RPA and Chatbots – The Future of Customer Self-Service

As the volume and intensity of more sophisticated customer demands grow, global enterprises are acknowledging the need to digitze and expand their customer service and operational capabilities. This is further exacerbated by a Gartner prediction that by 2020, 85 percent of customer interactions will be managed without humans. Organizations that wish to be a part of the customer self-service revolution, enabled by chatbot and robotic process automation (RPA) integrations, need to kick-start their cognitive process automation journeys sooner rather than later.

The era of immediacy is upon us, and the market's demand for instant responsiveness is ever expanding. This is confirmed by eMarketer's prediction that the number of chat app users worldwide will reach 2 billion and represent 80 percent of smartphone users this year.

Although chatbots will soon be on the front lines of customer service, solving many of the scalability and customer service-related challenges facing enterprises today, chatbots do have their limitations and are dependent on the capabilities of RPA to provide an intelligent, end-to-end customer experience.

The friendly and efficient voice or text interface with which the customer interacts will be supported by RPA robots with built-in, real-time behavior, enabling the chatbot to support more complex customer requests in real time. RPA bots can integrate and connect into multiple back-end applications to retrieve customer data and channel it to the chatbot. The chatbot in turn triggers the RPA robots to execute specific tasks.

Here is an example of how the combination of chatbot and RPA technology can enable a seamless and highly personalized customer experience:

A customer sends a request via instant chat to the chatbot asking to send his insured mobile phone in for repairs. The chatbot responds, requesting the customer's insurance number. After the customer keys in the insurance number, the chatbot sends this info to the RPA bot, instructing it to execute the necessary actions. The RPA robot performs the following tasks in real-time:

  • Extracts the client information and matches it to the insurance details;
  • Allocates the closest service center to the customers residence;
  • Generates a shipping slip barcode;
  • Generates and sends a confirmation email to the customer with all the relevant information; and
  • Delivers the relevant information to the chatbot to conclude the interaction.

The chatbot concludes the customer interaction by informing the customer that an email will be sent to him with a shipping slip to be used at a mobile repair service center closest to his home.

As this example shows, the combination of chatbots and RPA offers a compelling solution to many pain points organizations experience today. It enables enterprises to accelerate automation and digitization and to address more sophisticated customer service demands and expectations. This formidable combination is set to enable businesses to create self-service channels that closely resemble human intelligence. But, rather than replacing humans, this technology will support the workforce, taking away tedious paperwork and empowering employees to focus on more complex and high-value tasks that require a more consultative approach and human touch.

In addition, RPA tools can leverage machine learning engines and big data to predict customer needs, enabling the chatbot to communicate with customers more proactively. By analyzing, interpreting, and understanding large volumes of customer requests, the solution could for example, up-sell a tailored life insurance policy to the home loan applicant, while RPA robots auto-fill the application form to save the customer time.

As the technologies mature, it will become easier and more cost-effective to create conversational interfaces for customers to interact with chatbots in a more natural way. Customers will be able to enjoy convenient service using natural language as an interface. Customer demands will no doubt continue to grow in sophistication and complexity. And organizations that have invested in RPA tools to support efficient and meaningful customer self-service will flourish and thrive in the automation economy and next technological revolution in AI.

Oded Karev is vice president and head of advanced process automation at NICE.