Guest post by Czarina Sheikh Mathew, first published on LinkedIn 12 May 2020.
We have all seen the rise of automation in both our professional and personal lives. But have you ever stopped to consider the cultural transformation of an organisation that has run in parallel to this? This is the final article in a 3-part series, exploring how to implement automated Customer Service, looking at Automation and Cultural Transformation.
The first, by Lee Thomas of Infinet Technology, demonstrated the importance of good implementation and the essential components of customer service automation.
The second, by Michelle Spaul of Delta Swan, further explored the relationship between automated Customer Service and a compelling Customer Experience, with advice and five top tips to manage and maintain your investment to realise benefits.
Today, I tackle cultural transformation and how automation can positively impact the customer experience.
Automating customer service is a transformational change that the entire organisation needs to embrace as it can impact all facets of the customer engagement model. Finance, Sales and Support (amongst others) are all affected by the introduction of automation as those repetitive, low-value tasks can be picked up by the new IT solution being implemented.
Transformational change occurs in response to, or in anticipation of, major changes in an organisation’s environment or technology. These changes often are associated with significant revision of the firm’s business strategy, which in turn may require modifying internal structures and processes as well as its corporate culture to support the new direction (Ref: Cummings and Worley, 2009).
Designed to create significant change in the culture and working practices of an organisation, it is a process that is adopted to produce considerable improvement in performance. Interdependencies and alignment between seven key elements will determine its success, as illustrated below.
Automation can manage the repeatable and standardised customer service requests in a business. This allows for tasks to be performed faster, reducing first contact to resolution times and improving performance against service level agreements. With such drives in efficiency, customer satisfaction can be maintained as the more robotic elements of the customer management model, things like generating invoices and resetting passwords, can be undertaken accurately and in a timely manner.
Automation also provides capacity to better manage periods of high demand, when interaction volumes balloon. Even through these peak times the systems have enough bandwidth to manage the workload, therefore maintaining customer satisfaction levels.
Of course, the introduction of automation can also be accompanied by emotional challenges within the workforce. Individuals and teams can feel threatened that their jobs will be become null and void, and their roles will be made redundant. However, the contrary can also be true. Automation provides a fabulous opportunity for all teams to focus on demonstrating value, utilising their time more effectively.
Personalisation can really come to the forefront with agent management of complex and sensitive issues. These moments can heavily impact customer relationships and so the human element is appreciated much more at this point in the customer journey. Investing in training and development to upskill agents is a wise move that will reap mutual increased value for both the business and their customers.
Highly effective emotional intelligence coupled with soft skills will drive empathy and sensitivity across the organisation, enabling the business to better manage the more challenging customer exchanges. Excellent problem-solving skills will be imperative as customer interaction becomes less transactional and more sophisticated. Empowering the workforce to make decisions in the best interests of the customer will also be a key differentiator. Customers cannot always recall what you did for them but they absolutely do remember how you made them feel. Therefore, enhancing these key competencies will support the nurturing of stronger relationships, sustainable retention and loyalty.
The culture of an organisation is an essential component of the customer experience, led by the executives and fed by the employees. When it comes to cultural transformation, there are many moving parts. Having identified the desired behaviours, senior management have to be the role models, leading the charge to a better and brighter place for all. Behavioural change does not happen by itself, programs need to be developed and rolled out across the organisation, and then carefully monitored to ensure it is tracking in the right direction. In parallel, systems and processes also need to be aligned to the cultural shift.
In summary, automation can bring many financial and operational benefits to an organisation but this must dovetail with a people focus to bring them along on the journey.