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Thursday, February 1, 2018


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In my last post on automation and AI, I discussed how conversational AI-powered intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs) are generating a large amount of interest in the customer engagement industry.

That post continues a theme that we see in the media every day: organizations are looking at using automation and AI for business and workforce optimization—however, applying these technologies and processes needs to be well thought-out.

One area where many organizations are seeing strong uptake in automation innovation is the back office. What is the back office? According to Wikipedia, the back office in most companies is where tasks dedicated to running the company itself take place. Back-office operations are seldom prominent; however, they are a major contributor to a business and can make or break its success.

Work performed in the back office in industries such as banking, healthcare, outsourcing and insurance includes processing claims, managing logistics, maintaining records, ensuring compliance and handling prescription orders. As a rule of thumb, for every contact center agent at an organization, there are typically three associates who handle back-office work. So, an organization with 1,000 contact center agents would have 3,000 back office employees—and therefore three times the opportunity to optimize the business and provide customer experience excellence.

Productivity in the back office requires integration, modernization and automation. Back office automation enables organizations to allocate work to the right employees at the right time. With a standardized back office automation framework for people, processes and technology, organizations can unlock new opportunities, create additional resource capacity and drive efficiencies.

One of my favorite back office automation examples is a financial services firm with more than $700 billion in assets and more than 6,200 employees in 15 countries. The organization improved efficiency by 10% in 18 months—saving $1.5 million through reduced headcount, idle time and overtime—as well as increased associate productivity and same-day work completion rates. They did it by:

  • Creating automated processes and workflows that reduced associate idle time (time where no work is performed) by 50%
  • Reducing overtime by 37% and increasing associate work activity by 9%
  • Gaining management insight into whether or not associates were following standards and best practices and adhering to compliance requirements.

The overall result? The organization transformed how resources, performance and work are measured and managed. They automated repetitive back-office processes and created additional resource capacity to focus more on the customer.

My blog post next month will focus on a key concept mentioned above: determining how to leverage automation to optimize the business and decrease costs—while simultaneously focusing resources on how to invest a reasonable percentage of those cost savings back into the business.

After all, if you look at some of today’s leaders in innovation and customer experience—Amazon, Netflix, Disney, Starbucks and Chick-fil-A—they have an eye for cost containment and a demonstrated passion for their customers. They invest heavily to drive customer experience excellence.

Shouldn’t you?

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