Will automation make life better or take my job?

| March 4, 2022

Automation is a divisive digital technology. Some think it’s a tool that increases efficiency and improves worker well-being. Others say it replaces human jobs leaving many unemployed. Brad Miller, General Manager of BizCover explains.

And with reports showing that automation will replace 2.7 million Australian jobs by 2035, it’s easy to see why some workers feel anxious.

While there is merit to both sides, the answer to achieving the best net outcome for businesses and workers may boil down to how automation is used.

Brad Miller, General Manager of BizCover – an insurtech looking to shake up the oft-technologically maligned insurance industry – says the key to boosting efficiency while appeasing automation anxiety is finding the balance.

“Automation does not have to come at the cost of jobs. It’s an incredible tool that can reduce the manual load in various areas of a business across multiple industries. Businesses that don’t embrace new tech like intelligent automation run the risk of falling behind,” says Miller.

“It’s more about how businesses utilise their workers – both human and robot – to do what they do best. Used correctly, it can drastically help scale your business, which means job creation in the long run.”

How the customer journey drives digital change

Often seen as digital laggards in the financial services space, the insurance industry is a testament to how customers drive change, with it making great strides towards digital tech in recent years.

With most insurance CIOs prioritising improving operational efficiency and customer engagement, automation has become one of the most important industry investments moving forward, according to a KPMG survey.

There’s a high expectation of either self-service or instant gratification in today’s world with consumer products and it’s increasingly crossing over into insurance,” says Miller.

“That’s really heightened expectations that customers can deal with things without having to speak to people and wait on phone lines. So, it’s really important that we strive to do that.”

BizCover had already incorporated automation into its SME insurance comparison website since its inception in 2008, giving it a significant platform to invest in the technology over the decade.

>But it’s in the company’s sales and customer care team where even more efficiencies have been realised.

“When a customer requests a certificate, a phone prompt automatically sends it straight to the customer. Email enquiries are also automated to spot keywords and instantly respond,” says Miller.

This has resulted in the team being able to process up to 90% of such inquiries without any customer service agent involvement. Even customer quotes are automatically sorted to the correct campaign in the phone system giving agents the correct information to answer in real time.

The increased efficiency has also translated into happier and more loyal customers, with BizCover recording a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of +72 for 2021.

“Simply put, automation is part of our DNA,” says Miller. “And it’s not a question of getting rid of people – it’s about creating the best possible value for customers.”

“We create a streamlined experience for more than 200,000 customers across multiple jurisdictions with just a customer service team of 20. At that kind of scale, you need automation so it’s absolutely key to our business processes.”

When to automate

While it’s clear that the customer experience often dictates whether a company invests in digital tech like automation, some worry that it comes at the expense of workers.

Miller says the opposite is true as investing in automation not only can lead to job creation but improve worker well-being.

“From an employer perspective, we want to retain people for longer in our company, so we give them a challenge. We want our employees to feel like they are growing, contributing and learning new things,” says Miller.

“If automation is going to take mind-numbing tasks away from people that gives no real satisfaction and allows them to focus on creative and strategic work, then it’s all the better for the workforce.”

And the research backs this up. One report found the technology is expected to actually create new work skillsets that will drive a net gain for jobs globally.  Experts also predict that automation will pivot workers away from repetitive, unskilled tasks so they can focus on more ‘human’, complex work.

The same study by Goldsmiths, University of London shows that companies that adopt automation technologies are 31% more productive and more likely to be ‘human friendly’ workplaces. The study also found the workers in those businesses were more engaged with 70% saying that automation has improved the wellbeing of their team.

Miller says the need for automation is even more crucial now because of the current skills shortage in Australia.

“In the short-to-medium term there’s going to be a necessity to automate more manual processes. The power is with the current crop of job applicants as they can afford to be pickier in what their employment might look like.”

While some reports of automation taking jobs are threatening to turn workers into Luddites, businesses can ill afford to miss out on the benefits of automation.

“Rather than worrying that automation will take away jobs, we should be thinking about how this technology will transform employment for the better,” says Miller.

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