The rise of automation as a cornerstone of customer experience (CX) seems not to be slowing but rather rapidly accelerating. The trends noted in our 2020 Global CX Benchmarking Report have rapidly evolved with RPA being superseded by hyper-automation – combining AI, machine learning, virtual agents and RPA into a single package.

Organizations who were slow off the mark now need to redouble their CX automation efforts in this area or be left behind.

The pace of this change can’t be understated. Last year 85% of organizations surveyed as part of the Report had automated less than a quarter of their CX processes, but the 2021 Report showed that over one-third of CX is being managed through automation. This is expected to grow to more than 50% in the next 12 months.

Woman holding a tablet and talking via a blue tooth headset

The success of automation rests on being able to blend the strengths of technology with the skills of human agents

One of the drivers for improved CX automation has been a concerted effort on the part of organizations to address customer dissatisfaction with automated CX systems. The social isolation caused by COVID-19 meant that customers were reaching out more than ever before, looking for someone to interact with.

Image suggestion: Campaign/report image showing agents Caption: The success of automation rests on being able to blend the strengths of technology with the skills of human agents Alt text: CX automation is critical in ensuring successful agent support

However, rules-based automation, such as Interactive Voice Response, are limited in the range of customer interactions they can manage. Digital channels didn’t resolve customer queries, but they took the load off overstretched agents.

3 reasons customers say digital/self-service systems fail to meet their needs:

  • They only offer limited capability/services
  • They misunderstand my inquiry or send me to the wrong place
  • They aren’t personalized enough

Even as countries open up, organizations have continued to advance their use of automation, having seen the potential for improved productivity across their CX environment.

The Report also showed that there was an increase in satisfaction among customers. This has likely been influenced by technological advances paired with more realistic expectations on the part of customers.

Organizations looking to expand their use of automation should focus on these areas:

  • Explore how you can offer more services through automated channels
    This year was the first that the Report included a Voice of the Customer component and it found customers are less apprehensive than before with most frustrations around automation focused on the limitations of automated systems. Organizations should be exploring ways to expand the services leveraging AI and machine learning to boost the capabilities of existing services.
  • How you automate is more important than what you automate
    Implementing automation is just the start of the journey, being able to monitor and control the various components that make up an automation solution is as important, if not more.With skills shortage showing no signs of abating, creating relevant skills is becoming increasingly important. We recommend setting up a center of excellence to allow those people with an understanding of the technology to collaborate and train others to increase the pace of automation.
  • Automate tasks that don’t require human cognition or emotion
    Walking the fine line between embracing automation and retaining the human connection is vital to the success of any initiative. Any automation should be focused on allowing your employees to take decisions based on accurate and relevant data. Customers are looking for the human touch, automating the process of capturing data and presenting it in a way that allows employees to make connections with your customers will drive satisfaction levels.
  • Automate CX agent feedback and training support
    Remote working has limited the CX agent’s ability to receive on-the-floor, real-time support from internal experts and trainers. Automating knowledge management and call quality monitoring alongside regular feedback and real-time support for agents working in isolation provides the level of support previously provided through daily huddles and on floor-support.
  • Pay attention to reskilling the workforce
    Most organizations are predicting that the increased efficiency in their operations will result in smaller teams. However, the complexity of roles will increase at the same time and every organization needs to build a comprehensive roadmap to upskill employees in digital technologies needed to work alongside and manage these new systems.

Ultimately any automation needs to deliver a more meaningful interaction between the organization and its customers. What we’ve learned from the report is that those companies ramping up their automation efforts, while remaining sensitive to the demands of their customers are coming out ahead. A trend that we expect to accelerate in the next year.

Learn more about how the CX landscape is evolving: Download the 2021 CX Benchmarking Report.

Get a head start in designing a connected and personalized customer and employee experience. Contact our CX Advisory team.

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