Customer contact organizations face growing competitive pressures to simultaneously improve the customer experience (CX), increase productivity, and reduce costs. For good reason: delivering a cost-effective excellent CX is becoming the prime means by which companies profitably differentiate themselves in today’s markets.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software can help contact centers respond to the cost, productivity, and CX enhancement pressures. RPA incorporates technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate routine and high volume tasks that are sensitive to human error. RPA software “robots/agents” (or virtual agents) can mimic humans in the handling of countless types of processes. These include inputting or manipulating data, triggering other processes, or communicating with other systems.

While RPA applications have been used in the greater enterprise for years, it can have significant impact on the contact center. For instance, RPA can reduce contact handling time. It enables live agents to swiftly and logically access other applications that can resolve issues and/or drive sales. It can improve accuracy, help maintain compliance and minimize annoying mistakes that also shrink the added total handle time consumed in resolving them. These factors combined help to indirectly create more compelling cost-minimizing CXs. But as with any technology and process, RPA applications must be carefully planned and implemented.

A new Frost & Sullivan research report, Robotic Process Automation Market Outlook for Customer Care, 2017, outlines the benefits and growth opportunities of RPA in the contact center. It reviews the critical success factors and provides strategic considerations for RPA deployments, and for RPA vendors.

Here are several highlights:

  • RPA can significantly reduce costs, which is this is a primary goal of the technologies’ deployments. However, RPA also can be geared towards revenue generating or revenue recouping activities, such as upselling products and services, or uncovering accounting errors.
  • RPA “agents” can perform attended or unattended work; working in the background or providing guided assistance to agents as a pop up desktop application. RPA “agents” can be scheduled as needed, like their human counterparts, but they too must be tightly managed.
  • RPA has low IT footprints. It is easier to deploy than many enterprise applications. RPA solutions work with the presentation layers, as opposed to having to integrate with each and every application. RPA changes and management stay within the RPA-using business units.
  • RPA enhances compliance and security, including fraud prevention. These “agents” consistently perform tasks in accordance with the regulations. RPA can reduce social engineering, match against watch lists, detect potential fraud, notify customers of potential fraud attempts, and then take further actions based on the customers’ responses.  RPA can access data that is restricted to live personnel, bypassing security hurdles to complete processes.

The Frost & Sullivan report recommends that customer contact organizations should have cross organizational automation plans before deciding on whether to implement RPA applications. The plans would enable management to see where automation should or should not be used.  The plans would also ascertain which applications are successfully performing automation where RPA would be redundant, and where it might make sense to use different vendor solutions simultaneously.

Robotic process automation, says the report, “can impact processes and people’s roles with an organization”. And that RPA applications “need to adhere to the same governance controls as live agents, with version control, connectivity monitoring, and testing.”

As an emerging solution for use in contact centers, RPA is well worth checking out for the powerful CX, cost, productivity, and compliance benefits it provides.

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