Productivity gains are often made when a repetitive task with a yes/no decision process is automated to relieve a person from performing this task. This frees that person up to do more worthwhile work (not, hopefully, to get laid off) and the task is performed without a person having to remember to do it.
Problems occur, however, when automation is poorly planned. There are many areas that can benefit from automation, including customer service and support, but if the automation causes delays, customer dissatisfaction, or other errors, the productivity gain is nullified. This is what has happened with interactive voice response; an attempt to automate too much of the process has been made in many cases and customers are rebelling.
In customer support, the interaction with the customer is not what is automated, it is the customer record that has automated pieces of the process.
For example, a customer phones in a complaint. The customer service representative interacts with the customer and submits an incident to the customer support software on his behalf. At that point, automation can streamline and protect that incident ticket until completion.
Automation patterned on business rules can:
- send an alert to a designated support person if a service level agreement is in jeopardy
- escalate a ticket that meets certain rules: ticket of a high value customer, ticket indicating a risk of injury or death from malfunction, ticket that is aging past a certain time/date
- enforce step-wise processes where a previous step must be completed before going on the the next step
- automatically respond to an email with an acknowledgement of receipt or even with suggested answers to questions and issues, or
- opening an incident ticket using the information in the email plus sending the incident number to the customer to use for status checks.
These are all processes that benefit from task, or business rule, automation. Each decision is a clear yes/no. There is no need for the customer to interact or be involved. The automation ensures that critical issues or timing is not missed due to human error and streamlines an element of the customer support process such as a speedy acknowledgement of an email.
What this does is take processes that are highly subject to human error and makes certain they get done, leaving the human to do the actual interacting with other humans.