No. Robots Will Not Replace Humans (part 2)
During the last year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all witnessed an acceleration in almost every aspect of digital transformation, both by businesses offering more digital solutions, as well as consumers shifting to digital channels. At the core of many of these digital transformations is modern automation, but as we predicted in our blog from 2018 (“No. Robots Will Not Replace Humans”), successful automation doesn’t mean replacing contact center agents. Successful automation involves humans and robots working together.
Experts like Kate Leggett have seen companies accelerate innovation plans exponentially over the past year, with modern AI and automation at the core:
This acceleration matches consumer trends across every industry. According to McKinsey, “Fully 75 percent of people using digital channels for the first time indicate that they will continue to use them when things return to ‘normal.’”
Note: Figures may not sum to listed totals, because of rounding.
Source: McKinsey COVID-19 US Digital Sentiment Survey, Apr 25-28, 2020
Digital transformation today is centered around automation, but business leaders must deploy the right kind and level of automation if they want to succeed. Automating the right processes while enabling humans to better handle interactions where their skills and empathy are most valuable — and properly training them to interact with new automation solutions — paves the way for significant benefits and ROI.
“Automating the right processes while enabling humans to better handle interactions where their skills and empathy are most valuable — and properly training them to interact with new automation solutions — paves the way for significant benefits and ROI.”
Successful Automation Involves Humans and Robots
In the past, shifting to automation meant replacing human employees with robots, but that idea has been proven flawed in the contact center domain. As the pandemic has accelerated automation plans, the most successful transformations have relied on automation that streamlines, speeds up, and enhances business operations instead of fully replacing employees.
1. Respondents who said “other” or “don’t know” are not shown; n=793.
Source: McKinsey, “The imperatives for automation success”
The most commonly deployed digital automation technologies have been business process platforms and robotic process automation, according to McKinsey. These automation tools leverage bots to reduce and even eliminate cumbersome or tedious tasks.
Customer service agents, for example, shouldn’t have to fill in forms on behalf of customers or walk callers through straightforward processes. With modern Visual IVR and RPA platforms, callers can solve these simple interactions via self-service. Complex calls involving multiple departments in an organization or falling outside of standard resolution scripts should still require expert human assistance. By leveraging technology like RPA, businesses can deliver on the self-service consumers want for straightforward customer service calls and let their agents shine handling more complicated interactions. Automating this way enhances customer satisfaction, while also reducing agent burnout by taking tiresome calls off agents plates and letting them handle more engaging calls.
“By leveraging technology like RPA, businesses can deliver on the self-service consumers want for straightforward customer service calls and let their agents shine handling more complicated interactions.”
Automation Benefits Employees Shifting to WFH
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a drastic impact on every aspect of life. It’s accelerated consumers’ shift to digital channels, but it’s also transformed the way most employees work. Work from home skyrocketed during the pandemic, and many industry analysts see many of us staying at home after the pandemic. The forced shift to work from home has brought many advantages to business, but it has created some complications that modern automation can help with.
1. TMT=technology, media, and telecom. Pre-COVID-19 figures for remote-work frequency in sector sourced from internal McKinsey survey (unavailable in American Time Use Survey).
2. Percentage points
Source: American Time Use Survey, US Bureau of Labor Statistics, n=134; expert interviews; press search; McKinsey analysis
Customer service agents working from home during COVID-19 need new ways of handling sensitive information like payment processing and other tasks. The rapid shift to work from home has thrown a wrench into various business’ compliance strategies.
Here too, automation can work side-by-side with live agents to unlock success. Agents can deliver the empathetic, expert customer service experience they’re trained for while integrated automation allows them to pass the final payment process or other regulated interaction off to secure self-service platforms to complete a successful resolution and maintain compliance.
PCI and other critical issues can become complicated for businesses and agents working from home or using hybrid workflows. By providing agents with a simple, straightforward solution to compliance, contact center leaders allow their talented reps to focus more energy on customers instead of having to manage yet another change to their training and operations.
“Successful automation projects aren’t converting entire departments to robots, but rather automating workflows and integrating company-wide to streamline any cumbersome processes or tedious tasks.”
Automation Isn’t Coming For Our Jobs. It’s Here to Help.
The automation that has taken hold today isn’t looking to replace us, but instead enhance how we work. Successful automation projects aren’t converting entire departments to robots, but rather automating workflows and integrating company-wide to streamline any cumbersome processes or tedious tasks. As they inject automation along-side employees, business leaders must make sure employees know how to get the most out of their new technologies. If implemented correctly, companies can unlock the full benefits of digital automation.
1. Organizations with annual revenues of $1 billion or more.
2. Respondents who said (a) that their organizations have fully automated a process in at least 1 function or business unit or have scaled automation technologies across multiple parts of the business and (b) that their automation efforts have been successful or very successful at meeting their targets; n=95.
Source: McKinsey, “The imperatives for automation success”
Automation is here to stay. Consumers and businesses alike are searching for digital self-service solutions at an ever increasing pace. The key to doing so successfully is to search for the right kind of automation. Once the right automation has been identified, the best business leaders are making sure their employees are properly trained and equipped with the capabilities to work with automation to achieve the best results and ROI.