Will automating more operations within your business mean that you should reduce your staff compliment? No, not necessarily. Whilst automation will greatly increase the efficiency and quality of your services at a reduced cost, great customer service needs people. People are the best at dealing with people. People are creative, people are empathetic, people understand context, people are innovative and they can plan for the future.
Let’s be honest - Did that automated SMS on your birthday from your insurance company make you feel special? Nope. But an actual person wishing you ‘Happy Birthday’ if you called in to log a support ticket, that would probably go a long way to soothing a potentially stressful conversation.
Please don’t misunderstand us - we are definitely not here to belittle the benefits of software; automating business processes through software is our thing, after all. We just think it’s important to remember that software and people are not mutually exclusive.
Your business will work best when there’s a synergy between quality software and quality people.
The delight of software is in the automation of predictable, repetitive and mundane tasks that tend to make people bored, frustrated and error-prone. People who have been freed from these tasks by software are not disposable, but liberated to thrive in what they do best, which we discuss below.
People’s value does not lie in their ability to perform repetitive tasks. The true value of the people within your organisation when applied effectively will improve your customer service- which will aid in the growth and longevity of your business.
Why people are essential for great service:
- People understand context. Software is great at performing repetitive tasks where the inputs and outputs can be reliably predicted. But life (and business) are full of situations that are nuanced and require experience and intuition to navigate (especially when customers are involved). Only people are qualified for this. However, we aren’t saying that software is irrelevant here either - software provides the shared platform and operational characteristics to make sense of your business even as you deal with daily novelties.
- People are needed to meet the growing demand enabled by software. Ironically, sometimes the more a business automates, the more people it needs. Over recent years the company Amazon has massively adopted automation, yet its workforce has increased just as fast as its automation. This is partly because the benefits of business automation result in an increased demand for your product that requires more people in a number of new and interesting supportive roles.
- Empathy and emotion. “Stand still and be cheery as though you have a job in the sauna.” Isn’t this an inspiring quote? Of course not, because it’s an attempt to be inspirational generated by a program. The great thing about software is that it can perform its tasks forever without running into the roadblocks of boredom, sadness or distraction. However, as long as your clientele and staff are humans, your business will need to have emotional intelligence. This is something that currently only humans can exercise.
- Abductive reasoning. “I always leave for work at 7am and get there on time. Therefore, if I leave at 7am today I will get to work on time.” This is called inductive reasoning, and software can do this.
What software is not good at is something called abductive reasoning. This type of reasoning can also be called “inference to the best explanation” and is a common feature of human life (and problem-solving). For example, you wake up to find a used cereal bowl and coffee mug on your table. You conclude that your house-mate/spouse/child has woken up earlier than you and eaten breakfast (or your house has been broken in to, depending on your situation).
Running a successful business requires the ability to evaluate and understand the unexpected; hypothesize the reasons for mistakes and failures; and then to devise solutions for improvement. Software can tell you that there has been a sudden increase in cancellations for a particular product, but it cannot give you it’s opinion or make wise judgment calls on why. For that you need people.
- Software needs to be managed and maintained - by humans. Whilst software achieves many great things in a fraction of the time taken by humans, humans are still needed to operate the software properly, sense-check its output, and modify it according to changing requirements. Software won’t give you its opinion on how it can be improved to better serve your business needs or resolve novel client queries. Software is a powerful tool to drive great customer experiences, especially when supported by people.
- Innovation and creativity. Software can do what you tell it to do with incredible convenience. But your computer will never take the initiative or send you an email with suggestions on how to improve your business. Software will not think ‘outside the box’ and discover that the way you do things could be radically improved. For that, you need experienced, creative, self-starting people in your business. Software can greatly improve the way you do things, but only people will help you to do new things. The big bonus is, the increased ease and efficiency afforded by software frees up your employees to save time on mundane, repetitive tasks and focus more on complex problem-solving or creative tasks.
- Planning for the future. “Now is the time to go ahead and not prepare to live.” That’s an AI-generated fortune-cookie-like prophecy. It shows that software alone should not be predicting fortunes. Software doesn’t have the wisdom and experience to translate data-driven insights into actionable plans for the future roadmap of your business. If you feel you need something better to plan the future of your company, we’d suggest using people. Software can be used to uncover amazing insights about your company, your staff, or your target market. But ultimately it is people who are better at using that data to plan for the future.
Your business and your employees can greatly benefit from software automation. For more information about automation, read our post "Everything you need to know about Automation".
But remember, software and people are not mutually exclusive and that your business will work best when there’s a synergy between quality software and quality people.