Why Process Automation will Never Replace Humans

Automation and Digital Transformation

Automation is becoming an increasingly important part of digital transformation. We know that businesses digitally transform to be able to create or unlock new value for their customers, employees and suppliers. Process automation has become key to the digital conversation because of its ability to contribute towards this shift.

What Does Automation Mean?

Automation is defined in the dictionary as ‘the technique of making an apparatus, process or system operate automatically’. Using technology to achieve this, means that human input and intervention is kept to a minimum. Automation could appear anywhere from domestic use in the home, to huge industrial processes or key marketing automations.

This all sounds great, right? However, there’s something about process automation that makes employees fear for their jobs. 81% are so fearful of being replaced that they’re unwilling to hand over their boring drudge work to a robot or algorithm (Fortune).

We’re here to soothe your worries. This article explains why automation is a positive change for employees and businesses alike. Including the core reasons automation will never replace humans, at least not fully.

Automation vs Orchestration

Orchestration means you are automating many tasks together. It’s not automation of single tasks but an entire digital process architecture. The orchestration of a process is automating a series of single tasks to work together in harmony.

Automation is Positive for Employees and Businesses

Process automation is a key part of digital transformation now. Particularly with what we saw during the COVID pandemic, with businesses forced to work with a reduced workforce and accelerate the speed of change.

Automation is positive because:

  1. Automation will create more jobs
  2. Process automation means you focus on higher value areas
  3. Automation saves time and money
  4. Automation for customers creates a better CX
  5. Resource can be allocated more wisely

1. Automation Will Create More Jobs

The World Economic Forum (WEF) predicts automation will create an additional 12 million new jobs. So, although to an extent, yes automation will replace current jobs that exist today it is all part of a widespread upskilling across your workforce.

Few occupations (less than 5%) consist of activities that can be fully automated (McKinsey). Which is part of the reason it’s irrational to think a robot could take over your entire role within a company! Process automation is here to complement, not replace humans.

Yes, aspects of your job could become automated, thus contributing to jobs evolving into higher-skilled areas of business that are frankly more interesting and fulfilling.

A good example of a job that’s evolving due to automation is that of the contact centre agent. In years to come, their roles within the business will become to deliver much more proactive, rather than reactive customer service. With time freed up as automation takes care of the menial and manual processes.

We recently worked on a project where automation was completing the work of 16 contact centre agents. Not in a way that replaces human beings, but one that aids and assists them to focus on higher value tasks, enabling them to deliver a higher level of service they couldn’t otherwise have afforded to offer.

Email handling webinar 30 June 21'

2. Process Automation Means you Focus on Higher Value Areas

So, we know that fewer than 5% of occupations can be entirely automated. However, around 60% of occupations could have 30% (or more) of their constituent activities automated (McKinsey).

Process automation is going to be key for reshaping the job market. Perhaps even more crucially, it’s going to become vital for businesses to be able to focus on higher value areas.

Think about a core process, like perhaps, ID and Verification (ID&V) for phone calls coming into your contact centre. On average, it takes one minute to complete ID&V checks. But what if you automated the entire process? It would mean a better journey for the customer and the agent being able to get straight into the call; the reason the customer wishes to engage.

3. Automation Saves Time and Money

Time saved, is almost certainly money saved when it comes to business. It’s estimated, in monetary terms, you could save between 40% and 75% with process automation (Forbes).

Automation might mean you avoid employing extra people into the business that aren’t required. Our automation solution INBOX is doing the work of 16 agents in one company. In another it has been handling 70% of customer email enquiries.

In both use cases the principles are the same. Customer interactions coming into the business (whether across email, social media, WhatsApp, SMS or webchat) can be automatically categorised, routed to the correct department and where possible replied to with templated responses. Meaning the agents can focus their efforts on the higher value areas and hours of time is saved previously spent manually sorting through enquiries.

4. Automating Improves Customer Experience

Automation for customers is contributing increasingly widely to improving CX. 89% of companies expect that customer experience will be their primary basis of competition (Gartner). It is an area of business that everyone is looking to improve.

Workflow automation, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and process automation can all help to create better customer experiences. Contributing to a CX that:

  • Is more consistent
  • Can be delivered faster
  • Empowers the customer to self-serve
  • Presents the customer with the right information at the right time
  • Gets straight to the point

Workflow Automation vs RPA

Workflow automation works in single systems only. Whereas RPA enables automation across multiple different systems. RPA contains software that imitates human tasks.

Such as:

  • Completing rule-based tasks
  • Inputting, extracting and syncing data
  • Logging into systems

Both workflow automation and RPA can work in synergy, with RPA bots automating individual tasks and workflow automation connecting them together to create a streamlined flow.

Our customer, Mercury Holidays for example decided to implement INBOX during the start of last year’s COVID pandemic. With the first lockdown looming the travel company knew they needed to act to be able to handle the huge surge in customer enquiries.

Mercury were able to create workflows, categorise enquiries (cancellations, complaints amendments etc) and consistently handle customer interactions with inbuilt SLA management and audit trails.

In the most challenging business climate we have ever seen, the biggest gain for us implementing the INBOX solution is efficiency. We have automated the organisation of our workload during this hectic time and now have the ability to implement self service for our customers which will lead to improved efficiencies and vast cost-savings. 

Neil Whitaker, Head of IT, Mercury Holidays

Demonstrating how a business can continue to provide an excellent CX even during the most challenging times with the help of automation.

5. Allocate Resource More Wisely with Automation

Automated workflows and processes means your business can allocate resources more wisely. Customer enquiries for example can be routed straight to the correct department for handling.

Our customer, a housing association for example is currently routing their enquiries directly to the correct departments. Complaints, repairs and maintenance all go straight to the right team for handling. This means that the enquiries are handled with the upmost efficiency.

It also eliminates the ‘Chuckle Brothers’ effect (To me, to you) as Gillan Ide, our Head of Digital Shift calls it. Meaning that customer enquiries aren’t sent around the business to various departments before they reach the right one.

Automation will Never Fully Replace Humans

Automation is here to help us, not replace us. The fear around digital transformation and process automation for this topic specifically is that robots will replace humans in their jobs.

Robots replacing humans in their job roles

However, this is simply not going to happen (at least not fully). Yes, there are some aspects of job roles that will become automated, resulting in the evolution of jobs within business. More new roles will be created by the introduction of automation technology than will be replaced. The closest most businesses will get to the robots will be chatbots, again helping to assist human agents in managing their workload.

With automation by your side you’ll be able to:

  • Take away menial and manual work
  • Enable first contact resolution throughout your CX
  • Introduce a self service portal
  • Empower employees to focus on bigger and higher value tasks
  • Upskill your workforce and improve productivity

Ultimately making more room for business growth and development, the reason you’re on a digital journey in the first place!

Would you like to Automate your Customer Email Handling & Management?

We are hosting a webinar on the 30 June at 12:00 to help businesses start to make the process simpler & more automatic. Sign up here!

Email handling webinar 30 June 21'

Daisy Shevlin

Marketing Content Executive, Britannic Technologies

Daisy has worked for technology companies since graduating university in 2017. Currently the Content Marketing Executive at Britannic, she helps businesses cut through the digital noise to understand concepts around Workplace Modernisation, Digital Transformation and key tech trends with content that is concise and to the point.

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