RPA in Customer Service

In today's digital world, robotic process automation (RPA) is experiencing a fast uptake, driven primarily by the abundance of data accumulated by organizations and changes in consumer behavior.

As consumers, we have come to expect immediacy and accuracy for our typical dealings with companies, like seeking an answer to a question, placing or changing an order, or just updating our details. OBut, when faced with more complex issues, we look for empathy and understanding, and it is on these occasions that we tend to seek human assistance. Getting the perfect balance between the two represents a big challenge for companies, while at the same time it offers a significant opportunity to improve not only customer satisfaction but the bottom line as well. And this is where automation can help.

Managing big data (and make no mistake, it's only going to get bigger) is one of the areas where RPA experiences some of the highest adoption rates. Every day organizations accumulate vast amounts of customer data. Customers are aware of this and have come to expect an enhanced experience in return for providing copious amounts of personal information for companies to use. As such, when forced to repeat their details numerous times when calling in, getting an email with their name misspelled, or receiving an out-of-place offer, dissatisfaction is quick to set in.

Robotic Process Automation helps eliminate redundant customer (and employee) effort by capturing, analyzing, cross-referencing, and sharing information across platforms and channels without being intrusive. Using software robots to replicate the actions of humans, RPA delivers on its promise to help automate back-end processes to elevate customer service. Examples can be opening a customer information tab on the agent's desktop as soon as the call comes in, sending a personalised email based on a predetermined set of criteria, or even running regular health-checks to ensure that all systems and services are up and running.

Going the extra mile

By bringing software robots into the picture, companies can secure a consistent service level where mainstream interactions are dealt with efficiently, around the clock, and with no error.

But this will only give customers what they expect, a rather neutral state that ensures they are not dissatisfied but does not guarantee their future loyalty. Why? Because if a company does not give its customers a better overall experience, someone else will! It is here that the human element will play a decisive role. It is the human touch that will create those "wow" moments and enhance customer loyalty.

Unique customer experiences are built on creativity and initiative. There are numerous examples of customer service employees going the extra mile and thinking out of the box to pleasantly surprise the customer. RPA helps employees respond in a timely and expert manner to customer enquiries, but also to start creating proactive, relevant communications that will strengthen those valuable relationships.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, by 2020 the demand for an omnichannel customer experience will be amplified by the need for near-perfect execution. And indeed, the importance of perfect execution is becoming a mission in itself as more emphasis is placed on customer experience which, according to a study by Walker, will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator in the next few years. To strengthen their positions, many companies have already embarked on digital transformation journeys aiming to provide consistent, perfect experiences for their customers regardless of the channel they choose to communicate.

RPA is a key facilitator for digital transformation by allowing organizations to reshape the way they operate and their level of responsiveness at nearly all touch points along the value chain. From executing large amounts of back-office activities quickly and accurately, to analysing big data and communicating with different systems and platforms without the need to restructure or reengineer them, RPA provides the means for companies to realize digital transformation.

Planning for success

As a transformational tool, RPA should not be implemented in isolation. If you are thinking of implementing such a tool, you will need to follow the following key steps:

  • Map your current customers' journeys and the workflows around them.
  • Understand which workflows and processes could and should be simplified, and how such a simplification would feed back to the customer journey and the operational organization.
  • Discuss and address any concerns customer service employees might have.
  • Remember that it's not only customer service that will be affected. Other departments, like IT, finance, operations, and marketing will have a role to play and should be on board from the outset.
  • Plan for further improvements based on the efficiencies gained.

In the end, optimizing customer service with the use of robots presents a great deal of opportunity to help upskill employees and improve both the employee and customer experience.

Garry White is business development manager at Business Systems (UK).