Call Center Robotic Process Automation: Three Principles to Consider
Are you confused by all the hype around Robotic Process Automation? Do you have nightmares of Alexa taking over your workplace and having to slowly shut her down like Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey? According to Harvard Business Review, “A recent survey indicates that about half of the S&P 500 will be replaced over the next 10 years, a generational change that we call ‘disruptive change’ ” 1. Businesses are scrambling to re-invent themselves or face the threat of ‘uberization’ of their respective industries.
So what exactly is Robotic Process Automation, or RPA, for short? Simply put, RPA is the use of software with intelligence to handle high volume and repeatable tasks that previously required a human to do. Because of the programmable nature of RPA these actions are consistent and reliable which also makes it an ideal solution for performing critical business functions. While RPA is typically thought of as strictly machine-to-machine functions, it can also be employed in a hybrid-model where automation is launched by user interaction and serves the purpose of alleviating the tedious duties from an employee.
There are many different call center functions that would benefit by adopting RPA, for example:
Proactive customer interaction – sending automated emails when a case is opened, order is processed, or for an appointment reminder
Data exchange – automating data integration between disparate systems, for example between an order processing system and the corresponding fulfillment system
Accurate reporting – automatically log details about an interaction and systematically classify each case providing precise and consistent metadata for reporting
These are just a few examples where you might see RPA in a call center, and the opportunities are only limited by the scope of the business case and the breadth of data available. As your call center seeks out a way to adopt technologies that will enable you to transform your business like Robotic Process Automation, consider three guiding principles to align your endeavors for success.
3 Guiding Principles of Robotic Process Automation
Data Integration Automation of almost any task requires data. All too often that data is trapped in silos of disparate systems of record. Ripping and replacing systems of record is not only a daunting task, but often cost and time prohibitive. Any Robotic Process Automation should be able to connect those systems and pull the relevant data into the workflow that you desire to automate quickly and easily. Keep in mind that once the said process has completed its task, the result needs to also be pushed back to those very same silos to update those systems of record. So needless to say, first connecting the data that will be used in any automation is a foundational requirement.
Once the data is accessible and consolidated, the focus shifts to automating the actual task at hand. While targeting high volume manual repetitive tasks prone to error is a sweet spot for RPA, most robust processes require some degree of logic. Not always can automation substitute human reasoning, but many tasks can be completed if basic logic can be a part of the equation. For example, if you are an agent in a healthcare hospital systems and you receive a call from a patient about a question on an insurance claim they received, you not only need to access multiple applications to look up the patient account to verify that they are registered as a patient and validate their insurance coverage/carrier, the hospital ticketing system to see their account history to determine if this is an on-going or new issue, but also perhaps the billing system to see if they have any balances due. If the patient is not current on billing, the logic and business rules may determine that patient be routed to the billing department first to reconcile any outstanding billing issues. Therein lies some basic business logic that would also need to be automated to receive the call, identify the patient by their phone number, look up patient information from 3 systems (patient registration records/ticketing/billing), apply if-then-else logic and route the customer to the appropriate representative. So it’s not a matter of simply screen scraping data from one interface into another, but truly connecting the back end data and applying business rules or logic that drive Intelligent Robotic Process Automation. With intelligent calculations and logic, businesses are able to increase efficiency and re-allocate their precious resources to more value rich tasks.
As with any transformative technology, the logical approach is to select a project where short term gains can be quickly realized, test out the ability to solve the business problem and deliver on the ROI. This same route should provide a clear path way to extend the initial project across other areas in the enterprise to drive exponential value. So your RPA approach needs to be both modular for easy maintainability (i.e. update one Return Authorization Approval (RMA) node that is used by dozens of unique processes) and powerful enough to apply more complex algorithms and logic that integrates more and more data.
Aligning for Success
While market pressures are forcing companies to transform their businesses, EPIC Connections sees that Robotic Process Automation can help pave that path by freeing up the brainpower of the enterprise by relegating manual, repetitive tasks to a virtual workforce. Applying some simple business rules and logic to connected data easily allows the enterprise to take a crawl, walk, run approach to the looming Gartner prediction that the Robotic Automation market will grow at a compounded rate of 41% over the next 5 years2.