The rise of the customer
In a market where customer experience trumps product as a competitive advantage, businesses are constantly faced with the challenge of providing customers with the experience that they are looking for. Today’s customers are both savvy and demanding, knowing what they want and expecting to get it when they want it. This is invariably immediately.
While the product is still what attracts customers, the ability to provide a unique and consistent customer experience that is attuned to the customer’s requirements, is the true key to customer retention. Brand loyalty has become a thing of the past and customers are quick to switch brands if they are not happy with the service or level of interaction they are receiving. Organisations need to ensure they are leveraging all available technologies in order to tailor their services to suit the market, or risk losing business to those competitors who are.
Luckily, we are also living in a world where there is a vast amount of data streaming in from all channels, giving organisations the information they need to identify who their customers are, and pinpoint exactly what they want – sometimes before they even know it themselves. Typically, customers will stay with the brands who know them best and are able to offer them what they want based on that knowledge. Big Data and data analytics provides organisations with a 360-degree view of their customers, enabling them to target customers in a way they’ve not been able to before.
The power of mobile is something which brands are becoming increasingly conscious of. Not only does mobile enable real time interaction with customers and potential customers, the data generated by mobile activity offers businesses a host of benefits. Mobile applications (apps) provide organisations with access to a lot of previously inaccessible information about their customers, giving brands the ability to know and interact with their customer on a new level. For example, a brand can use location based services to know where their customers are at any given time and develop targeted campaigns around this information, extending their reach and – often – maximising their bottom line.
Customers also enjoy being able to interact with businesses digitally, usually through a mobile app or via social media. Being able to use an app to view, order, buy and track delivery of products and services, as well as make suggestions or raise complaints, gives customers an instant and direct connection with that business. The importance of the mobile app is such that, much in the same way as websites were to companies a few years ago, if an organisation doesn’t have an app, they almost don’t exist.
Another platform which has totally disrupted the way that customers interact with brands is social media. While social media can be used very effectively for viral advertising campaigns and targeted marketing, it has also become a vastly popular platform for the airing of consumer grievances. A single tweet can effectively make or break a brand. And customers know this. This new power that they wield means that organisations need to have a well-defined social media strategy to react immediately and appropriately to customer queries and complaints in a personalized manner. How quickly – a business responds to a matter raised on social media can determine how the brand is viewed going forward.
It also provides a wealth of information to the astute business, along with mobile apps and other communication platforms. Brands that utilise data analytics in a proper and well-planned manner to scan these unstructured sources of data will have a better insight into the mind of their customer and will be best positioned to leverage this information.
While embracing an omni-channel, or multi-channel, communication strategy is important, what has become even more vital is that brands give their customers a consistent and seamless experience across all channels. Customers wish to have their needs met whether they interact telephonically, via mobile app or through social media. Businesses need to ensure that they can provide all services in a similar manner across all platforms.
The saying, ‘the customer is king,’ has never held more true than it does today, with customers holding all the cards. Those businesses who wish to stay ahead need to be not only providing their customers what they want, when they want it, but also cleverly using the data generated by their customers to further entrench themselves and secure their success for the future.
Amit Kaundinya - Digital Business Advisor- Connected Enterprise Services, Wipro Limited and Gavin Holme, Business Head, South Africa, Wipro Limited
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”