To say it’s been quite the year would be making an understatement. I’ve never heard the word unprecedented bandied about so much. It’s strange to think that only a year ago the world was still operating more or less as usual. We all know what’s happened since then of course.
From a business point of view things are still looking challenging. The economy is chugging along far below capacity, unemployment is still too high, and most businesses are living under government restrictions on when they can open, how they can operate, and where people are allowed to work.
In the face of lockdowns which saw many businesses closed for months, and many others suffer from the knock-on effect of fewer customers and less cash in the economy, most businesses have been forced to transform themselves into lean, mean machines that can at least survive until everything returns to normal. Estimates of how long that will take vary, but most analysts expect at least another year before the world returns to anything like what it was before the pandemic.
From surviving to thriving
Furloughing staff and letting them go, as many have had to do, is always difficult but as the economy slowly picks up over the next year companies will rehire. At least, those that survive will.
Any business that wants to make it that far needs to look at the hard-fought gains it has made over the past year and really entrench them so they become a permanent feature.
An unexpected side effect of the pandemic has been that all your customers have suddenly become a lot more digitally savvy than they already were. This is true no matter the demographics you’re serving or whether your market is consumers or businesses. Due to the lockdowns customers now expect remote service by digital channels as standard. Instant access to products, services and customer support from their digital devices is now a non-negotiable.
Faced with a choice between a company that can serve them digitally and almost instantly, and one that doesn’t have in place the systems, processes and technology to do that, customers are now likely to go with the fast, efficient option every time. This is a trend that has long been in motion anyway, but the pandemic has accelerated it by several years.
To meet these new demands from customers and the market for efficiency, organisations need to continue to do more with the resources they currently have. Rather than rehiring too quickly there is a smarter way of building capability and scaling, at a much lower cost of doing business. It enables businesses to control costs, boost productivity, and move from just surviving to thriving so they can create new jobs.
With a little help from the robots
Automation is another pre-pandemic trend that has been kicked into overdrive. In physical customer-facing environments we are seeing a lot more automation due to the continued need for social distancing. However, we are seeing the same trend in the back office, in the finance department, in the contact centre, in fact across all business units.
Software automation, which has always promised the ability to do more with fewer resources, is delivering. It’s the reason why the valuations of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) companies like UiPath are sky high and rising.
Software robots are taking over routine, repetitive, and mundane tasks and freeing up valuable human resources. Those people, far from being replaced by the robots, are finding their roles elevated. They now have the time to focus on activities that generate revenue and promote growth, and on providing the kind of service that instils loyalty in customers.
Instead of entering data they are analysing it to find new growth opportunities; instead of copying information from one system to another they are doing more sales appointments (virtually, of course).
RPA bots are, as the name suggests, software robots that are built and trained to carry out routine tasks using an organisation’s existing business applications. They access these systems in the same way a human would, so no expensive software integration is needed. The bot just gets to work, copying data from here and there, for example, to populate an Accounting System.
Bots are well-behaved, work 24/7, don’t make errors, don’t take sick leave, and don’t need expensive office space – and all the social distancing rules that come with that these days.
Making the jobs people do more valuable
By doubling down on the efficiencies they have had to create in the last year just to survive, businesses can make themselves better able to ride out what remains of the storm and put themselves in a position to thrive as the economy gradually picks up. Robotic Process Automation delivers just that.
Of course for the economy to really pick up people need to be employed. But hiring people to do non-jobs that machines can do more quickly and cost-effectively has never been a path to economic growth or higher employment. Economies only grow and jobs only get created when technology improves productivity and allows humans to innovate.
RPA robots perform repetitive and routine tasks more cost-effectively and efficiently than humans do, which boosts productivity and lowers business costs. In turn this frees up human brain power and other scarce business resources to focus on revenue growth, service improvement, and innovation – the things which truly create value, returns, and jobs.
And, let’s face it, with robots doing those tasks everyone hates doing anyway, those new jobs created are likely to be far more rewarding and interesting for the people doing them. If what we’ve been through in the last year leads to a happier, richer working experience for more people, then at least that’s something worthwhile we will have all earned from this experience.
To find out more about how software robots can help your business be more efficient, and to understand what the return on investment can be, get in touch for an online meeting. https://calendly.com/david-barlow/exploratory-online-meeting
About the Author: David Barlow, Co-Founder and Commercial Director, Sherpa Works, is passionate about helping SMEs and Mid-Market companies experience outrageous success with their Bot workforce.