experience. This may be common sense, but it’s harder to pull off than you may think. Plenty of businesses have poor customer satisfaction rates, and this is largely due to poor interactions with customer service and a feeling that they weren’t listened to.
The issue with a uniquely human experience is that it can suffer from uniquely human experience. By that we mean, human error is a real and prominent risk. A call center that adopts and adapts to automation is far less likely to suffer the consequences of this. A call center that uses an omnichannel platform with a high focus on data analytics and cross-team cohesion will be better equipped to deal with customers. Call center agents will have a complete picture of the customer. They will know what products the customer likes, how they like to be communicated with, what products they may be interested in in the future, and more. Technology supports the agent in their role, making their job both easier, and more enjoyable.
This comes back to one of the key reasons so many businesses, and segments of the public, are so resistant to automation and AI. Some people worry that the purpose of automation is to replace people, take their jobs, and create a cold world ran by 1s and 0s. This isn’t true. The goal of automation is increased productivity, efficiency, and a more positive experience for all.
Automation and AI are only as good as the data that underpin them, which is why it’s only becoming truly powerful now. As our methods of collecting, organizing, and analyzing data have advanced, so too has our ability to unlock the secrets within it. AI and Automation are now more powerful than ever, and it will only continue to become more powerful as we advance these technologies further. Businesses have already seen massive improvements from implementing the AI and automation technologies currently available, and it’s exciting to think about how much more will be possible in the future.
This is another reason why businesses are adopting these technologies. It’s not just about jumping on the current trends of the time, it’s also about future-proofing your business. Businesses today focus on agile methodologies and scalable technologies in a way that was never seen in the past. They aren’t doing this because it’s the popular thing right now. They are doing it because a more dynamic, flexible, and proactive style of business is an absolute necessity in the digital age. Technology is rapidly evolving how we live our lives and so we need to build businesses that can rapidly accommodate shifts in customer expectations, desires, and focus. The technology of old simply isn’t suitable for this task.
Increasing the efficiency of your business can massively increase your profit as less money and resources are eaten up by broken systems and processes. Chatbots are no longer a clunky and annoying piece of software that drives people mad with frustration. They are now intelligent, efficient, and useful. Chatbots aren’t limited in customer requests in the same way staff are. If you only have 100 call center employees, then you can only handle 100 calls at a time, or slightly more if multitasking is encouraged. A chatbot has no such restrictions.
Through implementing automation software, you identify where the drag is in your business and automate it out. For example, we know that personalized marketing is incredibly powerful when done well. In fact, personalized email campaigns get 29% higher email open rates and 41% higher click-throughs than non-personalized emails. So, using personalized campaigns will increase your profit, but how do you go about this? To do this successfully, you need to have a decent amount of data about your customers and utilize it in an automated way. You can send them offers on their birthday, send them suggestions for new purchases based on things they have bought in the past, and so on.
You can also use automation to help employees, issuing reminders, productivity reports, and making sure the right tasks go to the right people. Lots of time is lost in businesses by having employees conduct repetitive tasks. Not only is this time consuming, but it’s open to human error. You can increase the spend and efficiency of say, a call center, by removing the need for an agent to input repetitive data.
Chatbots have high levels of customer engagement in contrast to traditional communications channels like email. There are plenty of companies that are utilizing chatbots as a way to enhance the customer experience. Some of these chatbots are designed to provide end-to-end help, some are designed to route the customer through to the right agent, and some are designed to offer an improved additional service. Duolingo is a great example of chatbot technology that adds a huge amount of value to the business. Duolingo is a popular language-learning app that allows users to practice their chosen language through structured games and exercises. Duolingo recently decided to implement a chatbot that would let you practice your budding language skills by having a one to one conversation with a bot. One of the hardest parts of learning a language is thinking reactively and knowing how to apply what you have just learned, and this chatbot addresses this problem.
This ties into another major benefit of automation: it frees up your employee’s time for more creative pursuits. If your employees are spending less time doing repetitive tasks, they can spend more time adding value to the business in other ways. You can expand the skills and roles of your employees by giving them the time to do so.
Customer satisfaction is a top priority for all businesses. Put simply, satisfied customers are more likely to spend money on your products and services, so the importance of customer satisfaction cannot be understated. The average customer is now more tech-savvy and has expectations of a smooth experience supported by well-polished software. You want to maintain your brand integrity across all communication channels, and that means an omnichannel platform is a must. Opting for an intelligent omnichannel platform means that you have all the information on your customers in a central location that’s easy to access. You can only provide good customer service if you understand your customers and continually work to meet their expectations. Old technology, siloed teams, and fractured data, are a recipe for disaster when it comes to customer experience.
The University of Warwick found that feeling happy led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy staff were 10% less productive. It’s no surprise that repetitive tasks are mundane for employees, but it’s also true that they are unrewarding. Automation boosts job satisfaction because it enables employees to do their job efficiently, and significantly reduces harsh time constraints. Employees no longer feel under immense pressure to perform tasks that they get no real thanks for or benefit from.
Automation also relieves the pressures surrounding human error, particularly in a time-sensitive environment. For example, some businesses still operate with call center software that requires the agent to manually input customer data multiple times across different suites of software. There’s an obvious risk of human error built into this task, but the agent will also be under pressure to take the next call, again increasing the chance of error.
All of the above examples tie into the larger role that automation plays in reducing the costs of operation and increasing profits. However, there are a few things that we missed that are worth expanding on.
We live in the digital age where companies have no choice but to get digital or die. This is something we’re very familiar with today. You’d be hard-pressed to find a company that doesn’t use some form of digital technology, whether that’s an app, a website, or specialized business computer software. However, it can be difficult to decide what technology is worth adopting, and what isn’t. Businesses are concerned with maximizing profit and reducing the risk posed to that profit. You may be an early adopter of a new technology and see the benefits immediately, essentially propelling you way ahead of your competition. Equally, you may earnestly adopt an emerging technology only to find it didn’t pick up.
This has happened countless times with technology and also the programming languages that underpin them. A programming language called LISP had a lot of hype surrounding it but ultimately failed to launch. LISP was pegged to be the language of AI during the early years of AI software creation. However, it failed to gain significant traction because there was a distinct lack of powerful applications connected to it. It turns out that programmers don’t pick a programming language, they pick a project, and LISP had no significant projects to drum up excitement.
It’s certainly true that some people are worried automation may suffer the same fate. However, there’s a time to be cautious, and there’s a time to wake up and smell the coffee. Automation does have a significant amount of projects connected to it, it has a proven track record of success, and it’s only expanding both in adoption and capabilities.
Probably the most glaring example of a company that failed to adapt to digital is Blockbuster. Blockbuster was once the unrivaled king of home entertainment. Their main failure was the inability to envision a world without a physical retail store. Streaming giant Netflix actually approached Blockbuster back in 2000 and asked them to buy out Netflix. At the time Netflix only offered DVDs via mail and Blockbuster felt this was too niche and that not many people would want it. What they failed to see is that Netflix wasn’t just offering an alternative way to get DVDs, they were actually offering convenience – an easier and more streamlined experience. Blockbuster declined the offer and the rest is history.
Ok, so you’ll adopt automation technologies at some point, but can’t you wait until a later date? You can, but you’re taking a considerable risk. Again, it comes back to the fact that automation is here to stay, meaning there’s considerably more risk in delaying the move than there is in adopting a relatively new technological trend.
Sometimes you can be so late to the party that you miss the party altogether. By that, we mean that if your enterprise is too late to adopt automation, you may lose your market share entirely. A good example of this is former book retailer, Borders. It wasn’t that Borders were entirely resistant to moving digital because they weren’t. In 2001 they recognized that there was a growing trend in buying books online and decided to get a slice of the pie. Unfortunately, they weren’t confident enough in going digital all by themselves, probably believing that it may not be worth the effort and resources in the long term. Instead, they opted to outsource their website to Amazon. This kept Borders from truly competing in the electronic market because they hadn’t developed their own online presence. In 2008 they decided that the formula had proved itself successful- online book sales were a real market and it was here to stay. They then tried to go it alone, putting resources into their own website. The issue was, it was already too late. Amazon had now swept up the market share that Borders most likely would have had a large chunk of if they decided to go digital earlier.
Automation and AI are hungry for meaningful data. The better your company is at collecting data and sharing it directly with your AI and automation software, the better you will understand your data. Analyzing your data is incredibly powerful when it comes to developing your business goals because it gives you the ability to see your business as it really is. Without analyzing your data, you essentially make educated guesses about your business and hope for the best.
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