Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, consumer demand for seamless digital journeys is at an all-time high. Indeed, 78% of customers expect consistent communication across all channels and departments. This means businesses need flawless real-time information to eliminate silos and deliver an exceptional end-to-end customer experience (CX).
But gathering, understanding and making use of real-time data can feel daunting. Luckily, there’s one thing that can make it easy: automation.
In this blog, we’ll explore 3 forms of automation and show how you can implement them to improve processes and strengthen customer journeys.
What is automation?
The term ‘automation’ is often bandied about without much precision. At its core, it’s about reducing human input. It can apply to any business area in any sector and – when done properly – can streamline processes, eliminate silos and ultimately reduce operational costs.
Broadly speaking, there are 3 forms of automation: basic automation, workflow automation and artificial intelligence. Depending on your business needs, you can choose to focus on a single type, but for the best results, you’ll need to combine aspects of all three.
Type 1: Basic automation
Basic automation is about eliminating human input from simple, repetitive tasks. These are usually back-office functions like extracting data, moving files and filling in forms – things that are essential, monotonous and surprisingly time-consuming.
Basic automation usually uses rule-based software and is often built into finance and HR systems to do things like screen CVs, onboard new employees and manage expense claims.
If you’re new to automation, investing in systems to automate some of your more tedious tasks can be a great way to start. Not only will you eliminate silos by joining up relevant data from different systems and departments, but you’ll also free up valuable human resources for more complex tasks that require critical thinking.
Type 2: Workflow automation
While basic automation is often confined to back-office functions, workflow automation can apply to any business area where a set of tasks needs to be performed in a particular order or at a particular time. It’s especially effective in customer comms, where you need human input to devise the creative messaging, but a set of rules can manage the actual act of sending the messages to the right people at the right time.
Indeed, workflow automation is often described as ‘if this, then that’. So thinking about automation from a customer journey perspective for a mobile network operator – if a customer is approaching their mobile data limit, then send them an SMS, WhatsApp message, push notification or email offering them an upgrade. Or for a retailer – if a customer abandons their shopping basket midway through a purchase, then send them an email offering a 10% discount. The same goes for insurance organisations – if an insurance policy renewal date is 50 days away, then send a reminder with a premium discount based on X years of loyalty.
Automating these processes not only saves you time and cut costs, but it also helps you build strong customer relationships – because it helps you talk to your customers how they want, when they want and with the kind of message that will resonate. By using workflow automation to anticipate your customers’ needs, you can also preempt inbound queries.
Type 3: Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is probably the fastest-growing, most complex, and potentially most beneficial area of automation. Where basic and workflow automation relies on humans to set the rules, AI uses machine learning to help computers make (and continuously refine) those decisions.
Chatbots, for example, use Natural Language Processing (NLP) and AI to continuously improve automated customer service based on past interactions. This means customers can seek help on their channel of choice in that moment – and get a fast answer without having to repeat their story.
Similarly, automated Conversational IVR systems can use AI to reduce demand on call centres by directing customers to self-serve or by routing customers who need to speak to a person to the right department faster. These systems really came into their own during the pandemic when call centres were flooded with queries.
Automation can streamline business processes, remove friction from customer journeys and free up valuable resources to focus on complex, creative work.
In other words, it can win you customers while saving you money.
To learn more about introducing automation, download our Customer Journey Automation whitepaper today.