The other kind of RPA

When we are talking about automation in the CX and contact centre world, we commonly hear an initial murmuring of fear around how it will be received by the team currently doing the work. Often there is a sense that what we are doing is solely focussed on reducing the cost of human labour.

If we are honest, sometimes that is the case, and cost reduction is a powerful use case for RPA. Sometimes – particularly in difficult economic times – reducing costs is the only way to stay afloat, and we look for ways to automate for the greater good of the business and the purpose it serves in the community. As an Intelligent Automation group within a large CX organisation, we think a lot about how the work we do impacts employees and customers – what we should automate and what the end result will be for the operating team and for the end user.

Quite often though, there is something else going on that is not about cost reduction.

In my view, cost prevention is one of the best use cases for RPA. Historically when you have a skilled workforce and your business is growing, we had to bring in more people to deal with the growth. In the contact centre space, that means more contact centre agents, more support staff, and likely more back office to deal with the onboarding. New people mean a learning curve, errors, and quality degradation can occur as they naturally get up to speed. Once that is settled down, you start to realise some economies that may reduce the cost to serve slightly over your new scale.

What RPA offers is an alternate reality – where your same skilled, tenured team can support more customers and more activity, and your cost to serve drops much faster as you grow. We are doing work with businesses who are growing, helping them to find the activities that bots can do to free up the hands and minds of their people.

The conversation with those employees is a very different one, but we always plan that the employees will enter the conversation with us with those same initial murmurings of fear.

This week I was delighted to have a different experience, within my own team.

My RPA crew had heard from one of our success managers that she was always waiting for system reports to generate so she could start on her analysis. It was a throw-away comment, because creation of the reporting data set is part of her role – and not a small part. Generation of reports is a ‘choose filters, click, wait, watch the screen and watch again, save as Excel, repeat’ process. This could take anywhere between 1 to 1.5 hours of her day for each of the five clients she manages.

The developers decided to take a look under the hood and found they could really quickly build her a bot to do the data gathering and report generation – and so they did.

When they showed her what the bot could do, she was not impressed – she was ecstatic. She did not go to a fear space about reduction in tasks, but instead could not wait to use that time on deeper analysis to create more value for her customers.

I knew none of this was going on, until Jaimee jumped into our team catch up to tell everyone how excited she was about what this would mean for her experience and job satisfaction.

This is a third use case for RPA – it is not cost prevention, because we can keep going as we were and still deliver great value and insights. This is creating cognitive capacity; changing nothing in our cost base, but releasing more think and value creation time in our human resources.

I love automation because it helps us solve different problems, and because it can help the employee as well as the business.