Running a successful business in this modern environment requires the acceptance of the reliance on contemporary technology. You cannot expect to be successful if you are not willing to go digital in some way. Simply put, doing things digitally means doing things quickly and more efficiently. And, since everybody else is doing it, keeping up with the Jones’ is really, in this case, the only way to stay competitive. Majority of successful and growing businesses are using the internet for everything from marketing to supply chain management to managing workforces that are working from home. But as the world continues to become globally interconnected and the access to goods and services overseas more facile, the need to create a unique selling proposition is paramount.
With the expanded nature of the global marketplace comes a growing need for customer service excellency from the first touch point to after-service. The couple from Europe visiting your Bed and Breakfast want to be treated like royalty, starting from the reservation stage all the way to their departure. Small, online retailers must face customer service issues with the same level of service as their mammoth corporate competitors to stay in the race. If a company is facing issues with exponential orders and their manufacturing planning had not forecasted this, customers will look elsewhere. But in almost every case one way to strive is through automation.
Automation is any action that takes simple work which requires multiple steps out of the hands of people and puts a machine or application in charge of it. Machines can work continuously, more precisely and more efficiently allowing organisations to do more business for less money and in less time. One of the biggest expenses where we see reductions is in labor. But this should not be construed to suggest that people are getting replaced by machines. Quite simply, a person operating a machine can increase their output, thereby increasing the revenue that comes from their labor. So, this reduction in labor expense is very much relative to revenue. Look at this statistic:
Australian small and medium businesses with advanced levels of digital engagement earn 60% more revenue per employee than SMBs with basic levels. As a consequence of this, the businesses they work for are 50% more likely to be growing revenue when compared to their competitors. And they are more than 8 times more likely to be creating jobs1
But automation saves businesses in other ways, too. Increased precision reduces waste in most applications. Imagine a factory where everything is assembled by hand. You can expect variations in quality from employee to employee, and from one workday to another. But with machines, the output is consistently error-free and complex calculations can be made in the blink of an eye.
Automated systems using artificial intelligence are more affordable than ever before. AI chatbots can be set up for prices ranging from free2,3,4 to over $7,000.00AUD per month, based on their complexity and sophistication. Such systems can automate the majority of first-level customer service interactions. In fact, industry statistics suggest that artificial intelligence-based chatbots could handle up to 80% of simple online customer service interactions, all by themselves.5 But AI has many other applications, too. Email marketing is an area with literally dozens of services out there. One popular example is mailchimp,6 which uses its proprietary AI to manage contacts, for campaign design and to analyse data. Other areas where AI is currently making a difference include medical care, lights out warehouses, cyber security, logistics, hospitality and much more. The list is virtually endless.
The cost of hardware, such as robotic equipment, is dropping swiftly as well. It seems automation isn’t the new concept it once was. In fact, robotics is now becoming so commonplace that many forms of reliably functioning hardware are now available for home use. This simply means that physical automation is no longer limited to the production floor of big factories. From a business perspective, the sky is the limit. Everything from 3D printers to surgical tools can now be operated automatically or controlled by a surgeon on the other side of the globe, and they usually do so more precisely and efficiently than most human hands can.
“61% of executives expect their organizations will use robotics in uncontrolled environments within the next two years.”7
As automation technology becomes more common, its price reduces accordingly. As the adoption of automation grows, it is how well automation is applied in your business and to what extent that becomes the competitive advantage.
In short, if you are not constantly looking at enhancing and automating processes in your business, you are already behind. Automation technology will not replace people. It will let them flourish. It will allow them to refocus from the time mundane repetitive tasks to activity where they need to use creativity, imagination, and problem-solving skills.