We are moving away from firefighting mode and thoughts have turned to future planning, though it feels a little like we are all planning for the unknown. Agility and the capacity to adapt rapidly are high on the agenda. The challenge of switching to digital, automated journeys remains a key part of the bigger picture. But economic challenges, staffing decisions as the furlough scheme comes to an end and the need to drive out costs are likely to be fighting for your focus.
Technology will be the central key to unlocking focussed and efficient digital transformation. But the question is, how do you retain customer support service levels in these uncertain times, while accelerating change? We spoke to Richard Farrell, our Chief Innovation Officer, and Dave Pattman, Solution Development Managing Director from Gobeyond Partners. Dave leads a highly-skilled team of specialists, designing and delivering solutions that help clients to solve their toughest customer journey challenges.
We asked them how organisations can move at pace with their digital transformation, balancing the need to optimise the efficiency of interactions, with driving and improving customer service levels.
In this post-COVID era, can automation provide a solution to reduce headcount without reducing customer service capacity?
Richard: There’s no doubt that Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and self-service are powerful tools to utilise in your operations. They offer excellent options to reduce simple, repetitive tasks which your staff may be currently handling and they can even improve efficiency as human-error mistakes are limited to the customer’s side. But, your people are vitally important. By moving the mundane tasks into automation, you can elevate the value that your staff provide. They’ll get some extra capacity which can be spent dealing with customers on the more complex transactions.
Dave: Automation certainly has the capability to deliver this, however there must be careful consideration as to where technology is deployed throughout the customer journey. As journeys and processes become far less linear, careful mapping and planning to avoid dead-ends and automation loops, while providing the ability for customers to deal with a person where required can reduce unnecessary friction and service need faster, reducing demand further down the chain as customers become ever more frustrated.
We view automation not just as a cost-reduction tool in its own right but as a vehicle to redistribute demand, which can either reduce headcount or place people in roles that add greater value to the customer thus boosting profitability. Taking the right approach means that cost and customer experience levels don’t always needed to be traded off against one another.
What sort of simple transactions can be automated successfully – can you offer an example?
Richard: As millions of people come off furlough and our unemployment rate rises, defaulting on bill payments has never been so high, it’s surely set to continue to increase, sadly. Therefore, for many organisations, bad debts and defaulted payments were a relatively minor issue before the global pandemic, but the situation has now got worse. It’s causing issues with debt recovery which produces a huge amount of work to process. And also extra demand into your contact centre.
Traditionally, back-end systems are not known for flexibility. At Netcall, we’ve shown how low-code can automate back-end processes, building a self-serve portal for customers. Building applications in low-code is fast.
In fact, at a recent innovation event, our team created a working prototype in a hackathon in the duration of the event, specifically to demonstrate the speed of designing and building in Liberty Create, our low-code solution. This application captures the customer data and provides an optimal user journey. This reduces administration work and speeds up the delivery of the debt recovery process for the organisation.
It’s a perfect example of how something which was “on the list” has just leap-frogged in importance post-COVID. It’s now needed immediately to deal with the new normal. Low-code has enabled a very fast solution which resolves the issue and also refines the customer experience at the same time.
What advice do you have for businesses seeking to accelerate adoption of automation technologies?
Dave: A culture of ‘test, learn and scale’ is critical to successfully accelerating the automation agenda. By engaging colleagues much closer to delivering for customers, providing them with tools such as low-code and supporting them with a clear governance framework, problem statements are easier to identify, solutions delivered, iterated and scaled. With the growing democratisation of tools, automation can be seen by colleagues as another powerful enabler, not a harbinger of cost-reduction through mass layoffs.