Companies have started reopening after the large-scale shutdowns required by the COVID 19 pandemic. Many of these businesses have been severely impacted by the effects of the virus on the economy. As we enter a new situation where businesses need to survive and operate amidst a continuing global pandemic, businesses will need to be leaner and more robust. Leveraging automation technologies will help them survive in this new environment.
The effect of the pandemic
In order to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, most governments have mandated social distancing rules and shutdowns of non-essential businesses, forcing companies to adapt to massive disruptions:
- Employees were forced to work from home, straining the IT infrastructures of their respective companies, or forcing the IT department to rapidly adapt support for remote work capability.
- Establishments were forced to close, requiring businesses to search for alternative revenue streams like e-commerce.
- Supply chains were delayed because the availability of goods or raw materials were constrained by supplier work stoppages.
The shutdown of the economy, while necessary and sensible for preventing the spread of the virus and loss of life, severely impacts business operations.
Companies should make it a goal to be more efficient and cost-effective in order to be leaner and more robust. Automation technologies can help achieve this goal. It can take repetitive tasks or processes and perform them without any human interaction. This will reduce costs, make work more efficient, and increase output. Research by Unit4, an enterprise system for a services organization, estimates that employees spend 69 days per year on repetitive tasks, which amounts to a $ 5 trillion loss in productivity, globally.
Here are some ways that leveraging automation can improve business efficiency, cost, and output.
Automated email replies for sales leads
Most businesses provide contact details on their website for potential clients to use to get in touch with the company. With no automation technology applied, a company can be inundated with massive amounts of email, not all of them with leads worth pursuing. An automated system can be set up to respond to these emails and categorize the mail where they can be sorted later. It will also ensure that the business responds to potential clients in a timely manner. According to a study by LeadResponseManagement, waiting for more than 30 minutes to make contact with a potential client decreases the odds of securing that lead by 21 times.
Using chatbots as the first line of defense for customer concerns
Chatbots are software applications that use a conversational user interface to mimic to the best of its ability a message-like or chat-like conversation with a human being. Businesses can use chatbots to mitigate common issues in customer support like long wait times and keeping service and support online 24/7. With chatbots, businesses can have almost real-time service and support. Automated chatbots can handle cases that are repetitive in nature while forwarding questions or concerns to a human when the issue goes beyond the bot’s purview. This frees up customer service/support and allows the personnel to focus on the more important and complex issues being brought up by customers.
Using Remote Process Automation
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) leverages machine learning and artificial intelligence to gather and analyze data which it uses to automate various kinds of processes. RPAs would be beneficial for operations that occur numerous times and are clearly defined by a certain set of rules or requirements, like:
- Payroll processing
- Processing e-commerce transactions
- Customer Registration (for websites or loyalty programs)
- Performing data backup
Using payroll processing as an example, an RPA implementation would be able to automate checking of all employee leaves or absences, calculate each employee’s salary for the month (less absences and contributions), process the bank transfer of the money to the employees’ bank accounts, and finally generate the payslips.
Connecting software apps/services
Companies use different software tools/platforms to perform their responsibilities. They have communications tools like Slack or Skype, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software like Salesforce, and project management software like Jira. A company can use HTTP, SOAP and/or REST to automate communication between these services.
For example, whenever a new customer ticket is received by sales in Salesforce, a new Jira ticket is automatically created and assigned. Simultaneously, a message through Slack or Skype is also automatically sent to the assignee.
Businesses can leverage different technologies and methodologies to automate repetitive tasks and be more efficient. Automation can increase output, decrease user-related errors, and reduce costs. Automation also frees up a company to focus its human resources into more complex work. By being efficient and cost-effective, organizations can be more resilient to disruptions that can impact business continuity, now, while trying to operate amidst a pandemic, and in the future.