No matter how many articles are published on a day to day basis, we’re nowhere close to full out automation of jobs because there are many things that have to happen; it’s going to take a while. It’s not because the technology isn’t progressing fast enough; it’s because the number one obstacle is resistance from humans.
I’m currently engaged in two new ventures that aim to automate business processes and tasks: through AI powered chatbots, and the other through an affective computing platform.
From this experience, I’ve come to question the purpose of automation the more I’ve immersed myself in both and talk to business managers and owners. Automation is a complex topic, people who are not steeped in technology misunderstand it. So it begs to ask ourselves: what is the goal of automation?
Productivity isn’t the only goal
There are many goals, such as getting a lot more done with existing resources, reducing mistakes, improving safety and freeing up humans so they can focus on higher-value work.
Still, most businesses are worried about maximizing profits. So the most common goal, from a corporate point of view, is to reduce the cost of human labor and thus increase the profits of the business; this is how business managers see the benefits of automation for their business.
But that shouldn’t be the only perspective. Maybe it’s the location I’m in, but I’ve yet to encounter business leaders who think about automation from the perspective of the person who should benefit the most from it: the customer.
How does the customer benefit?
For me, the goal of automation for the customer is resetting their expectations about how they invest their time with a business; the customer experience. For example, this can be achieved with:
- quicker response time when a problem arises;
- the feeling of being understood (personalization);
- timely follow up;
- anticipating future needs and inquiries.
The cases can vary from industry to industry, by ultimately it’s about driving customer loyalty by eliminating friction; all the things from the business side that impede the customer from achieving their outcomes.
Business leaders must also ask themselves: Does automation reflect itself in better products and services?
This one is hard to measure, I don’t know if there’s a noticeable difference in quality if you look at industries where robots do more than humans. For example, high touch industries like luxury cars have benefited from a focus on craftsmanship that robots can’t replicate; still that hasn’t stopped them from automating some repetitive tasks that are best done by a robot.
The bottom line: customers don’t care if your company is innovative or not; they care about better outcomes. The same goes for automation: customers don’t care how automated your business is, unless it creates a worthwhile experience for them.
Your turn, what do you think is the goal of automation?