Make customer service agents more useful with RPA

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Customer service organizations turn to robotic process automation (RPA) to provide tactical and short-term fixes to digitize common, reproducible agent tasks. There are two forms of RPA:

  • Attended mode RPA. These bots target the front office. They are invoked by agents in the flow of their work. In the case of an exception, the bot hands the work back to the agent to resolve.
  • Unattended mode RPA. These bots autonomously execute scheduled back-office tasks that are picked from a work queue, like claims processing or generating invoices.

Customer service operations use both types of RPA. A task can start with an agent and be supported by attended automation, which can kick off unattended RPA to complete the process.

The contact center is a great workspace for RPA, as the applications that agents use are precisely controlled. As you broaden the scope of work that RPA handles, agent work shifts. Agents become more focused on the value-added work, as well as escalations and exceptions. You should plan for the following workforce changes in the next five years:

  • RPA won’t necessarily reduce headcount. It will just make your agents more effective. Today, consumers contact customer service at an increased rate over a greater number of channels than in the past. RPA will allow you to keep up with ballooning interaction volumes by automating basic task work for every agent.
  • RPA will focus agents on tasks that impact customer relationships. Companies release new products and services, with more complex features at a higher rate than ever before. Frontline agents take the brunt of the burden of change. RPA allows them to offload repetitive tasks so they can focus on upleveling their skills and nurturing customer relationships. Empathy burnout is a top concern, and contact center managers must plan for longer breaks and more varied work for their agents.
  • RPA will make workplaces more attractive for new superagents. Agents supported via RPA can be trained more quickly, turning them into highly effective, highly knowledgeable superagents. One side benefit is that over time automation reduces the speed at which companies hire for growth.
  • RPA will make you adjust your staffing. Reducing the handle time of interactions will affect workforce planners’ ability to forecast and schedule agents. And this will continue as automation improves and queries become more complex and take longer to resolve. However, Forrester finds that only 13 percent of organizations report that their workforce optimization practices have been impacted by RPA, and this is sure to grow as more customer service organizations adopt RPA more broadly.

Don’t overestimate the impact of RPA. RPA bots have the most value in automating tasks within processes for customer service. They are not the solution for redesigning and automating complete end-to-end business processes that are at the heart of a real transformation, yet, when used appropriately, RPA has a solid place in delivering tangible outcomes to contact centers.

This post was written by Vice President, Principal Analyst Kate Leggett, and it originally appeared here.

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