A new survey designed to understand employee attitudes at large organisations across the United States and Europe with respect to business automation technologies and the “humanisation” of business-to-customer relationships has found that technology is failing to build stronger customer relationships.

The central question of Appian’s survey conducted by IDG  “Business Automation Technologies and the Customer Experience” survey was whether business automation technologies are creating experiences that enable companies to better serve and anticipate the needs of their customers, establish human connections, and create stronger customer relationships.

82% of survey respondents agree that organisations need to focus on increasing the humanity of customer interactions and adding greater “personal touch.” However, only four in ten respondents (41% global; 35% UK) view the way their organisation is using automation as helpful “to a great extent” in forming stronger customer relationships.

The survey results show that:

  • 65% global (58% UK) of respondents say that the automation technologies used by their organisations are only “somewhat effective” (at best) in providing all the data and context needed for a full picture of customers
  • Fewer than half (47% global; 38% UK) of all respondents report that their organisation’s use of technology has significantly increased the amount of time they can spend with customers
  • Only 30% global; 24% UK of respondents use technology tools that empower them “to a great extent” to address complex issues with creative problem-solving, or to change business processes on-the-fly
  • Fewer than one-third (32%) of non-senior executive respondents feel their organisation’s technology is highly flexible in helping to solve customer problems (compared to 47% of senior executive respondents who believe so)

Business automation technologies should do more than accelerate work and reduce manual errors. They should provide contextual information and process flexibility so an organisation and its employees can foster strong customer relationships that engender brand loyalty. When respondents were asked to identify the keys to deploying technologies that create positive human experiences, the most-cited responses were:

  • Enablement of a complete customer view (57% global; 55% UK)
  • More flexible and adaptable apps and business processes (55% global; 53% UK)
  • Accelerating delivery of new apps and enhancements (49% global; 47% UK)

The data also shows that commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software applications don’t provide the needed flexibility to adapt to customer issues on the fly. 85% global: 91% UK respondents indicated their organisation has experienced one or more negative impacts from the use of COTS software, such as added complexity and lack of flexibility.

Chatbots and Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

Two-thirds (66% global and UK) of respondents’ organisations are currently using a chatbot to communicate with customers, and an additional 23% (global and UK) plan to use one. However, fewer than half (42% global; 35% UK) of organisations currently using a chatbot report seeing customer satisfaction increase “to a great extent.”

While chatbots have increased in commonality so have interactive voice responses – with mixed reviews. More than 8 in 10 respondents (85% global; 89% UK) have had a negative personal experience with IVR, with respondents pointing to a “cold and impersonal experience” (43% global and UK) and “difficulty reaching a human” (43% global; 44% UK) as top issues.

“To create deeper customer relationships, employees need automation technologies that are integrated, provide all the data they need, and are faster to change,” said Matt Calkins, CEO of Appian.

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