Automation has become the primary driver of economic growth in modern economies, but it can also be disruptive. A cheaper delivery of services and goods can often be accompanied by automation anxiety and the very real prospect of job losses and smaller businesses being left behind.

Improving services however can mean far more than just increasing the bottom line profits because automation can deliver so much more for your business. Automation is about improving services for customers and business alike, as well as staff. Many new services are setting out to do just that. Here is how they are streamlining businesses.

Profits

Less of a dirty word nowadays. Profits are the amount of money a company should invest in its future growth. By continuing to purchase equipment that can improve services, speed up delivery and save money, this automation then drives bigger profits in the future. Not doing so leaves companies hopelessly chasing the success of others.

Automated payments are one such advancement doing exactly that. It was recorded by UK finance that in April 2018, 72% of all small to medium transactions were processed through chip and pin or contactless payments. As society heads towards a ‘cashless’ future, handling payments automatically will become increasingly essential. Yet, receiving payments barely scratches the surfaces of this automation.

Its arrival can revolutionise the way we monitor money. Digital receipts can automatically update your balance sheet, tax receipts can be calculated for you and the reprocessing costs associated with incorrect or outdated account information can be avoided. Artificial intelligence bank accounts are being launched with intelligent assistants, that monitor your spending or keep an eye on direct debits. These will then do most of the heavy lifting for businesses, preparing reports for you as they go to review your spending.

Time

Productivity is an issue in the UK, with multiple studies showing the country lagging far behind its closest competitors. In fact, German and French workers achieve by Thursday afternoon the output it takes the equivalent UK workers until the end of the working week to complete. One reason for this is the investment in automation is lower than in those countries, particularly in small businesses. Quite simply, when not enough money is invested in new technologies, the amount of time tasks take to complete is longer.

The technology, rather than making workers expendable, should free up time away from mundane tasks and give employees genuine opportunities to learn new skills and advance their value to a business. One company in Edinburgh, Murray Collier Sports Therapy, has employed the help of a ‘talking bot’ to answer the phone and take appointments on the owner’s behalf. This means Murray can focus on treating his clients without worrying about potential loss of income from not answering the phone. The bot answers the call and updates his appointments calendar, maximizing potential revenue.

Sharing

As we continue to digitise everything, our requirements for tangible possessions will continue to reduce. Letters become emails, filing cabinets move to the cloud, and smartphones serve the purpose of multiple devices. All this, as well as the attainment of cleaner energy, saves businesses space and money.

For what we do need, businesses can get it through a sharing economy which technology gives us access too, rather than each person owning each individual device. Hybrid vehicles can reduce our need to own a car, and we may even subscribe to a service like Mercedes and have one arrive when we need it. While property company’s like WeWork use technology to connect demand and supply when it comes to sharing office facilities. These ideas lessen our dependence on the world’s natural resources while significantly reducing co2 emissions. They also massively reduce costs for business owners, despite improving services.

Customer Service

Anyone with experience of running a business will know the extent to which customer service can make or break your success. Yet, it can also be one of the hardest parts to get right.

Well, chatbots could be about to change all that. Instead of long waits, chatbots can answer phones immediately at any time of the day when problems arise, appropriate for the impatient generations coming through. They can handle an infinite number of requests at the same time and provide immediate answers to questions which a human could not.

This can reduce service time and operating costs significantly with many studies indicating even current chat bots resolve more conversations successfully than humans. Further, a professor at Georgia Tech University using a software that predicted questions and scripted answers, produced a chatbot that answered questions with 97% accuracy. Those unable to be answered can then simply be forwarded to a real person.

With the emergence of Google Duplex, there is also the very real possibility of one robot ringing another. This means no human involvement in a phone call where both bots work together to fulfil their short and simple instructions. For anyone who has sat on the phone waiting for customer service and grown frustrated throughout the process, it’s a mouth-watering prospect for business owners, staff and customers alike. Which is what innovation should be all about.