The evolving tech landscape and the maturing of machine learning and artificial intelligence have driven an increase in automation. Automating routine tasks ostensibly helps the organization operate more efficiently and frees employees to focus on higher value tasks like innovative new products and services for customers. As more and more companies embrace automation, though, we have to examine whether business automation technologies are delivering on their promise to enable companies to better anticipate and serve the needs of customers. A new survey from IDG explores the attitudes of employees with respect to business automation technologies and business-to-customer relationships.
The “Business Automation Technologies and the Customer Experience” survey was conducted by IDG for Appian. IDG surveyed 1,200 individuals across the United States and Europe in early 2020. The survey participants represented companies with 1,000 or more employees from financial services, healthcare, government, and other primary verticals.
Value of Business Automation
Business automation technologies are useful for automating mundane and routine tasks, but they should do more than accelerate work and reduce manual errors. While business automation takes on many tasks that humans have traditionally done, the goal is not to replace the humans. The business automation technologies should provide contextual information and process flexibility so an organization and its employees can foster strong customer relationships that engender brand loyalty.
With the current COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to quarantine and enforce social distancing, many companies around the world have quickly adopted a 100% work from home model, and their customers are facing the same challenges. In theory, business automation technologies can help bridge those connections.
Insights from Business Automation Survey
Business automation technologies can play a pivotal role in helping companies anticipate and serve the needs of their customers and create stronger customer relationships. The operative word when discussing the value of business automation technologies is “can”. The technology has the potential to accomplish these objectives and help companies achieve these goals—if it is done right. Many of the survey participants, however, indicated that the business automation technologies their companies have in place currently are falling short of that promise.
There is a lot of interesting information in the full survey, but here are some of the key takeaways:
● 65% of respondents say that the automation technologies used by their organizations are only “somewhat effective” (at best) in providing all the data and context needed for a full picture of customers
● Fewer than half (47%) of all respondents report that their organization’s use of technology has significantly increased the amount of time they can spend with customers
● Only 30% of respondents use technology tools that empower them “to a great extent” to address complex issues with creative problem-solving, or to change business processes on-the-fly
● Fewer than one-third (32%) of non-senior executive respondents feel their organization’s technology is highly flexible in helping to solve customer problems (compared to 47% of senior executive respondents who believe so)
I had an opportunity to chat with Matt Calkins, CEO of Appian, about his thoughts on the survey results. He told me that what stood out to him from the survey is that automation also needs flexibility. He stressed that automation should augment human employees and enhance their capabilities and productivity—not seek to replace them. According to Calkins, the true value of business automation technologies lies in bringing human and digital workers together in the same workflow—combining machine learning and artificial intelligence, robotic process automation, and humans to deliver better results.
You can view the full survey and dig into more of the details here: Business Automation Technologies and the Customer Experience.