Robots at your service: transforming the contact center

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The customer contact center has benefited greatly from digital technology in recent years, evolving from a voice-only cost center into a multi-channel contact environment that focuses on increasing customer lifetime value and delivering an enhanced customer experience. Now, robotic process automation (RPA) technology is helping staff spend more quality time with customers.

How are contact centers evolving?

Technologies like RPA are helping make contact centers smarter. In today’s age of data-driven personalization, customers expect companies to know all about them – their names, demographic information, purchasing history and more. According to the recent Forrester report, Top Trends for Customer Service in 2017, prescriptive advice and decision making can help contact centers serve customers more efficiently and answer their queries more accurately.

What role can RPA play?

RPA helps contact centers in the specific area of manual processes, something that still plays a major role in the day-to-day operations of a contact center. By automating repetitive processes – such as change of address processing, order updates, shipping notifications and more – RPA can deliver efficient, cost-saving solutions to customer service and also positively impact the customer experience.

By automating repetitive processes – such as change of address processing, order updates and shipping notifications – robotic process automation can reduce costs and positively impact the customer experience.

automating repetitive processes

 

To take an example further and embed it in the real world, basic customer engagement is an ongoing process but one where problems regularly occur. A contact center agent can stay on the line with a customer, discussing a query and seeking a resolution, but also needs to enter and re-enter the same data on the customer’s account repeatedly. Oftentimes this type of repetition can negatively impact the customer experience and leave the human agent open to making mistakes.

Here, RPA can enable the agent to enter all the data into all the necessary fields and across all associated systems with just one single entry. This removes the potential for customers to become frustrated at being repeatedly asked for the same information and enhances the ongoing customer experience.

Cost benefits of RPA to contact centers

One of the areas where contact centers are always seeking to employ digital technology is in reducing their overhead. In recent years, there has been the trend for homesourcing, where customer service agents are empowered to work from their homes, saving the company money on offices, utilities and facilities and enabling employees to balance work with childcare or other responsibilities. RPA can enable companies to make savings in both operational and infrastructure costs and increase employee satisfaction by eliminating repetitive or mundane processes.

These cost savings through RPA can be far-reaching: employee turnover, for example, is an issue in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector and incurs further costs for contact center companies. Using RPA rather than recruiting new employees means companies can deploy robots in simple roles, replacing human capital. According to KPMG, using RPA to automate certain tasks can reduce operational costs by as much as 75 percent.

Implementing RPA is also relatively straightforward since it is a ready-made automation technology that can plug straight into an organization’s existing architecture. The majority of RPA software doesn’t even need any coding to program it. It typically connects directly with a contact center’s existing workflows and processes, reducing costs still further by lowering the contact center’s reliance on their IT department.

25% of customer service operations will use chatbot technology by 2020

25% of customer service and support operations will use chatbot technology by 2020, up from less than 2% in 2017.

 

Gartner Customer Experience Summit 2017

More to contact center RPA than just cost reductions

While operational cost savings may be a key area of focus for contact centers, and one where they will reap benefits from RPA, there is more to process automation than just that. According to Rishi Chopra, Business Manager for Orange Applications for Business at Orange Business Services, “Robotic Process Automation is moving to the forefront as an innovative solution for automating work processes without eliminating the value of human collaboration. People must train these machines for optimal performance. As the robotic systems learn the necessary tasks, they will work alongside humans as assistants.”

Contact centers can improve service levels by automating workflow processes and enhance the overall customer experience. Automation also helps reduce process cycle times, making human agents more productive in the bargain. Quality of customer service is improved, too, thanks to reduced error rates. With RPA, error rates can achieve zero percent, the Holy Grail for contact centers. Improved audit and compliance analytics is a further bonus.

Automating processes – the future

RPA looks like it's here to stay and will continue to bring its many advantages to the contact center industry. It also looks to be bringing benefits to business in general, with Gartner saying that the drive of RPA could see "3 million of us supervised by robo-bosses by 2018" and that “96 percent of clients are getting real value from RPA." Further to that, at the recent Customer Experience Summit, Gartner Managing Vice President Gene Alvarez forecast that by 2020, 25 percent of customer service and support operations will use chatbot technology, up from less than 2 percent in 2017.

Contact centers are also being transformed by the use of AI and chatbots. To find out more, download our ebook: AI: what’s next?