India has been quick to get onto the robotics wagon. Every major contact center has a project focused on RPA. The BPO industry was hesitant for a very short time while they mulled the erosion of man-hour based revenue that they generate. However they quickly reconciled to the fact that
- RPA allows them to offer outcome based contracts at lower cost to service. (as against FTE billing or transaction count billing)
- If they don’t do it and enable their clients, the clients themselves will.
So the BPO industry is actively adopting RPA to add value to their customer’s processes while cutting down operational costs.
We spoke with Sunil Aryan, Director Practice and Sales leader for Asia region at Verint about robotics and PRA for Contact Centre Industry in India. Sunil Aryan, comes with close to a decade of experience in the field of customer experience strategies, automation and workforce optimisation. Sunil is keenly interested in demystifying the possibilities of RPA and AI.
AIMAnalytics India Magazine: Robotics/ Robotics Process Automation (RPA) can these terms be used interchangeably? If not what is the difference?
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SASunil Aryan: Robotics is the general term used for synthetic systems, generally mechanical, designed to autonomously complete repetitive task/s. Automation is a broader term which refers to machine based autonomous work functions. It is about rules based automation of processes, which are moderately complex, fundamentally rules-based and don’t require human decision making and judgment. Such processes can be automated partially or, in many cases completely. Traditional approaches to process automation involve tightly coupled integrations developed by expensive resources, with inflexible designs, making it difficult and expensive to automate a large number of processes.
RPA on the other hand refers more specifically to the desktop process automation and is generally associated with computer based processes. So it is a kind of subset of general robotics term. However the industry uses this interchangeably.
RPA is best utilised in business units that require high volume repetitive, rules-based procedures. RPA completely replace the need for manual processing of specific tasks or entire multistep processes within a functional area, automating them while operating around the clock. The general function of such ‘robots’ is to mimic the desktop activities of a person, data manipulation and sometimes even communicating to complete a particular process/transaction, thereby replacing the need for human time and effort. RPA can be as simple as replicating mouse movement & clicks, copy paste etc. to advanced cognitive robotics functions which can cover rules based decision making as part of the process completion activity.
It can be integrated into existing manual process to assist with the on-boarding and upskilling of employees or deployed as a stand-alone solution where manual intervention is not required. Both scenarios can deliver dramatic improvements in productivity, compliance, quality and cost-savings as well as being a significant contributor to customer satisfaction.
AIM: Most times Robotics is spoken with reference to replacing human man power; what is the solution from Verint doing?
SA: This seems to be the general focus area of industry; replace a person with robot and the job is done! However it is difficult if not impossible to replace the human element end-to-end just yet. Simplest scenario for this is that human resources cover the exceptions when the robot fails to execute a function for some reason. Also note that most RPA are not ready to assimilate work like humans do. The work needs to be offered in a very specific manner.
I would opine that a better objective, at least to start with, would be to focus on repetitive low skill requirement function and gradually work your way up to more cognitive functions. This allows the organization to adapt to the work and social change that replacement of human functions brings in. Verint has recognised this very early on and therefore offers 2 distinct flavours of RPA.
- Robotic Process Automation solution addresses the complete robotic automation of a desktop function. This solution comprises software robots that have potential to completely replace the need for manual processing of specific tasks or entire multistep processes within a functional area, automating them and operating around the clock. These functions generally run in virtualized instances on servers
- Process Assistant(VPA) can help employees complete tasks faster and more accurately by providing guidance and automation wizards that overlay applications, showing staff exactly what to do, preventing them from proceeding in some situations, and even performing the work for them in some situations. This solution can help free your organization from complex application integrations, ongoing training for infrequently used processes, and even speed up onboarding for new employees. By very nature of the solution, it runs of the employee desktops and acts as a assistant or co-worker.
AIM: How can Robotics Process Automation(RPA) provide a contact center agent with insights and information to help make customer interactions more seamless and streamlined?
SA: As we discussed earlier, the function of RPA is to automate desktop based processes. If we are cognizant of the operational area and use case, there is no reason why call center agents cannot benefit from these solutions. The functional vision here is to support rather than replace the agent. The Process Assistant is designed exactly for such operations. In the middle of a call the agent can offload some of the repetitive work to suitable robot “assistant” using VPA.
AIM: How would Robotics positively impact Contact Centre parameters like FCR and NPS?
SA: RPA is excellent enabler for both the front office, call centres and the backoffice. Robot assistants enable the agents to focus on helping the customers while the robots execute mundane repetitive tasks. What people also tend to forget is that for most organizations the completion of work actually takes place in the backoffice. By employing RPA, enterprises not only benefit from the lower cost to serve they also ensure that the work is executed with higher quality and lower compliance risks. In a nut shell RPA can act as enabler for organization wide end to end NPS.
AIM: How can Robotics aid in agent training? How can it bring down the man hours spent on training? What is the average training cost for an agent?
SA: For critical tasks that aren’t performed frequently enough for employees to maintain competence, these guidance wizards can help an employee complete a task quickly and accurately. For tasks that involve extensive or repetitive data entry, automation can be added to greatly speed up work item completion, as well as reduce errors. For example, if the same information needs to be entered into several different applications to set up a new customer account, Verint Process Automation can be used to provide automation of that data entry and present a guidance script to the user.
Guidance and Automation scripts are generated and maintained centrally and distributed to employee desktops. Statistics about usage and completion of tasks with the scripts is maintained so that administrators can review and make updates as needed.