PHOTO: Clay Banks on Unsplash
The last two years presented huge challenges for companies looking to improve their customer experience. Contact centers have faced a dramatic increase in interaction volume across both traditional channels like phone calls and email as well as emerging channels essential to an omnichannel strategy — things like social media and chat.
All of this has been done while contact centers remain short staffed. The contact center has historically been a source of high turnover and the pandemic has done little to alleviate the pressure. Volume has increased exponentially since 2019, especially interaction volume (phone calls, emails, live chat, etc.). But while volume has increased, staffing levels haven’t kept up, leading to long customer wait times.
How can companies mitigate these challenges? Brad Beumer, customer experience and contact center automation lead for UiPath, suggests adopting a strategy that brings Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) into the contact center. We spoke with Beumer on how AI and RPA can assist contact center agents, how a shift in metrics priorities can improve the customer experience and how to get started with AI and RPA.
Embedding RPA Throughout the Customer Journey
How does UiPath envision using RPA and AI in the contact center? Beumer suggests thinking of AI and RPA as a two-pronged approach. “Think of RPA as the hands do the work. Meanwhile, AI is the brain; it does the thinking and analysis, scanning customer conversations to identify intent and recommend courses of action.”
Beumer continues. “We use these processes in two major ways: attended and unattended robots. The unattended robots work independently of agents, taking care of low-level work. Attended robots are working in concert with agents, conducting sentiment analysis and making recommendations. Both technologies are crucial for increasing customer satisfaction with the contact center. RPA can take care of low-level tasks while AI can work with your agents to keep customers happy. And of course, this can all be done at scale, faster than manual processes.”
AI and RPA tools and processes can be deployed throughout the customer journey, anywhere where the customer experience can be improved. Over the last several years many companies have expanded their omnichannel outreach in an effort to meet customers where they are. This means there’s a number of different channels to watch for customer intent, from chat windows to email, phone calls and even mail or fax. Bottom line: anywhere customers might interact with your brand is an area that can benefit from AI and RPA to improve the customer experience.
Using RPA on the Metrics That Matter
There’s been a shift in the metrics that drive contact centers, as companies start viewing these departments as opportunities for revenue growth. “When I first started out, the business case for RPA was time savings, but that’s not necessarily as important anymore,” says Beumer. “Reducing agents’ Average Handling Time (AHT) is taking a back seat to improving the customer experience and increasing revenue. At the same time, some companies are also turning away from Net Promoter Score (NPS) as a critical metric, because it can be misleading about customers’ intent. Instead, companies are looking at sentiment analysis and the whole customer journey to discover true intent and customer satisfaction with the brand.”
Focusing on metrics other than NPS might lead to a shift in how the contact center is perceived within the business. “In the future, more contact centers will be viewed as potential revenue streams,” Beumer says. “If customers are happy with the quality of their service and agents are happy with the nature of their work, this lends itself well to an environment where agents can upsell.”
The Many Paths to RPA
Getting started with implementing AI and RPA might seem like a daunting task, but Beumer believes there’s a way forward that fits every company’s preferred way of doing things. “Generally, there’s three broad options when it comes to choosing how much help you need with setting up these tools. First, there’s the DIY path, where your internal team does all the work. At the other end of the spectrum there’s the turnkey approach, where you work with a UiPath certified partner and they do all the work. In the middle there’s a hybrid approach, where UiPath or a partner could build out the initial solution. We would embed a couple of people on your teams and train them to take over once they’re comfortable enough with the technology. Each option has its advantages; it’s up to you to decide what’s best for your teams and your work culture.”
Given its close relationship with the customer experience, the contact center presents a huge opportunity to present a differentiated customer experience. But your contact center agents can’t do it alone. From all the difficulties contact center agents have faced over the past two years, everything that can help them improve the customer experience is a plus. RPA and AI tools and processes provide that help, taking over low-level tasks, redirecting agent interactions to higher-level customer challenges and analyzing those interactions to deliver coaching and guidance in the moment.
Learn more about UiPath’s contact center automation solutions at uipath.com.
Tim is the senior manager of research and content for Simpler Media Group. In his role he writes content, market guides and data-driven research reports for all of SMG’s internal and external clients.