The human touch with the help of some robotics: how customer service is transforming
By Guy Tweedale, Regional VP, Rocket Software
It’s a call centre, Jim, but not as we know it.
In the past few years there has been a sense of nervousness among those IT directors who work in environments with significant volumes of complex data. In these organisations, the large computers that have sustained them for a decade or more are still fast, reliable and able to handle vast volumes of data without blinking. However, they are not, by default, geared up to the demands that come from today’s customers.
The call centre of the past was staffed by customer service agents interacting with endless screens on a “green” screen monitor, which connected directly to a computer. The agent might access data from the computer, speak on the phone to a customer and then enter more data back into the computer.
Straightforward stuff. Today, however, this is no longer good enough. Customers expect to contact a brand not only by telephone; they want to send messages from their laptop, text in a query from their mobile phone or start a live online chat with a customer service agent. If they speak to someone, that someone should know who they are at once, understand the problem and be able to offer a solution immediately. The big computers, so adept at data processing, are simply not geared up for today’s requirements.
Digital transformation – what IS that?
The IT director’s nervousness is understandable in the face of the need to modernise. The two words “digital transformation,” which are currently the buzzwords du jour, can conjure up images of vast 1990s-style projects, whereby all customer data is moved across to the latest new system in a project that takes years to complete, running the risk of losing or corrupting hundreds of vital records.
Happily, this really isn’t necessary. Robotic Process Automation, or RPA, is opening up new frontiers in customer service without requiring organisations to rip up their existing systems and throw them in the lake. By using software to mimic the manual processes of a customer service agent, data can be automatically extracted from the system and passed to whichever new channels are required – whether that’s a chatbot, an app or simply an agent’s single, modernised screen – in a fraction of the time that it would have taken previously. What’s more, by combining RPA with machine learning, processes can improve by themselves. Software, acting effectively as a robot – hence the name – can learn to manage data, transactions and responses to customers, according to the request.
Saving time, money, and agents’ sanity
The benefits are enormous. Firstly, and possibly most importantly, companies can make the most of their investment in older technology that is still effective and valuable, rather than undertaking expensive and risky data transfer projects. Secondly, the increase in speed brought about by automating manual data retrieval processes can reduce call handling times and free up agents to deal with the “human” aspects of customer service, which are so valuable to building brand loyalty. Finally, by modernising older systems, data can be brought together and managed centrally; essential in applications such as logistics, where information may need to be passed through a number of different partners.
RPA can improve life in the back office as well. Any application that relies on high volumes of transactions will speed up immeasurably once an automated process is introduced. Human error is eliminated and those tedious, repetitive tasks such as invoice input or purchase order processing can be completed in a fraction of the time.
The future is automated
The market for robotic automation is growing rapidly. Forrester predicted earlier this year that the market for RPA technology will reach $29 billion by 2021. This is not surprising: error-prone humans have long been the weak link in many technological applications. So, a solution that can not only automate, but also learn, is going to be popular. Add this to the fact that it can be implemented without throwing away all your old kit, and you really will have digital transformation without tears.
Guy Tweedale is Regional Vice President at Rocket Software.
For additional information on Rocket Software visit their Website