How to get started with automation tech

Big firms are already seeing the benefits of automation. Here's how you could get started.
3 January 2019 | 6563 Shares

Automation can free staff up for more value-adding tasks. Source: Shutterstock

Like it or not, businesses are becoming increasingly automated. Managers now realize that the cost-savings and efficiencies made possible by the tech are vital to remaining competitive today.

While it can make some human jobs redundant, the chief focus of the technology is the automation of menial and repetitive tasks. That means that, in many cases, employees are freed up for more valuable tasks, such as improving customer experience.

Bigger businesses have already started reaping big rewards by automating some of the repetitive aspects of their business.

Take Vodafone, for example, in its shared customer services divisions, the company has axed more than 900 jobs after rolling out chatbots to serve customers.

In fact, the group said it aims to cut another 800 jobs from its now 19,100-strong shared services team as it pushes ahead with automation in a bid to improve performance and save on cash.

Customer-facing businesses across the world are doing the same — and it seems that most are relying on chatbots and robotic process automation (RPA) to gain access to and become comfortable with automation technologies.

The two, together, seem to be the perfect automation starter-pack for enterprises. Chatbots make customer interactions more meaningful while RPA helps free up time for more analytical tasks.

According to an Everest Group forecast, RPA can yield costs savings as high as 47 percent overall. KPMG, on the other hand, believes that RPA can cut costs by up to 75 percent for financial firms. EY says RPA can save HR teams up to 35 percent.

IBM says chatbots can help cut customer service costs by 30 percent. In fact, a Juniper Research study says they’ll result in US$11 billion worth of annual cost savings for the retail, banking & healthcare sectors.

The best part of the two automation solutions is that they’re both very affordable and easy to implement.

Recently, in a bid to get local businesses in Singapore to use chatbots, DBS launched a chatbot F&B service. According to The Straits Times, the bank teamed up with Facebook to allow users to pre-order and pay for food via Messenger.

Payment is cashless via the DBS PayLah! e-wallet or DBS and POSB credit or debit cards, and consumers can customize their orders, maybe request less sugar or more milk in their coffee, for example.

“If instant messaging is the way for people to communicate, then we need to help businesses find a way to engage their customers on such platforms,” DBS Bank Head of Consumer Banking Group (Singapore) Jeremy Soo told local media.

Citibank too is working on building a chatbot for customers in Hong Kong— believing that doing so will not only help customers and reduce costs but also improve the experience they provide.

It’s interesting to note that chatbots aren’t just for B2C communications. Recently, BNY Mellon introduced a chatbot it calls Selina to handle institutional clients’ trading queries.

“Our people are our most important asset. While the chatbot will help clients in checking transaction information, this will allow our staff to focus on providing more sophisticated services to our clients such as helping them enter new markets,” said BNY Mellon Hong Kong Chief Sammy Cho.

When it comes to RPA, several organizations are testing and piloting these projects and enterprise-wide adoption is rare— but those that have pioneered the technology in their segment say there’s much to gain.

A study by IDC, for example, identified ANZ Bank, DBS Bank, OCBC Bank, UOB, ICICI Bank, ICICI Lombard, and Prudential Life Assurance as some of the early adopters of RPA in the APAC region and observed that:

  • Financial services institutions can cut up to 60 percent of operational costs
  • The implementation time is usually short, ranging from six to 12 weeks
  • Businesses typically recover their initial investment in 10 months to two years

Overall, for any company hoping to take the plunge and automate some of their functions and processes, RPA and chatbots are the way to go. At least for starters.