Automation helps balance the customer, staff experience

A look at the role automation plays in addressing business issues, such as the ‘great resignation’, a global movement in search of work-life balance.
Read time 5min 10sec

The ‘great resignation’, the global movement that has employees examining their work-life balance, has not yet subsided: US research in November showed that a record 4.5 million workers left their jobs.

The awakening those employees are experiencing has led to a massive rethink and one that brings in considerations around family time, remote work, commuting time and more.

Moreover, it’s not just a passing, pandemic-related fad; many observers believe the current pandemic is best thought of not as a ‘pause’ before returning to ‘normal’, but as a complete reset of what constitutes work, workers and the workplace on a global scale.

South Africa is proving not to be immune to this trend, despite the country’s record high unemployment rate, which hit 34.9% in the third quarter of 2021. A dearth of skills still exists in certain sectors. This is providing highly-skilled locals with the opportunity to be more selective in their choice of work in the post-pandemic time.

Research in SA has revealed that working longer hours with no boundaries during the protracted COVID-19 lockdown is starting to bite, with many employees feeling overworked and quitting their jobs as a result.

All reflections and postulations lead to one conclusion – welcome to the age of the new normal. The question now is what role technology has to play in this scenario?

Automation and the great resignation

This is where it really gets interesting. As the great resignation continues to break records, companies are struggling to keep their employees happy. According to global research from digital intelligence company ABBYY, six out of every ten (61%) employees say their job is made more difficult through trouble accessing data in documents.

Moreover, nearly a quarter (24%) lose a full day of productivity per week searching documents for information they need to serve customers. They note that under the burden of business-critical information being locked within digitised documents, including PDFs, Excel spreadsheets, e-mails, images, text messages and chatbot conversations, employees are unable to make the best use of their time.

As the great resignation continues to break records, companies are struggling to keep their employees happy.

This in turn is reported to lead to poor business decision-making and the obstruction of positive customer experiences – potentially also contributing to demotivation and the trend of droves of staff leaving their jobs.

The ABBYY survey focused on employee retention as an aid to building customer relations. It contends that in the current climate of the great resignation, where attracting and retaining talent is increasingly difficult, the automation of intelligent document processing can improve the employee experience and enable staff to feel excited and engaged about their work.

Greater productivity and improved customer relations are obviously direct outcomes of this situation, with 52% of employees agreeing that artificial intelligence-powered software that understands data like a human makes their lives easier. A further 32% agree this can help improve not only employees’ experiences, but customers’ experiences also.

AI adding value to the workplace

This report notes that when organisations look to invest in the right AI solutions, their employees thrive. Some 92% of employees admit they waste up to eight hours a week searching documents for information they need to serve customers; 31% agreed AI skills would help them be more responsive to customers; and 41% said AI skills would free up time for more creative tasks, thereby keeping them better motivated.

The ABBYY survey finds document challenges continue to plague companies, but empowering employees with document AI skills will enable them to be more creative and responsive to customers.

The outcomes of this survey reinforce the fact that employees want to feel empowered through work that matters, such as building meaningful customer relations, rather than spending time on manually searching for information.

However, it goes on to report that the inability to access data in documents leads to delays in completing processes, with increased manual handling leading to errors and ultimately poor customer experiences.

This then requires frustrated and burnt-out employees to step in to rectify mistakes and plug gaps, taking them away from concentrating on more engaging, higher value projects.

How can automation help? Some 82% of employees reported that one solution to reducing burnout is to decrease workload and the research indicates that one-third of executives are turning to automation to eliminate redundant tasks, thereby lightening the workload for employees. It is significant that one-third of employees surveyed agree this can be achieved through document AI technology.

A massive 72% of employees indicated they would be willing to use no-code drag-and-drop AI skills that understand the content and context of documents in a bid to reduce errors and increase efficiency. Four-in-ten (41%) said this would allow them to work on more fulfilling, creative tasks and alleviate them from manual data entries.

Nearly a third (29%) agreed that these document AI skills will upskill and empower them to not only make better decisions but in a shorter space of time, giving them more time to be responsive to customers’ needs.

Common sense would direct that this last is the goal of all businesses and is the one that will most impact sustainability and bottom line.

By now it should be apparent that highly-skilled staff do not want to spend their time on manual, repetitive tasks any more than businesses wish to slow their growth prospects by not deploying the latest developments in software aimed at automating these tasks.

This is where robotic process automation (RPA) enters the picture and is a recognised driver of success in modern enterprises.

In my next article, I will outline what is fuelling next-generation automation and how RPA plays a key role.

Monique Williams

Southern Africa regional sales manager for Hyland Software.

Monique Williams is the South Africa Country Manager for Hyland Software, where she is responsible for sales on Hyland's Content Services platform.

She has in excess of 20 years' experience in the information technology sector and holds an Honours Degree in Marketing Management and a Bachelor of Social Science in General Psychology, Industrial and Organisational Psychology, from the University of Cape Town.

Williams has worked for Hyland Software for over a decade and in that time, has been partner manager for UK and Scandinavia, and business development manager in South Africa. Her duties in her current role include generating revenue for Hyland Software by establishing and leading the execution of a plan to market, as well as managing existing and newly recruited partners in Southern Africa. Since being appointed to this role, she has increased sales revenue and has achieved year-on-year growth of a minimum of 30%.

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