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by Oded Karev, General Manager of Robotic Process Automation, NICE
With the pace of change showing no sign of slowing down — and with talent resisting calls to return to the office — technology is emerging as a key enabler for the hybrid working models of the future.
The world has emerged from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but its legacy remains with us. How companies operate, the ways in which people work, and employee expectations have changed for good. Hybrid and remote working models are here to stay, but many organizations are still grappling with what they mean for their employees and operations.
Although work-from-home business models have matured enormously over the past two years, enterprises still find it challenging to attract, retain and engage the best talent. Recent surveys from the likes of Gartner highlight the concerns that CEOs and HR leaders have about nurturing company culture, engaging employees and supporting their teams in remote and hybrid working models.
Employee satisfaction and engagement are top of mind for enterprises. Leading companies understand that employee satisfaction is a key driver of customer satisfaction and organizational performance. Gallup research indicates that highly engaged business units achieve a 10% difference in customer ratings and an 18% difference in sales, as well a 23% difference in profitability.
However, Gallup’s surveys also show that nearly 85% of employees worldwide are still not engaged or are actively disengaged at work. The result is lower productivity and performance and customer satisfaction, as well as higher attrition and training costs. In a recent survey, more than 80% of contact centers indicated that employee attrition had either stayed the same as the previous year or increased.
With the pace of change showing no sign of slowing down — and with talent resisting calls to return to the office — technology is emerging as a key enabler for higher levels of employee and customer engagement and satisfaction. Automation, in particular, has an invaluable role to play in augmenting employee performance and relieving people from the need to carry out tedious, repetitive tasks.
As we argued in our previous article for CX Insight, if people really are at the heart of customer service, then it is important to look at what is most likely to trouble our employees. Let’s take a closer look at three mega-trends reshaping the world of work, as well as how automating and streamlining processes can help your business to optimize performance and employee satisfaction.
Remote and hybrid work have created positive spin-offs for organizations and their people —ranging from better work/life balance, more flexibility and reduced commuting time for employees to access to new talent pools
and opportunities to downsize real estate for enterprises. But, we have also lost something in the transition to remote and hybrid work.
Before the pandemic, teams could bond over water cooler moments, share a joke in the kitchen and knock on a supervisor’s door to ask for help. Managers could keep their finger on the pulse by walking the call center floor and having informal discussions with team members. These benefits are lost when there is more physical distance between people.
Supervisors have less visibility into who their top performers are, how effective their business processes are, average handling times for customer interactions, or how much time agents spend in productive applications and what they do in the wrap-up time. Employees, meanwhile, may start to feel unmotivated or lose direction when they cannot easily access help and support from a peer or leader.
Troublingly, U.S. worker productivity in the second quarter of 2022 fell at its steepest pace on an annual basis since 1948. Nonfarm productivity, which measures hourly output per worker, fell at a 2.5% pace year-on-year. Many companies are thus facing labor shortage, as well as a productivity gap, as employees stop giving their all to their work.
To change this situation, an organization can leverage technology like an artificial intelligence (AI) powered desktop analytics and task-mining solution. Such a solution gives you visibility into how employees are executing tasks and processes on their desktops. It will help you map out what a day in a life of your employees looks like.
This enables your contact center supervisors or back office managers to see what bottlenecks your people encounter as they do their work. Which common desktop tasks are slowing them down? Which processes send them to the knowledge base for assistance? And where are they taking shortcuts rather than complying with policy?
These insights empower you to support employees with targeted coaching, provide process guidance address process inefficiencies and hold people accountable for performance. They also help you to prioritize processes for optimization by parameters such as frequency, process handle time, importance, proneness to error, complexity, variance and manual action types.
You can also boost engagement and incentivize desired agent behaviors via techniques like gamification. One travel and hospitality company used personalized coaching and gamification via a personal digital assistant to increase employee engagement in the work-from-home setting. By the second month, 180 agents had grown their sales by 5%.
Consider the example of South African medical scheme administrator, Medscheme. The company’s back office was working at least $190,000 in overtime every month. Workloads weren’t rising enough to explain the need for these extra hours, which suggested productivity was falling. After examining other performance metrics, Medscheme realized that quality scores were also sliding.
Using desktop analytics, Medscheme found many employees spent little of their time in the core CRM system. In some circumstances, this indicates that the employee is handling more complex cases which require more external research, but in others, it signals inefficiency or a lack of adherence. These insights enabled Medscheme to improve performance through coaching and accountability.
Medscheme realized value in the form of:
Following the pandemic, employees have become more vocal about the need for better work/life balance. No longer are they willing to risk burnout or work long hours of unpaid overtime. Some are rebelling against unreasonable work demands by quitting their jobs. The so-called Great Resignation saw 71.6 million people in the U.S. leave their jobs from April 2021 through April 2022.
Others have responded through “quiet quitting” — a phrase that refers to employees who don’t go beyond the call of duty in their jobs. In some cases, this is a healthy reassertion of the boundaries between the personal and professional, which blurred during the pandemic. In others, it’s a sign of disengagement, with employees doing the bare minimum of work to stay out of trouble.
The US Contact Centre Decision-Makers Guide 2021 suggests that repetitive work remains among the top-three reasons for agent attrition. It thus stands to reason that leveraging the digital workforce will not only make human agents more productive, but also give them
a better employee experience and empower them to deliver a better customer experience in turn.
Automation has key role to play. Robotic process automation (RPA) can handle the sort of tedious, repetitive admin work that few people enjoy doing. Software robots can take care of tasks like capturing data from forms. This helps your company make better use of human time, scale services fast and improve process accuracy — all while offering a better work experience.
Software robots supplement your capacity when human talent is in short supply. They also improve employee engagement and satisfaction by sparing people from the need to do boring tasks. Employees can focus on customer service and valuable business priorities — which can also help improve the employee experience.
Personal digital assistants, meanwhile, can help augment human performance and improve employee engagement. These desktop bots are triggered automatically by the employee’s desktop actions, popping up with just the right advice. They can handle busywork like in-app selections, button clicks and field entries.
They can also support employees’ next-best-action advice or compliance guidance — for example, disclosures, reminders, sales best practices and product details. By providing a full view of the customer, with relevant data drawn from multiple screens and applications, personal digital assistants empower agents to deliver the best advice.
After the pandemic, many employees are seeking personal value and purpose in their work. Two-thirds of respondents in a global Gartner survey said that the pandemic had made them rethink the place that work should have in their life. Employers thus need to consider what their purpose is and how they enable their employees to bring it to life.
The contact center agent, for example, has an unsung importance in delivering exceptional customer experiences. They often interact with customers who are distressed, anxious or angry. Customers might be worried about their finances after receiving a large medical bill, concerned about slow settlement of an auto insurance claim or struggling with a technical issue with their mobile phone.
It’s not an easy job, and most agents take pride in being great ambassadors for their organization by helping customers. Yet inefficient business processes, slow computer systems or a lack of policy guidance might frustrate them as they do their jobs. That, in turn, can lead to disengagement, attrition and poor customer service.
Personal digital assistants can support your agents as they try to help customers, while complying with your company’s internal KPIs. Consider the example of an agent in a health insurer’s call center during a peak period. Even as they complete a call with one customer, they’ll know that many others are holding on for help.
A personal digital assistants can handle call wrap-up tasks like summarizing the call, updating customer details, and sending a confirmation email. This frees the agent to move on to the next call, knowing that they’ve done everything they need to for the previous customer. They’ll also get pop-up tips and guidelines for executing a complex or new process, giving them confidence in customer interactions.
Following the pandemic, organizations and employees alike have reassessed their priorities. In this new world, we’re all looking for solutions to longstanding pain points that were exacerbated by COVID-19. Keeping staff up to date with ever-changing tech and regulations, meeting higher customer expectations and driving efficiencies matter more than ever.
Automation helps to address these pressures. With software robots taking on more of the drudge work, people are freed to focus on the human side of the equation — delivering more personalized experiences, optimizing performance, and fostering higher levels of engagement and satisfaction among employees and customers alike.
General Manager of Robotic Process Automation, NICE
Oded is a seasoned professional in the strategy and operations domain specializing in customer journeys optimization and digital transformation. He is the General Manager of NICE’s Advanced Process Automation LoB for NICE’s robotics solutions globally. NICE is an RPA leader, bringing a portfolio that spans across attended and unattended bots, including a proprietary task-mining solution, and owning the largest automation projects in the industry.
NICE, an RPA leader, has been setting industry-wide standards in Robotic Process Automation for over 20 years. Its innovative Attended Automation solution, NEVA, brings people and robots together, enabling intelligent process optimization while unleashing employees’ potential to ensure exceptional customer experiences.
Learn more at nice.com/rpa
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