Robotic process automation – a new frontier in customer service?

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Customer service has always been a key business differentiator. However, recent technological progress, greater consumer choice and eroding loyalty means the empowered customer will no longer stand for sub-standard experiences. As a result, the past few years have seen a renewed focus on the consumer.

This is being reflected in internal business structures across sectors. Where once the customer would be the sole responsibility of the marketing department, they have now become a company-wide responsibility. From the c-suite to IT, brands are placing the customer at the heart of every department and designing their processes and structure with customer fulfilment at the center of their thinking.

Digital Transformation

The digital revolution has driven further advances in customer experience, allowing consumers to interact with their favorite brands whenever and however they want. Digital tools such as webchat, apps and social media are the norm – and in the race to provide the best customer service, forward-thinking brands are now experimenting with the latest technology to create novel, value-added solutions for their clients.

This is in part driven by journey mapping. At Firstsource, we use Interaction Analytics (FCI) to map the customer experience across all touchpoints, highlighting the ‘make or break’ moments – the reasons why customers exit any given process – in the overall journey. From there, we work with brands to address their pain points and improve their policies to make them more customer-friendly.

Our experience tells us that customer experience is all about convenience, so it’s important businesses stay on top of what convenience looks like. This depends on integrating new channels to help businesses interact on customers’ own terms, which is why we’re currently looking at how we can use popular messaging platforms such as WhatsApp to deliver tailored communications in real-time, for example.

While traditional contact channels such as voice and email will always be important, new technologies helps connect brands with digitally-savvy customers. As an added bonus, businesses also get kudos for being an innovative and customer-focused brand.

The automation opportunity

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is one of the newest frontiers in customer service. At its core, RPA is the application of computer software or “robot” to process transactions, manipulate data or trigger responses, depending on the scope of the request. This technology has the potential to unlock value across a wide range of different industries and business functions. In particular, regulated industries with high volume and transactional business processes stand to gain significant benefits from the application of RPA.

Done well, it can deliver more cost-efficient, streamlined and compliant processes. At the same time, automation allows employees to focus on higher-value activity that will drive customer experience. It’s a win-win for businesses who get it right.

However, while the appetite for Robo-advice among consumers is growing, it’s clear that automation requires careful due diligence to understand the opportunities, risks and requirements for delivery.

And consumers understandably still have their doubts when it comes to automated advice. A recent study conducted by Firstsource showed that 44 per cent of consumers see the availability of a bank branch as their number one deciding factor when choosing their banking provider – telling a cautionary tale for businesses undergoing digital transformation.

RPA Transformation

Needless to say, integrating RPA is a significant undertaking. While the specifics will depend on the business, the sector they operate in, and the extent to which they are aiming to automate their processes, there are three critical ingredients for a successful RPA transformation.

The first – and perhaps most important – is that RPA must be a strategic fit for the company. RPA needs to be understood not as a process but as a strategic capability that increases business value. This re-engineering will be key to increasing the impact of automation and maximising ROI, and must be given due diligence – so it’s vital businesses understand which processes will deliver the biggest business benefit when automated, and construct a careful roadmap accordingly.

Next, there also needs to be buy-in for transformation and automation from the C-suite for RPA to be a success. Cultural adoption may often require education and careful articulation of the business benefits of the solution, and lack of internal support at a senior level can be one of the major stumbling blocks to RPA implementation.

Unsurprisingly, successful automation also relies on IT engagement. Legacy IT systems and resistance from existing IT departments can often be a barrier to transformation and automation. Bringing the IT function on board at the beginning of the automation journey will help to set a clear roadmap for transformation and identify any potential roadblocks that lie ahead.

RPA in Practice

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