Just about every business today is looking to leverage artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and advanced analytics. Boards are pressuring their CEOs, and CEOs are pushing their CIOs to make digital transformation their number one priority, according to Gartner.
These businesses are investing significant sums to do so. IDC says spending on digital transformation will rise to close to $2 trillion by 2022.
But many businesses are finding that no matter how fast they transform, they just can’t keep up with customer expectations. Why?
From our client work and research, we’ve found that the main reason businesses are struggling is that they’re thinking about automation primarily in terms of reducing costs and optimizing processes, and not enough in terms of adding value for customers. This thinking leads to siloed automation initiatives that focus on a few processes, not across-the-board transformation.
However, once a business begins thinking about what work in the organization that machines can (and should) do – and in the process liberate their employees to perform higher-value work – they can begin seeing where they can add value. Then, they can transform themselves in lockstep with their customers’ desires and no longer risk falling behind the curve of rising expectations.
We call this a machine-first approach to digital transformation. It is a holistic, value-driven approach that can enhance the customer experience while saving money and driving revenue. Here are five quick wins a company can get from taking this approach to digital transformation.
Reinventing the retail customer experience. A business that makes collecting customer data a priority and feeds it (including purchasing histories, with times and dates and after-sale events) to AI and advanced analytic tools across marketing, sales, and even inventory, can discover needs those customers may not even be aware of. For example, one retailer we worked with realized that when customers bought certain electronics, they had a huge appetite for service offerings to complement those purchases. This insight created new sales channels, new marketing initiatives, and new revenue – not to mention follow-on sales derived from increased customer loyalty.
Fixing the help desk. By connecting its help desk to a digitized knowledge base that spanned the company’s various functions, a German electronics manufacturer’s contact center agents could answer customer questions more quickly, comprehensively, and authoritatively. This improved productivity, lowered costs, and boosted customer loyalty.
Revitalizing the call center. Everyone knows call center work is both hard and critical. A system we helped a company implement used AI, voice recognition, chat boxes, and analytics to better understand calls and personalize responses. And when the system couldn’t respond effectively, the call was automatically routed to the right employee who could. This increased call center efficiency and empowered employees to deal with more complex special requests.
Humanizing HR. Employee vacations can be disruptive to a business, but no manager relishes turning down an employee’s request for time off. But by supplying scheduling software with analytics that tracked employee benefits, group schedules, and work, and making that system user-friendly, one employer kept employees better informed about potential vacation times, reducing surprises and disappointments. This system improved employee morale and saved HR time, costs, and labor.
Making sense of finance processes. Processing expense requests, reconciling invoices and POs, matching bills with expense claims, processing discounts/waivers/cash back are all dreary work for both employees and finance. Getting accurate status and audit data was time consuming. One company used AI to gather T&E data from employees (saving them work); to create a visual recognition system that converted images of receipts to digital data (helping the finance team); and used analytics to enforce company rules. Digitizing documents and using ML and OCR to process them helped in bringing transparency and speed. The company cut reimbursement automatically and delivered them quickly, making everyone happy.
Delivering value across functions to customers, both internal and external, is the right way to approach machine-first automation.
Santha Subramoni, global head, intelligence process automation at TCS, is co-author of “Giving Power to the Machine: Offering Technology the First Right of Refusal,” in Vol. 12 of TCS Perspectives management journal.
About the author(s)
With over 20 years of experience at TCS, Santha leads Intelligent Process Automation Services. She's responsible for creating, establishing and nurturing the Intelligent Process Automation Practice across industry verticals and products.