In Part 1 of our Automation Journey series, we spoke about some common misconceptions around automation, and briefly outlined what the process should actually look like.
In this article, we’ll explore the journey to automation in more depth, focussing specifically on:
Step one: Identifying the process to automate
If your business is considering automation, here's where to begin. Evaluating potential automation begs 3 key questions, which we’ll examine through the lens of our own experience with Lucy sales order automation software.
I. What problem are you solving? (and why now?)
Consider the various processes, workflows, and constraints that exist within your business, whether cross-departmental or localised to one team. Before you assess their automation potential, ask yourself: What problem are we trying to solve?
If you're not clear what the problem is, automation won’t fix it.
Once the problem is articulated, consider the timing. Why now? There is often some compelling event which prompts a business to start exploring automation. Understand yours.
Of course every business is different. Motivators can be simple or complex, but as we’ve found working with Lucy customers, there are generally some common themes:
- Perhaps your Customer Service team is facing the perfect storm of staffing changes. Deborah, who keys all the orders and knows all the customers and their quirks, is retiring soon. With a few other CSRs advancing into Sales roles, your team’s capacity to process orders manually is about to drop suddenly and dramatically.
- Or maybe flagging CSAT ratings are attracting all the wrong kind of attention around the business. A push to boost customer satisfaction might involve speeding up delivery times and reducing the write-offs and returns brought on by data errors.
A clearly defined problem and timeline should set you on the right course, and serve as a compass to gauge your progress along the way.
II. What benefits are you expecting?
Once everyone agrees on the why (and why now), the next exercise is to outline the benefits you expect to gain by automating.
In the case of sales order automation, many Lucy customers cited improved data entry speed and accuracy as the main benefits to be had. Purchase orders processed instantly and accurately can be picked, packed and despatched far more quickly. Fulfilment times go down, satisfaction levels go up.
Other customers hoped to re-direct staff into higher value activities. With Lucy relieving staff of the burden of data entry, CSRs could focus instead on the kind of work us humans excel at – customer engagement, problem solving, empathy, decision-making.
Still others may see automation as a means to cut staffing costs. We’ll talk more about this later, but it’s worth noting here that replacing people with robots is generally not the way automation plays out. In the case of Lucy, we have yet to see a single staff member made redundant by a business implementing our software. And that is without doubt, a good thing.
III. Who will be impacted?
Finally, it’s important to identify who exactly will be impacted by the automation in terms of change management. It’s vastly preferable to automate a process that won’t require a complete overhaul of customer behaviour or business logic. The more change you introduce, particularly internally, the harder it will be to achieve buy-in from those most affected (particularly where the automation is seen as a threat to job security).
For staff who may be wary of automation and its potential impact on their own role, it’s worth noting that software like Lucy is what we call ‘collaborative automation’. In other words, Lucy’s not here to steal your job - she’s here to make your job infinitely more rewarding. Viewing automation tools as an extension of your team can be a helpful approach. Like any new team member, Lucy will need to be taught how to perform the job to the standard you expect. But once she’s trained up, the staff who used to perform her role can enjoy working on the good stuff.
The other group to consider when evaluating impacts is your customer base. Will automating this process require any behavioural change on their part? The beauty of Lucy is that she can be implemented without disrupting your customers. They don’t need to alter their existing ordering habits, yet they’ll still reap the benefits of improved order speed and accuracy. Not all automation tools will integrate so seamlessly, so the trick is to ensure (and communicate) that any change you’re asking customers to make will be far outweighed by the benefits they’ll experience.
A note about sponsors
If you haven't already, now is the time to ensure you have an automation project sponsor or champion. The project champion articulates the benefits of automation across the business, understands the processes affected, and ensures queries and concerns are addressed. Without a champion acting as conduit between staff, stakeholders and vendor, it’s likely your automation project will stall before it ever gets off the ground.
Step one complete
Once you’ve completed this analysis, your automation journey has begun and you're on the way to outlining a business case.
In our next article, we’ll examine Step 2: Researching options (spoiler alert - there’s far more than just price at stake!)
We hope you’ll stay tuned as we continue our series. In the meantime, to find out how Lucy can handle your sales order entry, speak to our experts.