Robotic Process Automation Reduces Human Grunt Work

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While “Botmania” rages on, with chatbots, messaging apps, intelligent virtual assistants, and others getting impressive press coverage, when it comes to customer care, there is another digital workforce poised to have a huge impact. Robotic process automation (RPA) is a category of software that employs technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to automate routine, high-volume tasks that are sensitive to human error. RPA software can mimic humans in the handling of countless types of processes, including inputting or manipulating data, triggering other functions, or communicating with other systems. These tireless virtual agents can accomplish multiple tasks, quickly and accurately, freeing up their human counterparts for more complex, high-value, and sensitive tasks that require human attributes such as emotional intelligence, reasoning, or judgment.

RPA is not new. In fact, it has been around for more than two decades and has been deployed across many business areas with varying levels of complexity. For instance, it can be of a generalized nature, propagating data into desktop applications or documents, or consist of highly customized applications geared to a specific vertical market or a specific department, such as accounting or finance. RPA can be customized to a specific company or be enterprise-grade software that is scalable and reusable. RPA doesn’t replace existing business process management systems, case management systems, or contact center/back-office applications. Rather it augments and complements these solutions, without the requirement for complex application programming interfaces or coding, allowing for quick deployment.

RPA provides a plethora of business benefits. Among the simplest are quick deployment and low reliance on IT. RPA applications are easier to deploy than many enterprise applications, as they work with the presentation layer that a live agent or back-office worker would see rather than having to integrate with each application. They can employ other applications without complex integration, allowing easy, affordable task management; cost-effectively scale up or down without requiring the business to hire additional resources; reduce or eliminate repetitive, time-consuming tasks; and help businesses maintain compliance with rules and regulations. RPA also can bypass security bottlenecks, as virtual agents can access data that is fenced off from live personnel, thus clearing a security hurdle to complete a process.

Even more benefits can be attained when RPA is integrated with advanced technologies within the AI, ML, and speech technology realms. For instance, the use of advanced AI and ML allows the robots to learn and change as new data becomes available, improving their capabilities over time. And when combined with voice authentication and speech analytics, RPA can reduce social engineering attacks, match against watch lists, detect potential fraud, notify customers of a fraud attempt and then take further action based on the customer response, or guide human agents in responding to customers.

An RPA workforce can streamline workflow, working unattended and fully automating routine processes and reducing errors in the back office. Such efficiency has the added benefit of reducing unnecessary interactions with the contact center. When used directly in a customer care environment, some solutions allow for the integration of RPA with desktop applications. Here RPA can automate or assist with agent tasks, working in the background or alongside agents providing guided assistance to agents as a pop-up desktop application. This sort of “attended” automation can assist with desktop activities, guide agents through complex processes, or even show them sales or compliance scripts so they can provide a more professional and coherent service.

The benefits of RPA have not gone unnoticed in the contact center vendor community. Aspect Software, Cicero, NICE, and Verint Systems, among others, have RPA solutions integrated with their broader analytics portfolios, such as fraud detection and prevention solutions, or as part of desktop automation packages. Other RPA providers of note, focused in and out of the contact center, include Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism, dinCloud, Epiance, Jacada, Kofax Kapow, Kryon Systems, Pegasystems Redwood Software, SpiceCSM, UIPath, and WorkFusion.

Nancy Jamison is a principal analyst in customer contact at Frost & Sullivan. She can be reached at nancy.jamison@frost.com; follow her on Twitter @NancyJami.

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