In a world where isolation is critical to staying safe, the need for human connection and empathy has never been greater, and customers are no exception. Yet many customer-facing company representatives find themselves busy with tedious and time-consuming tasks, which distract them from their prime focus of engaging customers and delivering delight. To address this challenge, Robotic Processes Automation or RPA has been gaining popularity. This technology, which takes care of simple, mundane, repetitive tasks, frees up human potential for high value jobs and far more meaningful interactions with customers.
With increasing globalization and high expectations from customers, front offices and contact centres of frontrunning corporations are under tremendous pressure. To delve into what automation can do to transform the front office, for customer facing teams of organizations, Automation Anywhere and CNBC TV18 hosted a webinar on Improving Customer Experience Using Automation, under the banner ‘Future-ready India’.
Moderated by Mridu Bhandari, Editor – Special Projects, Network18, the eminent panel of experts comprised, Nirav Sampat, CTO, Accenture Operations; Suhrid Brahma, CTO, WNS Global; Girish Pai, Head - Intelligent Process Automation, Cognizant; Sanjeev Sinha, Global CIO and Chief Digital Officer, Startek; Praveen Gulabrani, Global Head of Enterprise Transformation, WIPRO and Milan Sheth, EVP IMEA Region, Automation Anywhere.
The discussion started out with all the participants sharing their experience of what makes RPA relevant for the firms they represent. Nirav Sampat began by describing relevant trends he has witnessed, particularly in the last year and a half, that have heightened the need for automation of the front-office. “The pandemic necessitated the use of digital channels and leading organisations have adapted rapidly to changing circumstances. Companies that have been successful in this milieu have created new digital channels and essentially continued to connect with customers and deploy technologies, such as automation, AI and analytics. This has enabled them to successfully provide the right personalised experience that customers need.” He went on to explain how automation played a great role in citizen services, through cloud-based contact centres and digital virtual agents, which delivered a much-needed force multiplier effect, enabling engagement with thousands of citizens in a short span of time.
Girish Pai elaborated on the transition to digitization and automation. “Even before the pandemic, the need to embrace new ways of working and transformation of the business models had begun. It is here to stay and will continue to evolve as we move forward. As customer experiences are changing, conscious enterprises are exploring ways to use new age technology to arrive at differentiated experiences,” he said. He also talked about the role of other enterprise-client touchpoints, such as the web, mobiles, social media, instant messaging, etc. “Being big proponents of digital first, from a customer care angle, we had anchored all aspects of transformation for customers across the globe, on three aspects – people, processes and technology. From a people perspective, mundane tasks have been replaced with RPA to free them up for better customer connect. At the process level, infusing optimisation in the way systems reflect the market dynamics as enterprises have evolved becomes critical. Finally, technology in the form of AI, ML, data analysis can result in better strategy, decision making, future training and contextualisation,” he said.
Suhrid Brahma outlined three fundamental principles that were used by his organisation when discussing automation with clients – how fast can benefits be derived from a project; the relevance of RPA in an era where businesses run 24x7 across the globe and it becomes difficult to ensure human intervention at all times and finally, the convergence of front office and back office, brought together by RPA to speed up processes while catering to clients with different profiles and preferences. “I view RPA as breaking things down into Lego blocks, which can come together to solve customer concerns faster and more effortlessly,” he suggested.
Sanjeev Sinha first laid out the parameters that are relevant for a good customer experience – speed, accuracy, empathy and etiquette. “A lot of the tasks of a front office executive – gathering customer data, updating information, registration, security checks – once automated, can enhance speed of response to queries, efficacy and empathy,” he explained. “Automating these tasks also eliminates monotony from the customer service executive’s work, which improves the overall effectiveness of the conversation. All this leads to a much more satisfied customer base.”
Praveen Gulabrani pointed out that there are three stakeholders in the value chain – the agent or customer executive, the end user and the business - which enables measurement of effectiveness at contact centres. He elaborated, “With automation, the agent has access to plenty of information and analysis and is able to close a case in a single call sometimes. From the end user perspective, the experience becomes more productive as intelligent historical data is already available. Most importantly, the business transforms from being product-centric to customer-centric in its applications and approach.” He also observed that social media is influencing customer decisions so every ‘like’ and ‘dislike’ and sentiment is now getting incorporated into the intelligent data matrix of companies. According to him, some measures of benefit to the consumer include csat scores, reduced call times, effort reduction, reduction in cycle time and eventually, improvement in profitability, due to improvement in cross-sell and up-sell opportunities. Even empathy as a parameter can be tracked from customer feedback.
Milan Sheth concluded that while customers always expect greater speed and efficiency, there has been a behavioural shift within organisations. As a result, processes which always had a physical element are getting revisited, post-pandemic. “Technology is transforming interactions within departments, with distributors, supply chains and end-customers. There is also better closure as automation enables people to pick up threads from various customer communication mediums, be it voice-calls or messages or emails, and tie them all together coherently,” he said. He also observed that digitally native companies have moved in a bigger way during the pandemic to scale significantly, using bots on cloud and automation technology.
Automation Anywhere, a global leader in Robotic Process Automation, was recently named as Leader in Everest Group’s Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) Products PEAK Matrix® Assessment 2021. It has also been recognized for IQ Bot, for a second consecutive year. The world’s only cloud-native IDP solution uses the power of RPA and artificial intelligence (AI) to advance worker productivity by automatically extracting data from documents and email. IQ Bot is available through Automation 360TM, the company’s unified, cloud-native, AI-powered enterprise automation platform.
The conversation moved to discussing various other related issues including, opportunities in end-to-end automation, the benefits of an intelligent digital workforce to support human front office, the interaction between humans and bots and how the latter can be harnessed for best results and stronger customer bonds, the challenges in up-skilling human workforces as far as digital workflows and transformed processes are concerned, the connection between front offices and back offices by automation, breaking data silos, driving better analytics and decoding present and future customer behavior and preferences, the role of automation in hyper-personalization, the challenges of integrating RPA with legacy technology and applications, the overall impact of automation on productivity and profitability of an organization, etc.
Being an interactive session, the final section of the webinar addressed questions from the virtual audience regarding the efficacy of chat-bot interaction as reflected by csat scores, ensuring data security while using bots and the risk of a tradeoff between security and customer experience, business areas beyond customer care where automation ensures major cost reductions, amongst others.
Today, RPA capabilities are being built up by Indian automation service providers, which can serve the world. The event concluded with all the participants sharing their views on what could make India the front office of the world, as opposed to the back office that it has developed a reputation for being.
This is a partnered post.
First Published: IST