Adding Agility and Resiliency to Customer Care with Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Conversational AI
As customer centricity grows in its importance across industries, enterprise companies must transform related business processes to become more dynamic and personalized, even at scale. Combining conversational AI and automated tools like robotic process automation (RPA) may be the key to both optimizing customer touch points and empowering frontline workers who regularly interact with customers.
For years, CIOs have adopted RPA to streamline tedious tasks associated with back-end processes, which has made their knowledge workers more available for high-value labor. RPA has been especially helpful for those in technical roles whose more tedious responsibilities nonetheless require some degree of intelligence. Now, leading business decision-makers are finding applications for RPA in customer-facing, nontechnical roles and workflows that “improve experiences and delight internal and external users alike,” as described by Forbes.
As we will find, RPA is highly effective when combined with conversational AI — a tool that is growing in importance for both direct, customer-facing service interactions and for frontline workers responsible for customer engagement and satisfaction. Gartner predicts that, by 2022, 70% of white-collar workers will interact with conversational AI daily, citing a 160% increase in corporate interest in chatbots and similar technologies in 2018 compared to previous years driven by “customer service, knowledge management, and user support.”
RPA refers to virtual “robots” that automate repetitive digital tasks in place of human employees. These can include simple tasks like data entry and transfer or more complex applications, such as rule-based tasks for websites and applications. In automating these functions, employees can focus on more important, business-driven tasks that require higher thinking — interacting with customers, for example, or adding value through innovation.
Adoption of RPA capabilities has grown over the years in part because of natural enterprise business growth but also due to the enormous amount of data regularly generated by companies and their customers. More than an efficiency tool, RPA is now a key strategic investment for companies that want to gain competitive advantages in key areas, such as:
- reducing staffing costs
- minimizing human error
- scaling and streamlining existing processes
- improving knowledge management within the organization
- optimizing the customer experience
In one example shared by CIO, a bank completely redesigned its claims function by deploying 85 RPA-driven “bots” across 13 processes. The deployment now handles 1.5 million requests each year, providing a “capacity equivalent to more than 200 full-time employees at approximately 30% of the cost of recruiting more staff,” CIO reports.
Investing in RPA in combination with other intelligent tools has therefore become a business necessity and a long-term investment that pays dividends — the longer these tools run, the greater the benefits and savings when compared to human processes.
Still, RPA and other forms of automation cannot replace human employees. On the contrary, these tools empower frontline workers to add business value rather than just manage processes, making their roles more important than ever. According to Forrester, agents will increasingly “handle complex interactions that require empathy and personalization” thanks to AI-driven tools like RPA. RPA will support the execution of run-of-the-mill customer needs as well as provide agents with critical support in handling these more complex interactions.
Most RPA tools are low-cost and easy to implement as well — they do not require deep integrations like other enterprise technologies. Rather, they are best applied to for unique use cases and integrated with technologies that have specific, role-oriented functions, including conversational AI.
RPA Use Cases
“Companies will invest in self-service technologies such as chatbots, knowledge management, communities, self-service process automation, and robotic process automation (RPA). They will increasingly adopt prescriptive AI scenarios to streamline inquiry capture, resolution, optimize case routing, classification, and schedule management.”
Forrester, “The Three Megatrends for Customer Service in 2020,” January 2020
RPA adoption first took off in the financial services industry, where COOs found ways to execute on more business processes without hiring additional workers. But applications have extended to IT, customer service, and internal self-service workflows in healthcare, retail, and a range of B2B industries as well.
Even so, RPA has been confined widely to back-end processes. Only recently, RPA has realized applications in customer-service and even customer-facing workflows — powering chatbots, for example, or supporting conversational AI with employees and customers alike.
How can RPA contribute to better customer service?
Human agents work their best when (1) they have quick access to optimized information resources for each customer interaction, and (2) they leverage uniquely human characteristics — empathy, for example, and a deep understanding of customer context —during the interactions where they are needed most. RPA accomplishes both of these things by: (1) intelligently providing customer service agents with access to critical resources, and (2) managing less “human” customer interactions, such as answering simple questions or updating customers’ personal information.
As we will find, RPA integration with conversational AI has clear applications in both of these scenarios. Conversational AI leverages natural language processing (NLP) and natural language understanding (NLU) to make this possible: helping agents access information through natural voice commands rather than cumbersome technical tasks and servicing customers’ low-intensity requirements directly, hearing their requests, issues, or complaints with an approachable intelligence.
For example, assume an airline faced massive delays due to a hurricane affecting a large number of airports. That airline might see a quick and dramatic spike in customer service inquiries from their grounded customers. The airline could deploy conversational AI to help customers who simply need to find new connections, and it could deploy AI-enabled human agents when customers are irate or face more complex circumstances due to their groundings.
In this way, RPA “advances the customer and employee experience with a conversation-driven approach to business processes, letting you address user or customer needs personally, predictively and prescriptively,” says Forbes. “Business processes that include repetitive, time-intensive customer or employee interactions should use conversational RPA to reduce operational costs and improve the customer experience.”
Because every company requires resources for customer interactions, traditionally confined to manual processes or customer-driven keypad commands, RPA and conversational AI applications of this kind are transformative to modern business, potentially on global scales. That’s why selecting the right RPA platform — one with which your employees and your customers will grow familiar over time — is so critical at early stages of adoption.
Comparing the Top Three RPA Platforms
It’s our goal to ensure you choose the best RPA platform for your workflows of choice. Fortunately, Botpress, our breakthrough conversational AI platform, can be installed and deployed virtually anywhere and on any channel, and it can be integrated with any of the three leading RPA platforms. Let’s examine how those three leading RPA platforms contribute to companies’ success.
UiPath is a user-friendly, end-to-end RPA solution that deploys on Windows desktops, helping human users by automating repetitive tasks. It’s especially popular because of its simple, drag-and-drop interface and its robust community of users, which drive innovation on the platform. Top Gartner ratings describe UiPath as among the easiest automation tools for employees of all kinds to use. It is especially useful because it integrates with just about any digital tool employees use as well.
This RPA platform is noteworthy for its security, resiliency, and scalability, as well as its creators’ focus on empowering employee-run operations. Automation Anywhere can be integrated with a wide range of digital solutions and scales easily with growing enterprises. Unlike UiPath, Automation Anywhere is best applied to solve complex operational issue. Top Gartner ratings describe its capabilities as extensive, scalable, and easy to update, however some use cases may require more in-depth knowledge than employees possess.
First launched in 2001, Blue Prism has evolved to become a user-friendly automation tool for critical business processes. Blue Prism has a drag-and-drop interface similar to UiPath. It’s longevity and community support has made it a highly stable and reliable RPA technology. Blue Prism also supports quick introduction of its RPA capabilities for even highly complex integrations with little technical or coding knowledge required.
Leading Enterprises Cannot Delay on Conversational AI with RPA
As enterprises continue to find applications for RPA in the automation of everyday tasks — and RPA developers and their partners continue to deliver innovative solutions to meet those requirements — RPA adoption has reached record highs. Gartner predicts 85% of large and very large organizations will use RPA by the end of 2022.
The end goals of enterprise technology adoption remain the same: improve users experiences and business outcomes. RPA is a versatile solution type that fits within the broader ecosystem of enterprise technology adoption, sure to play a critical role in a range of business functions for years to come. As we’ve shown, its integration with conversational AI is one essential function enterprise companies should not do without. Contact a Botpress solution expert today to learn more about our conversational AI and RPA integrations.