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Businesses Explore the Benefits of Robotic Process Automation in Customer Care at IRPA Conference in New York


Presented By: CrmXchange

As perhaps the most disruptive technological development on the horizon, robotic process automation (RPA) is actively changing the ways companies of all sizes manage their business processes, helping to streamline workflow and permanently altering the nature of the workforce. When combined with other technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP), RPA can have a significant impact on improving the customer experience. 

irpa.dec16The growing capability of RPA to drive labor cost reductions of 50% and more, drove attendance to new heights at the Institute for Robotic Process Automation’s (IRPA) recent Automation Innovation conference at the Bohemian National Hall in New York. The December 7th event recorded a 30% jump in registration over 2015 along with a quantum leap in interest in implementing and upgrading the technology across a wide range of industries.

The surge in interest prompted IRPA Founder Frank Casale to coin the term “Digital Woodstock” to describe the excitement at the event. His colleague, Co-founder and IRPA president Raheem Hasan, felt there were multiple reasons for the growth. “The lower cost of computing, ease of implementation and simpler application development, coupled with the big boom in available IoT data has created a pent-up demand as companies are banking on technology to reduce costs and improve efficiency.”

In his opening address, “Automation in the Age of Cognitive Computing,” Loren Williams, Chief Data Scientist and AI Leader at EY, traced the origins of AI back to ancient Greece but invoked the modern definition derived from the Turing Test of 1950. “A machine is intelligent if an evaluator cannot reliably tell the difference between a natural language conversation with it and a human in a text-only channel,” he said.

Williams envisioned a symbiotic relationship between human workers and cognitive bots, where humans will provide bulk training and reinforcement to the machines and the bots will augment the work of humans. The convergence will be accomplished with traditional RPA deployed with AI tools and special purpose AI systems to automate tasks. Such automation systems will have the capability to interact naturally, reading and writing like humans. With NLP and text analytics, systems will be capable of inferential machine learning. Ultimately, technological capabilities will also align with executive behavior as well.

One of Williams’ slides asked the question “Do you change your people or change the way your people work?” In the address that followed, RG Conlee, Chief Innovation Officer at Xerox Services (which will be renamed xerox.dec16Conduent in January 2017), stated “The next frontier of progress requires improving work itself.”

Much of Xerox’s focus is the CX/customer care space. They are one of the largest BPO’s, with approximately 166 call centers encompassing 53,000 seats, including customer service functions for 19 of the 20 largest healthcare providers, handling 2.5 million calls per day and having revenues of about $6.6 billion. Analytics and automation are a major component in their Next-Generation customer care which incorporates real-time automated live agents, virtual voice and chat agents, as well as knowledge management for self-care.

Conlee discussed Xerox’s “Bot Farm” which is scaled to accommodate the needs of Fortune 100, Fortune 500 and at the smallest, Fortune 1000 companies. He talked about workflow inspection that monitor workload from one bot to another making it easier to shift functions when necessary. While he considers BPOs such as Xerox to be treasure troves of customer data, he also realizes that one of the problems in using the data is that it does not belong to them. In his experience, government agencies are easier to work with in better enabling data use than commercial enterprises.

He characterized the move to intelligent automation as a “transformative process,” but cautioned that implementation is the biggest challenge. Conlee believes that far too many companies become victims of “digital disillusionment”, citing research revealing that only 18% of CEOs believe that their technology investments actually pay off.  “It’s not about being cutting edge,” he said, “It’s about being practical.”

To make it work, Conlee suggests that companies start by automating a single process to demonstrate a quick win. He suggests that organizations focus on identifying opportunities, then using the discovery information to prove the potential value.

In a follow-up conversation, Conlee explained that all the Xerox Services contact centers will become a part of Conduent, while the document management/printer business that most people associate with Xerox will remain with the original company. Many of their proprietary contact centers are already being retrofitted with Next Generation omnichannel customer care solutions which will work with NICE/IEX workforce management. “It’s a work in progress,” he noted.

But according to Conlee, there has also been “faster than expected” movement toward marketing their technology to external contact center organizations, which he sees as being fueled by market demand. All of the RFPs they are entertaining are being considered for SaaS applications. He sees a need to better educate the market. “Too many companies are looking to automation as a silver bullet, the shiny new toy that will magically change everything. We need to strike a balance between   overeager customers and salespeople who are working within a new paradigm.”

EdgeVerve SystemsAnother of the event’s major sponsors, EdgeVerve, an Infosys company, concurred with Xerox’s view that businesses need to start small. “Take one process at a time and write it on a sheet of paper,” said Akhil Srivastava, Marketing Specialist at EdgeVerve. “When you realize the ROI, move forward.” He pointed out that automation can make a difference in a number of different areas such as finance, HR and logistics. “Whenever there’s a repetitive process, software robots can help businesses achieve significant savings.” 

Other customer experience related solution providers at the event included Kryon Systems Leo. They showcased their platform, which is dedicated to intelligent performance support. According to Director Joel Garnatz, the kryon.dec16platform assumes application independence, supporting any application regardless of its underlying technology, and requires no integration with the supported application.

Leo offers attended automation. When users don’t know how to proceed, they can click on the Leo icon and Pull in-application assistance. When agents are processing a transaction, Leo uses sensor-driven Push technology to provide real-time intervention. “It’s like having a GPS for interactions,” said Garnatz, “Bubbles pop in to help direct the experience.” The guided process ensures that agents follow the contact center’s best-practice protocol to optimize call duration and eliminate user mistakes, resulting in a better first-call-resolution ratio.

kofax.dec16 Another player at the conference was Kofax. The company provides software, which simplifies and transforms the “First Mile of Customer Engagement”. These are the information-intensive, real-time interactions that customers have with an organization. Customer loyalty is heavily shaped by a good or bad First Mile experience,” said Bill Galusha, Senior Product Manager for Kofax. “We enable organizations to meet customers on their channel of choice and empower them with the ability to self-serve. This two-way collaboration improves engagement and satisfaction in the process while simultaneously reducing operating costs.” The Kofax platform offers multichannel capture, digitizing information for archives, visibility and compliance. It employs text and content analytics.

Since most customers are “mobile first”, meaning their smart phone is their primary channel of interaction, mobile is at the forefront of digital transformation initiatives. Kofax’s Mobile Capture Platform helps customers perform a wide range of tasks from their mobile phone, including opening a new account by snapping a picture of a driver license to prefill a form, bill payment, adding new companies to their bill pay service by hovering the phone over a bill or payment coupon, depositing checks and more.

IRPA also presented an Automation Innovation conference in London the week after the New York event.  One of the market challenges that the organization’s Co-founder and President Hasan sees is the need to make pricing more cohesive. “Clients are struggling to figure out how to consume RPA technology. Should it be offered per process, per service or by specific formulas for gainsharing… the model for RPA is still evolving.” While he believes that consolidation is inevitable and will change things, he also thinks automation will never be a commodity. Based on the event turnout, companies are extremely interested in the opportunity to increase value to their customers, differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace, and increase a rapid return on their investment.