Automation: a tool for employers and employees alike
James Mathews, UK and Ireland Manager, CM.com
From staff shortages, to the increasing complexity of trading with our closest neighbours, businesses in the UK have been struggling to keep pace with the growing challenges of day-to-day operations. What’s more, the UK is starting to look like the sick man of Europe when it comes to productivity, falling behind other major economies. Recent figures from the ONS rank the UK as the second worst for productivity in the G7, showing the need for major action when it comes to boosting the functioning and output of businesses.
Automation is often billed as a silver bullet for teams struggling with faltering productivity. Instead, it should be thought of as a buffer. Investing in internal knowledge sharing platforms and automated customer interaction tools, frees up the valuable time of workers. For managers, this means more employee capacity from which to draw on and dedicate to long term strategic goals, such as a focus on productivity. With many businesses reckoning with external shocks in our economy, draining effort and resources that could be spent addressing broader goals, automation can act as the helping hand. The question of course, is how?
Brexit and COVID-19
It’s worth noting that it’s not just the UK suffering. The decision to leave the EU has exacerbated a widespread issue across Europe. COVID prompted a skills drain in certain industries that is now affecting employers to recruit enough staff. Ultimately, it’s been a perfect storm for UK employers.
The staffing problem
If you want your team to function to the best of its abilities, you need your staff working at least somewhat within their capabilities. If you allow them to become overstretched, that can lead to problems with stress and burnout, compounding productivity issues elsewhere.
The consequences can be high staff turnover, which causes further issues across the business in communication terms. Training then becomes a problem. How can you ensure a consistent customer experience if your customer service team isn’t consistent?
Finally, there’s the cyclical impact on brand perception of poor customer service experiences. Salesforce data suggests that 62% of customers will share bad experiences with others, and customer experience analyst Esteban Kolsky claims that 13% of those will tell 15 people or more. That’s just the sort of reputation issue that distracts business leaders from reckoning with more systemic productivity issues.
Automation creates bandwidth for your team to deal with complex problems. Under normal circumstances, we talk about how automation can help them perform more effectively, do more complex tasks and leave many more straightforward, more repetitive tasks to the robots. However, in this instance, automation can by dealing with issues you simply don’t have the capacity or skills to solve. It’s already clear from our research that the retail industry has struggled to automate effectively. Now it’s become even more critical.
Where can automation help?
Chatbots are one of the quickest and simplest ways to automate your way to good customer service. And they come in many different forms.
– Internal knowledge base chatbot
High staff churn creates a training problem and an issue with knowledge leaving the business. This is a huge drain on productivity. An internal knowledge base solves that, delivering knowledge to new starters and experienced agents alike, ensuring that your entire team have access to the same data and can follow customer conversations and create unified responses across the business.
– FAQ chatbot
Internal teams can benefit from having a business’s knowledge in their pockets. However, similar technology can help customers too. Allowing customers to self-serve and access vital (often simple) information can reduce the drain on your customer service team, allowing them to do more with less.
– WISMO chatbot
Retail customer service teams can spend a lot of time chasing down customer orders. Automated systems can do this kind of work more efficiently than humans, so a WISMO (Where IS My Order) chatbot is the perfect solution for short-staffed teams.
– Returns chatbot
Dealing with and processing returns is another time-consuming part of many customer service agents’ days. These binary tasks are best performed using automation to ensure faultless accuracy and speed.
Automation won’t solve every issue currently facing UK companies. However, it will create the breathing space managers need to think seriously about productivity issues, and how to get their workforce delivering output more efficiently.