Due to skyrocketed rivalry among businesses and a race for digital supremacy, transforming the business processes needs to be considered more than ever. This is where Robotic Process Automation (RPA) comes into the frame, and industry data validates the significance of RPA. 

The global robotic process automation market capital peaked at around USD 1.57 billion in 2020 and has reached USD 1.89 billion by the end of 2021. It is expected to touch $11 billion by 2027, with a growth rate of 34% from 2020 to 2027.

RPA technology is a game-changer for businesses due to its capability to eliminate or minimize the need for human effort in rules-based iterative tasks and achieve high levels of RoI. Normally, employees invest 10%-25% of their time on iterative computer tasks that reduce workers’ productivity. However, a usual rules-based task can be 70%-80% streamlined by Robotic Process Automation (RPA) so that employees can spare time and effort to focus on core businesses processes.

What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?

With RPA, software “robots” deal with systems and data sources to streamline rules-based, iterative digital tasks. These robots are capable of performing functions 4-5 times faster than their human counterparts. These software robots perform many tasks, from logging into each application, navigating screens to copying & pasting data to assist the agent or completely automating a certain task or duty.

rpa process

Depending on the nature of the task, RPA utilities are installed on back-end servers or individual employee desktops. And depending on the workload, there might be 1 to 100+ digital robots carrying out the same activity. The reason is each robot has a limited capacity like its human counterparts. However, a robot’s overall capacity is much higher than a human’s as robots can work 24/7 while maintaining consistency and efficiency without getting exhausted. Consider an RPA robot as a highly productive staff member who works 24/7 and never gets exhausted or bored while performing the same tasks again and again. Isn’t it sound interesting?

RPA Capabilities

RPA can perform the same digital steps that humans can to accomplish iterative, clearly defined, rules-based operations. Usual RPA capabilities include:

  • Searching
  • Cut and paste operation
  • Inputting data into multiple fields and systems within no time
  • Moving data from one system to another
  • Reentering data
  • Deleting multiple data records 
  • Responding to routine queries, etc

These capabilities allow organizations to streamline any process completely or partially to make RPA ideally fit for back office and contact center use. RPA can be used for staff augmentation, spare human effort from handling iterative processes, and assist employees by providing relevant information whenever required.

How does RPA work?

There are two primary ways in which RPA can be set up, and the choice depends on the nature of the tasks that need to be streamlined and the characteristics of the systems the robots are going to interact with.

Front-end RPA integrations link directly with desktop apps, but it can be done in various ways. For instance, the automation can use the UI of other apps to accomplish its tasks. This could mean the robots access the same screens and carry out the same steps as human workers.

RPA can also integrate directly with databases and web APIs in the back-end as Back-end RPA. This is usually done when processes are completely streamlined and no human assistance is required.

Let’s see what the difference is between human supervised and unsupervised RPA.

Supervised vs. Unsupervised RPA

Back-end RPA integrations, which enable complete automation, allow operations to be performed unsupervised. The robots continuously perform tasks without any need for human supervision or assistance. This unattended automation, which completely spares employees from doing iterative tasks, is also called robotic automation.

On the contrary, supervised automation, also known as desktop automation, works parallel with human counterparts, sometimes requiring their assistance when the robots encounter unusual situations. The robots notify employees if they need human input and then continue once a response is received. Supervised automation robots can also provide workers with perspective-based assistance and suggest the appropriate next steps. This capability is fruitful for contact center agents.

Supervised and Unsupervised automation aren’t mutually exclusive. Organizations don’t need to deploy one or the other. They can streamline some tasks using supervised and unsupervised automation to adapt the best combination of accurate, streamlined processes.

Role of AI in RPA

Not all RPA implementations leverage artificial intelligence. Some tasks are so straightforward that they don’t require AI capabilities. But for more complex tasks, AI can be the right tool to make automation possible. Here are some of the forms of artificial intelligence that can enhance RPA capabilities:

Machine learning

Robots that use machine learning become smarter over time based on more data consumption and human feedback. For example, suppose a robot alerts an employee about a slight customer name discrepancy. The employee overrides the alert because the SSN on the incoming paperwork matches the SSN on the customer record. In that case, the robot will eventually learn to check the SSN for future name discrepancies. When robots get smarter, less human intervention is needed.

Natural Language Processing (NLP)

Natural language processing is sometimes called speech recognition, but its capabilities beyond just recognizing words; can also identify intent. This means, for example, robots can interpret phone conversations and act accordingly.

Also Read: How AI is Disrupting the Future of eCommerce Industry

Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

Robots with OCR capabilities can read unstructured text sources such as emails, letters, and scanned documents to identify pertinent data. This allows these robots to, for example, review a scanned driver’s license, recognize the different pieces of information, and input the data into the right system fields.

“Cognitive” RPA that leverages AI can further elevate automation results.

RPA in the Contact Center

Contact centers are typically replete with repetitive, rules-based tasks that are good candidates for complete or partial automation. Additionally, new and seasoned agents can always use an extra helping hand to resolve issues and perform post-interaction administrative tasks. This is why many organizations are adding RPA to their contact center software tool kits.

The use of RPA for customer service generally falls into two broad categories.

Self-service

RPA can be integrated with IVR systems and chatbots to provide complete, unattended automation of self-service tasks. For example, if a customer uses a chatbot to set up a new insurance policy, the bot can interact with the customer to collect the necessary information. An RPA robot can work with the systems behind the scenes to set everything up. This is an example of advanced call center technologies working together to transform a process and provide satisfying self-service experiences.

Agent assistance

With RPA helping customers solve more of their own, simpler issues, agents will find themselves handling a more complex mix of interactions. RPA can help agents solve these tougher problems by listening to their conversations with customers and retrieving relevant knowledge base articles. Additionally, robots can suggest the next steps during the interaction. And following the conversation, robots can help perform post-contact activities like documenting calls and entering data into back-office systems. This frees up agent time and focus so they can concentrate on higher-value interactions and delivering satisfying CX.

Benefits of RPA

When designed well and used for the right tasks, RPA can deliver many benefits, including the following:

  • Increasing throughput. RPA robots can be used to augment agent capacity. They work 4-5 times faster than humans and can process transactions 24/7, enabling organizations to turbocharge their throughput. With so many contact centers struggling to find qualified agent candidates, RPA can also be the tool to address labor shortages.
  • Ensuring compliance. RPA robots never fat finger data entry or forget to perform process steps, increasing data accuracy and decreasing the likelihood of costly compliance violations.
  • Reducing costs. Not only can RPA increase throughput and augment staff, but it does it cost-effectively. When you consider an RPA robot works around the clock at five times the speed of humans, one robot is as productive as fifteen workers.
  • Increasing employee engagement. Not many people look forward to a day filled with repetitive, mundane tasks. Automating simple processes means agents can spend more time focusing on complex and engaging problem-solving.
  • Easily scalable. When your organization grows, RPA is flexible enough to grow with you easily. And you don’t need to hire, train, and find space for the additional robots.

Real-world RPA Cases/Usage

Real-world case studies can help illustrate how transformative robotic process automation can be. Here are examples of how three companies have effectively used RPA to streamline processes and meet their business objectives.

Banking

A major, Italian-based financial services group had established a contact center to provide business process outsourcing (BPO) services to other companies in the industry. Their 500 agents handled 650,000 calls per month, but the operation faced some challenges meeting its fraud alert SLAs. Plus, agents spent a lot of time on post-call activities, such as data entry and call documentation.

To address these challenges, the organization implemented RPA. Now, robots guide agents during fraud investigations, resulting in higher accuracy and lower handle times. Additionally, robots have also reduced agent administrative burden by taking on tasks like documenting the interaction and filing claims requests. This has reduced wrap time by 82% and enabled the organization to meet process SLAs 100% of the time. And employee satisfaction has increased substantially.

Telecommunications

The telecommunications industry is highly competitive and characterized by stagnating revenue, making streamlined, cost-efficient processes a must. One major telecommunications company was struggling with inefficient, manual contact center processes causing errors and delays. In addition, costs were rapidly increasing.

The organization implemented 100 robots to automate 23 back-office processes to increase accuracy, reduce delays, and decrease costs. The effort included the automation of the process used when customers rent new devices. These customers now have access to highly accurate services 24/7. The RPA reduced processing times in several areas, including an 80% reduction in the time required to rent a device. The highly scalable solution saved the business $3.5 million over 24 months.

Utilities

A leading oil and gas multinational company wanted to improve the accuracy and efficiency of customer address changes. Their 60 contact center agents processed 15,000 address changes a month with high error rates.

The automation solution involved creating a single interface for agents to enter address changes. Then robots create new accounts for the new addresses and conduct meter checks. They also update the CRM system. This effort reduced agent handle times for address changes from eleven minutes to one minute, which increased their capacity to handle more interactions. Additionally, errors were eliminated, which improved CX and did away with costly error clean-up.

Is RPA taking over jobs? 

RPA will inevitably lead to predictable redundancies as bots take over more work from humans.

For all/most employees, once most of their responsibilities are automated, new responsibilities can be assigned. The good thing is that you will know in advance which personnel will be redundant, which gives managers time to identify new roles and train them for the transition. However, this can not be a departmental effort. HR should coordinate the new assignments, and managers across the organization should be motivated to take on employees that have become redundant.

As with any industrial revolution, the post-AI world also makes some formerly valuable skills redundant. Workers who are specialized in automatable tasks will inevitably be let go if they fail to improve themselves. Though hopefully, such cases will remain rare, management must handle those cases as professionally as possible. People need support from their old managers to continue their professional lives in the best way possible.

Conclusion

Robotic Process Automation is one of the fastest-growing enterprise software categories, and there are industry experts who claim that it is hyped up. It is also frequently called dead, only to keep growing; we believe RPA will continue to help companies automate workloads, especially on on-premise systems without good API interfaces.

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