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Guest Blogger

By Darryl Beckford, Director of Digital, KCOM

The rise of web-based commerce and mobile platforms has made access to goods and services easier than ever before, but it’s also increased customer expectations of the service provided by the brands they interact with and buy from. In a competitive and crowded e-commerce environment, customer experience has been crowned king.

Today’s consumers expect immediacy and convenience in the way they choose products and services, and this expectation extends to customer service, whether that’s looking for the answer to a question, altering an order or receiving an update on a delivery.

Consumers want instant access to information and fast responses to queries. Any delays or long wait times, whether over the phone, on social media or through live chat, can have a notable negative impact.

This is not to say that an agent’s interaction with a customer should be fleeting or that taking the time to talk to a customer about their query will not be welcomed. The problem for most contact centre agents is that the time spent interacting with customers is unnecessarily extended by having to navigate multiple systems and applications. This is often the case when agents are trying to locate information, such as the account holder records, previous contact history and the context of the initial enquiry.

Interacting with a customer on a call or live chat should be an opportunity to craft a positive customer experience, rather than an exercise in assembling the necessary information. These interactions should be intuitive, smooth and efficient, requiring no extraneous efforts from either the customer or the agent.

Given the way that technology has evolved in the majority of contact centre operations, this can be difficult to achieve. Staff have to use new applications alongside legacy systems, resulting in a disjointed technology and an inconsistent service landscape.

AUTOMATING THE MUNDANE

This is where robotic process automation (RPA) can help. RPA enables organisations to re-engineer the role of the contact centre agent by handling the repeatable (and arguably dull) parts of a contact centre agent’s job, like data entry or transaction processing. For the agent, RPA enables them to spend more time focusing on delivering customer satisfaction, and less time on the tasks that are often the cause of a poor customer experience.

RPA is especially important for businesses that often experience spikes in call traffic during peak times. For example, the use of a virtual service desk to direct customer enquiries can help agents solve customer issues more efficiently.

BETTER CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE THROUGH THE GIFT OF TIME

In customer contact centres, where average call times and first-time resolution rates are standard key performance indicators (KPIs), there is a great advantage to being able to automate such functions at scale to achieve these metrics. The deployment of RPA can help businesses achieve, and even improve on, their KPIs, all while increasing customer satisfaction.

One of the biggest benefits of RPA is the immediate and significant reduction in costs. Automation means administration processes can not only be completed faster and at a more accurate rate, but also be performed for a sustained amount of time (around the clock, if needed), at a considerably lower cost than any human workforce. This means better results from a lower output.

The cost savings can be significant when any unnecessary seconds are removed from the process. An initial analysis of one prospective company by KCOM found that the business could save a quarter of a million pounds, simply by shaving five seconds off from each agent’s average call time.

The return on investment for an organisation implementing RPA can vary between six and nine months, depending on the scope of the work. The technology may not require coding or scriptwriting, meaning complex processes can be transferred from human to machine seamlessly. And, because it only needs to be installed on systems used by agents, there’s no need to replace existing technology or disturb any of the company’s current IT roadmaps.

This means that there is little to no disruption when migrating from a human-led administrative effort to automation. It’s for this reason that RPA is considered an important technology for businesses transitioning towards digitalisation.

For many businesses, RPA has become a fast fix that delivers long-term benefits for those looking to complete a full-scale digital transformation. While legacy companies assess the needs of their business and customers (and evaluate which technologies best serve those needs), the ‘plug-in’ nature of RPA means they can roll out a system and begin automating administration processes.

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