The hysteria two decades ago surrounding the millennium bug, Y2K, highlights how since then business and people – both from personal and work standpoint – have changed their views and interactions with technology.
While in the past, technology was largely regarded as computational and somewhat cold, in 2019 it boasts a huge personality. And, business is fostering a smarter, more conversational and intimate approach when it comes to machines and all things digital, leveraging off robotics and cognitive automation.
“Automation is already all around us, and companies across the globe – and of all sizes – are looking to use it to get ahead of competitors, improve customer experience (CX), get more out of their staff, better enable sales, and streamline workflows,” says Pommie Lutchman, CEO at Ocular Technologies, a specialist customer engagement and digital experience solutions provider.
Research and advisory company, Gartner recently outlined its top strategic technology trends for the year, and the automation of ‘things’ through Artificial Intelligence (AI) and augmented intelligence (think robots, cars, and even agriculture) featured high on the list.
“The future will be characterised by smart devices delivering increasingly insightful digital services everywhere,” says Gartner distinguished vice president analyst, David Cearley at the Gartner 2018 Symposium held late last year in Orlando, Florida. “We call this the intelligent digital mesh.”
Essentially, the automation all of these ‘things’ using AI will help them to interact naturally with surroundings – be it land, sea, air or digital – and execute tasks traditionally undertaken by humans.
The organisation cites ‘augmented analytics’ as another key trend for the year, stating that data scientists will use automated algorithms to transform the way that businesses gain insight from analytics. “By 2020, more than 40 percent of data science tasks will be automated,” Cearley adds.
The automation of these AI powered analytical tools will result in increased productivity and broader use of data, making insights more easily available to companies.
Technologies that are putting pedal to the metal include robotic process automation (RPA), where a ‘robot’ or software tool is used to to simplify business process delivery. And it’s not only big business adopting this technology. According to Gartner’s Forecast Snapshot: Robotic Process Automation, Worldwide, 2018 Update, organisations of all sizes are rapidly adopting RPA.
“End-user organisations adopt RPA technology as a quick and easy fix to automate manual tasks,” said Cathy Tornbloom, vice president at Gartner. “Some employees will continue to execute mundane tasks that require them to cut, paste and change data manually. But when RPA tools perform those activities, the error-margin shrinks and data quality increases.”
The biggest adopters of RPA today, states the update, include banks, insurance companies, utilities and telecommunications companies.
However, adds Lutchman, its rapid adoption lifecycle places RPA technology similar to cloud technology, in that it quickly becomes a business norm, with its vast data capabilities also of great advantage to smaller and medium sized businesses too.
“The automation of more routine, back office type tasks, such as those handled by finance, procurement and human resource type roles for example, helps to save time, boosts productivity and also eliminates those human errors that can sneak in. Cost reduction is another important benefit for the smaller company, as is scalability – something that is critical when it comes to responding to changing market needs.
“The insight into data is another RPA advantage that can be leveraged by companies of all sizes,” he says.
Business has pretty much been offered a crystal ball.
“Thanks to intelligent automation, the unpredictable has become predictable,” notes Lutchman. “What this especially means for CX, is that no longer are customers seen as plural and en masse, but automation has rather ironically led us to look at each customer as a single, unique individual. Business has found a mechanised way to deliver a personalised offering,”
However, as can be well imagined, instead of one there are now countless behaviours, wants, wishes, needs, and more that must be addressed. “There’s more information than ever before that needs to be processed, analysed and used,” he says.
For all businesses, this scenario highlights the need for sophisticated information management, and in the case of the contact centre, we’re talking AI-guided conversations that will allow agents to work on building customer relationships, enriching AI answers and getting a seamless, fluid and fluent conversation going.
Spoken language enables an intimacy between humans and machines, one that standalone word search engines or the like cannot emulate. And, perhaps it is this closeness and familiarity that is driving voice searches to unprecedented levels.
“At the same time, once that chat buddy is found, the one we click (pun intended) with, it’s a loyal friendship for life. As with most lifelong friendships, we have to work at it, adapting and streamlining our chat bots or voice search approaches to ensure longevity.
“Advantageously, RPA’s ability to generate customer insights form the key enablers to complete customer centricity,” concludes Lutchman.