While rumours that robots will take our jobs and render us useless continue to spread, the caveat is that robots still need to be programmed and managed by people, or so says Kit Cox at Enate. Automation has the potential to revolutionise the service industry, relieving employees of tedious, repetitive tasks and enabling them to refocus on more innately human areas, like customer service.

Although automation can greatly enhance the services industry, human involvement will continue to be a necessity - albeit in varying degrees. Delivering excellent, world class services is largely dependent on getting the mix of people and bots right. It’s all about ratios, just like the perfect gin and tonic. Here’s why:

Just a dash: Low bot:human ratio

Some instances of automation still require a significant human input, meaning that there is still a high human:bot ratio. Invoice processing, for example, is often held up as an example of the type of highly repetitive, transactional, high volume processing activity that is perfect for high levels of automation – but this is not always the case.

For large enterprises, where there is a mandatory, portal-enabled e-invoicing mechanism, high levels of automation may be possible. However, the reality of invoice processing in most organisations is that invoices arrive in a variety of formats, including every type of paper layout. In this situation, although the downstream processing can be automated using RPA, the initial phases of the project require a human being to open an envelope and feed the documents into a scanner, meaning that the level of automation achievable is kept to a much lower digital:human ratio.

Punchy, but tasty: Balanced bot:human ratio

The key to getting your blend right is understanding where the variance actually lies in your process – lack of understanding in this area is one of the common killers of automation projects. Take policy surrenders in the insurance industry, for example. High value life policies can, to an extent, be tailored to suit the individual customer, which makes it difficult to identify the area of variance.

However, a leading insurance provider was able to use Robotic Service Orchestration (RSO) to achieve a punchy but tasty blend of robots and humans. Using RSO, the insurance provider were able to identify that some early stages of the process were stacked with variability, and so were more suited to the human workforce. The later stages of the process, however, which mostly involved managing third party trading, underlying assets and validating payments, were more suited to the robots.

By identifying the areas of variance and allocating the most suitable stages in the process, the insurance company was able to achieve a 25% improvement in the end-to-end service productivity.

On ice: High bot:human ratio

Conventionally held wisdom says that the closer a process is to the customer, the less suitable for automation it is. However, there are some notable exceptions. One such exception is in ‘Know Your Customer’ in the banking world which, counterintuitively, is an excellent example of where a stronger robot:human ratio is possible.

For example, Wipro has delivered dramatic results to a major bank using its eKYC solution built using Wipro HOLMES. They have achieved efficiency gains across the ‘Know Your Customer’ processes of between 50-80%, an improvement in accuracy of 5-15% and other benefits such as a more complete audit trail, improved compliance, faster client-onboarding and an improved customer experience. Here a higher ratio of digital to human workforce is appropriate as it makes the operation more efficient and drives other clear improvements.

Before adopting automation, it’s worth taking the time to get to know your processes, and identifying which areas are best suited to automation, and which require a more human touch. Once you’ve found the right mix of humans and robots, you’ll be able to deliver a more streamlined, efficient service to your customers, and a more rewarding employee experience for your workforce. Just like the perfect gin and tonic, it’s all about getting the right mix.

Kit Cox is the CEO at Enate