The Teleperformance team is spending this week in Florida at the IAOP Outsourcing World Summit. This is one of the biggest events in the world focused entirely on outsourcing and the relationship between companies when they purchase services so it’s a great opportunity to listen to the views of some international experts.
One of the keynotes that I am really looking forward to hearing is the session on Robotic Process Automation (RPA) by Professor Leslie Willcocks from the London School of Economics and Dr Mary Lacity from the University of Missouri, St Louis.
Willcocks and Lacity have written many books exploring outsourcing so their research into the fast-developing RPA world should be fascinating. I’m excited to see that they are going to describe several real corporate case studies of business transformation using RPA, rather than just pitch an academic view of the future.
This is important because although automation is one part of the future for the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) market, it is already the here and now for many organizations. In the customer service environment this is becoming an extremely important area of focus.
Take the traditional contact centre as an example of how RPA can be applied to a real business in the present-day. Many customer calls are about the same repeated issues. If you can train your system to identify callers with these common problems and to filter them out to be managed automatically by the system, rather than needing to engage an agent, then there are two enormous benefits.
First, many calls can be deflected and managed automatically. Second, this improves life for your agents because they can focus on more complex and interesting problems. Third, it makes service better for the customer who has both a simple issue (handled quickly by the system) and complex ones (more agents free to handle this).
Some commentators, like The Economist magazine, have predicted that RPA will mean the end of the contact centre. Their view is that if you can automate customer contact then why bother with agents at all? I don’t agree.
RPA is a great way to remove many of the mundane and repetitive interactions with customers from the contact centre. These basic interactions add very little value to the relationship between the customer and brand anyway. The customer journey has changed dramatically in the past few years and many interactions are now about far more than just a basic issue – like a password reset.
Customers are now building a relationship with brands through multiple interactions on multiple channels – this connection and engagement is how loyalty is being defined today. RPA is one CX ingredient that can process many of the most basic interactions, but as customers base their view on a brand based on their emotional connection, I think that the most important areas of research for Professors Willcocks and Lacity now might be how the contact center evolves.
RPA is an important tool that will help brands improve their customer experience, but it is certainly not the end of the contact center as we know it.