In the 1960s, physical robots brought process automation to manufacturing, and with it increased speed of production, higher, consistent levels of quality and eventually, once initial return on investment had been achieved, lower operating costs and greater business agility.
Today, RPA is already starting to have a similar impact across all functional aspects of the modern enterprise. From IT and HR departments to business operations and customer care, any rules-based task is potentially ripe for automation and the benefits it delivers.
What is RPA?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is using a piece of trained software (read: ‘bot’) to perform high-volume, repetitive digital tasks that would otherwise need to be performed by humans. These tasks can range from data entry and file validation to generating reports and invoices or moving and reformatting information between two different systems. All you need is to define the rules of the job in question and have a clear set of data for training.
Data is now the cornerstone of business, the foundation on which everything else is built. But of course, all too often this data is scattered across an organization in different siloed systems in different formats meaning unless someone manually updates and transfers it from one part of the business to another, it’s impossible to keep track of individual customers or build up a comprehensive picture of their preferences or lifetime value to your firm.
Data in silos
The key to delivering a differentiated customer experience is understanding and delivering what each customer expects, how they expect it and when they expect it. None of this is possible without first having access to the right data.
So imagine what it must be like to be a contact center agent for one of these companies – having to switch from application to application and back again just to handle a basic customer call or not being able to tell instantly that the person they’re trying to help has already emailed about the same problem.
Making an automated connection
And this is where intelligent use of RPA is changing the game. When working with clients we apply it to create bots to reconnect the silos, processing, comparing, analyzing and updating data from across the company and crucially, making it available to view in one place. But that’s just the start.
RPA is also present and correct in our omnichannel customer engagement platform which pulls all customer communication from all channels – voice, email, social messaging, SMS and posts to social media – into a single unified desktop view. As a result, contact center agents have everything they need directly in front of them, leaving them free to focus on delivering the best possible customer experience. They’re not distracted by having to switch between screens and they don’t need to put a customer on hold while they log into a separate application or database.
The same technology also makes it possible to automatically generate tickets and open a new case, send customers tracking information and order updates and to log new customer information in the various business systems.
Process automation plays a key role in how we route customers to agents. Using rule-based prequalification – such as IVR for customers phoning or a simple chatbot on a website or hosted within a messaging app – we understand the customer’s issue and can automatically direct him or her to self-service content such as a how-to video or tutorial, or connect them with the agent who has the greatest specific experience or expertise in resolving that particular issue.
To empower not replace
RPA is helping to empower our agents. By eliminating the aspects of their jobs that make them feel like robots, they can apply their energy and their emotional intelligence to making a real connection with the customers they serve.
This in turn is improving the quality of customer experience. People reaching out to the contact center don’t need to keep repeating themselves as they move from channel to channel or adviser to advisor, the information moves with them. Likewise, through the use of RPA-backed tools like IVR and chatbots, customers are being empowered to solve their own minor problems meaning that those people waiting to speak to an agent are truly looking to make a human connection too.
Therefore the key to gaining the greatest possible benefits from RPA is to view the technology as a means of enhancing your workforce not replacing it.