RPA stands for robotic process automation. It represents some of the most cutting-edge technological developments of the modern era with its ability to improve efficiency gains in business operations. RPA uses software bots to automate tasks, eliminating the need for people to perform manual labor and other tasks that involve rote, repetitive processes.
RPA is deployed in many IT settings and is ideally suited for contact centers, which are intensely customer service-focused environments.
The Clear Case for RPA in Contact Centers
RPA bots act in place of human operators, having first gained prominence in the manufacturing industry where low-skilled, labor-intensive tasks were highly prevalent. The introduction of RPA bots was not necessarily to replace human labor, but to displace and reallocate it for more productive endeavors.
In places like contact centers, for instance, they do a lot of the repetitive and boring tasks so that human agents are free to focus on more creative, value-adding tasks.
Typically, RPA bots work via an API, but they can also function and interact at a graphical user interface layer to execute complex workflows.
While RPA accelerates productivity, not all tasks, processes, or environments are ideal for process automation.
RPA is primarily used for the following:
- Tasks with standardized processes and functions that are predominately rule-based.
- Mundane tasks that are labor-intensive and time-consuming.
- Jobs that operate in reliable, data-rich, and data-driven environments.
- Workplaces that process high-volume, monotonous tasks and need consistent handling without experiencing diminishing returns.
- Business processes that use well-defined, standardized data sets that are easy to structure and categorize.
- Tasks that deal with a large volume of digitized data that’s adequately readable.
After selecting the right vendor, deploying robotic process automation requires capturing the steps you want to automate, executing the pilot process with your preferred vendor, and then implementing it.
When a contact center deploys one or many automated bots, it allows the center to scale its operations while delivering high-volume processes swiftly, accurately, and consistently without a downgrade in quality or efficiency. Moreover, RPA bots provide these benefits at significant cost savings compared to human agents who would otherwise be wasted on menial tasks. Ultimately, they allow human capital to focus on tasks requiring intuitive judgment.
For contact center employees specifically, RPA can assist with numerous repetitive tasks that are part of a typical workday. These tasks rarely have an impact on customer satisfaction outcomes, so contact center employees benefit from having more time to focus on activities that are more productive.
Additionally, RPA technology can also streamline certain tasks and fortify data security practices for the company, taking some of that burden off the employees.
At the same time, RPA bots don’t need to take bathroom breaks and can work all day long without experiencing diminishing returns.
Unattended and attended bots
For the most part, contact centers use unattended bots that execute processes behind the scenes. These unattended RPA bots are primarily provisioned to tackle rule-based processes automatically, which allows them to automate back-office services at scale.
Meanwhile, attended RPA bots require human intervention and/or instruction to perform tasks, as they typically do things that depend on the knowledge and expertise of a contact center agent. For instance, an attended bot can act as a virtual assistant that is manually triggered to gather customer information while the agent interacts with a customer.
Furthermore, an assisted RPA bot can even take the information it gathers from an agent’s computer and fill in forms with personalized customer details during a call. This makes RPA bots especially useful for agents who deal with various support chats, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls, and other routine data input processes.
The Top 8 Opportunities for Contact Center RPA
Although contact center employees have oodles and oodles of repetitive tasks that robotic process automation can assist them with or take over altogether, eight of them stand out.
1. Customer verification
The cloud contact center is often the first point of interaction with a client who has an issue with a product or service. In many cases, the contact center needs to authenticate the customer’s identity, especially when the issue involves money or other sensitive information.
However, customer verification is a time-consuming function. Each time a customer calls, a human agent must ask the same questions and verify the relayed information against a database.
Fortunately, RPA bots are sophisticated enough to move beyond mere authentication and can request authorization for more sensitive tasks. For example, they can connect a caller’s phone number with the associated account details and validate some things ahead of time. They can also take information such as the last four digits of a Social Security number before proceeding.
There are other use cases for customer verification beyond managing identities, too.
Businesses that offer at-home services like repairs and installations, for example, can use RPA bots to verify client appointments by seeking confirmation that a customer will be home at the specified time of the service.
Contact centers are flooded each day with various kinds of inquiries from customers. Many are bland and basic, such as post-purchase activities like returning a product or questions about filling out a warranty claim.
Such low-hanging fruit doesn’t require interaction with a human agent. As a result, they are prime targets for RPA bots to provide self-service opportunities that create an enhanced customer experience—for instance, by guiding customers to accomplish a task or resolve an issue quickly and independently.
In addition to being ideal for these kinds of tasks, RPA bots are uniquely positioned to have swift access to back-end processing for the effortless execution of self-service options.
3. Customer interaction
Contact centers are supposed to be accessible to customers so they can inquire and resolve problems. That often comes with a demand for 24/7 availability, which is not always achievable with contact center agents.
Fortunately, RPA helps alleviate this burden by providing the first line of assistance in dealing with numerous customer service requests—and it can often do so faster than human agents. If a human agent is not available, the RPA can provide information that is more satisfying than a generic away message.
Furthermore, when human agents engage directly with a customer, the RPA makes this interaction much more fruitful, supplying them with the necessary background details to tackle a problem. With the customer’s information at their disposal, human agents don’t need to ask callers to repeat personal details or tell a story of a problem they have already told.
Also, when it comes to handling technical issues, RPA bots help human agents avoid the frustration of scrambling for user manuals or referring to notes while addressing customers in real time.
4. Report preparation
Many contact centers need to produce reports for management to monitor the progress and evaluate performance metrics.
While report preparation is a simple task for a human agent, it nevertheless requires a certain degree of decision-making that can distract agents from focusing on their daily workload. The process is also prone to error and takes significant time to carry out. Furthermore, it often compels agents to switch between multiple systems to generate data and run reports.
RPA bots can rely on quick, automatic, and rule-based provisioning to generate, analyze, and disseminate reports (often via email) to respective managers.
5. Remote Agent Monitoring
The emergence of a remote workforce means contact centers must juggle an added layer of challenges that weren’t there before. Managers now have to grapple with a dispersed workforce where they lack traditional oversight.
A prime example is how the unpredictable quality of internet connectivity used by agents outside the office may impact the quality of customer interaction. However, RPA bots can monitor the quality of internet connectivity and keep track of client interactions and other critical productivity factors to provide assistance where additional support is needed.
In this role, the RPA bots are typically called coaches because they work in the background to provide the contact center agent with the necessary tools and on-spot advice to deliver a high-quality customer experience.
6. Integrating systems
Enterprise software applications are creatures of immense complexity. Only a few vendors have the expertise or resources to supply all the critical functionality needed, and no enterprise system is completely siloed. This means integrations with third-party apps are necessary for a unified system.
Although APIs make the task much easier, integrating various systems and workflows into your contact center is non-trivial. Using RPA, contact centers can integrate multiple systems without disrupting the underlying ecosystem.
7. Customer behavior prediction
In addition to monitoring customer behavior in real-time, a good contact center will anticipate customer needs as well. However, predicting behavior requires looking deeper into the proverbial crystal ball.
For starters, RPA analytics works in the background by gathering, scanning, and correlating customer inquiries. This information can be combined with machine learning (MI) and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to predict customer behavior.
From a practical standpoint, businesses can leverage these technologies to create RPA-powered conversational interfaces from the data accumulated during their interactions. Furthermore, the emergence of large language models (LLM) means they can also leverage generative AI to craft fluent responses.
8. Handling recurring and repeat calls
When a caller has to go through various transfers on a single call, it can be very irritating and detrimental to the overall customer experience.
RPA is a good resource to mitigate these occurrences, as it can keep track of particular issues surrounding a customer problem and relay that information to agents automatically. This helps agents understand the context surrounding a customer’s call or issue right away.
If necessary, RPA bots can also provide agents with a comprehensive customer profile at the click of a button so they can get a sense of an individual customer’s previous interactions.
This leads to a more personal and expedited communication process for the customer while also shortening the average call duration for the agent. This means customers are happier and agents aren’t wasting time transferring or answering calls they don’t need to.