Three Best Practices to Get the Full Potential from Your RPA Project

We know that customer service agents use multiple—and sometimes dozens of—disconnected applications to service customers. This means that managers struggle to enforce repeatable processes, increase agent productivity, and quell turnover.

Forrester Research has found that almost half of customer service organizations turn to robotic process automation (RPA) with other automation technologies to make agents more efficient and effective. RPA offloads repeatable tasks from agents, enforces compliance to process and policy, and allows agents to focus on work that matters, all of which translate to higher quality-of-service measures. Basically, it enables agents to focus on the work that matters.

But without a clear understanding of how to roll out RPA, contact centers often don't see the initial ROI of RPA play out as they scale to larger deployments.

Here are three best practices to follow when deploying RPA.

1. Select the right targets for RPA.

Customer service operations typically use attended-mode RPA, where bots are invoked by agents in the flow of their work to improve their productivity and quality. These automated processes can kick off unattended bots for back-office processing of invoices or claims processing, for example. RPA assumes that the process will stay as is and builds bots that replace low-value human hours. Typical targets include agent swivel-chair work (launching applications, cutting and pasting between applications, simple calculations, and data entry). RPA doesn't aim to improve processes, modernize applications, or fix usability issues.

2. Communicate RPA's Goals to Agents.

The demographics of the contact center workplace are changing. Close to half of operations will be staffed by millennials (ages 25-39) by 2025, and the new generation of workers (Gen Z, ages 19-24) is entering the workforce. These generations are digital-savvy, if not digital natives, and expect agent desktops to help them focus on work that matters. They want to use automation to offload repetitive tasks. Yet the mixed workforce of agents and automation drives human anxiety as agents fear they will lose their jobs to automation. As you roll out RPA, communicate to agents how automation will help improve their experience, increase their confidence, and reduce training times.

3. Create a Career Path for Agents.

Your headcount will change as you adopt RPA. RPA will erode work from generalists or Tier 1 agents who are focused on low-value work. It will also unlock opportunities for higher-skilled agents with high EQ. Adjust your workforce by career-pathing agents to right-size your workforce. Retrain agents so they can work on more complex and emotionally challenging inquiries. Be sure to message these changes down to the individual worker.

Agents supported via RPA can be trained and up-leveled more quickly, turning them into highly effective, highly knowledgeable superagents. One side benefit is that over time automation reduces the speed at which companies hire for growth. RPA allows teams to be more productive. This means managers oversee smaller teams staffed with better skilled, more effective workers. Managers can focus on nurturing their workforces, ultimately reducing churn and making their workplaces more attractive to new hires.

Kate Leggett is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research.