By Kelly Koelliker
The hybrid workforce is a growing reality in today’s contact centre. By handling repetitive and mundane tasks, robots accelerate productivity and make it possible for back-and front-office employees, like contact centre agents, to spend their time on more substantial projects. By 2021, Forrester Research estimates there will be more than four million robots handling office and administrative work, as well as sales and related tasks1.
There is another use for robots that goes a little deeper than automating contact centre agent tasks. In an innovative form, robotic process automation (RPA) is helping to simplify, modernize and automate the processes that ensure contact centre infrastructures are running properly.
Complex needs and operations
In many organizations today the contact centre is the strategic nerve centre that drives customer engagement and loyalty. Customers have become more demanding, seeking an excellent seamless customer experience (CX) on the channels of their choice. When they decide to reach out to the contact centre it is because, in most cases, they didn’t find what they are looking for on self-service. Successful conversations between customers and agents are imperative to maintain customer satisfaction, regulatory compliance and operational efficiencies.
But a contact centre’s infrastructure is incredibly complex. It includes a tangled web of systems and vendors that demand constant support and testing. There are many points of failure that require monitoring and verification from the ACD, to the recorder and to the handsets. Yet many organizations rely on primitive methods of evaluation, including “walking around” and spot-checking equipment. Customer loyalty suffers as a result.
Here are three key reasons that monitoring the infrastructure is a job ideally suited for this unique type
- Resource constraints make it nearly impossible to monitor and verify that calls are being received, routed and recorded properly. Whether it’s an end-to-end view of the system or the viability of a single handset, monitoring issues with telephony is often a time-consuming manual process. To verify individual pieces of equipment are functioning, IT resources must test each line to discover an issue, or alternatively wait until a problem is discovered: when it is too late to resolve. Too often, reliance on one-time or spot testing fails to provide the needed early warnings that something is amiss. Further, once a problem is discovered, multiple IT resources are usually required to diagnose the issue. The lost time and cost associated with this process is both wasteful and a drain on resources.
- Accurately and completely recording contact centre calls is imperative. Due to compliance regulations, legal requirements, quality assurance and business analytics as well as other reasons, recordings of contact centre interactions need to be retrieved. When calls fail to record, the problem likely does not surface immediately, leaving the situation to balloon into an expensive and time-consuming headache. A call that was not recorded cannot be recreated: the moment is lost. Fines may be incurred, insights are lost and customer satisfaction can plummet, often before the problem can even be fully diagnosed.
- Troubleshooting issues with a communications infrastructure can be extremely complex and time consuming. When there is a problem in the telephony infrastructure, there could be several reasons. There could be an issue with the phone line, the phone itself, the ACD, a configuration error, the recorder or an issue caused by a software upgrade. Cloud/hosted contact centre as a service (CCaaS) introduces even more points of failure into the telephony stream and further raises the need for automated monitoring and verification. Consequently, it can take weeks to find and diagnose problems. Furthermore, it is increasingly difficult to find staff with the expertise across vendors and versions to maintain these systems end-to-end and troubleshoot issues cost effectively.
“Virtual engineers” to the rescue
RPA can eliminate the time-consuming and incomplete manual testing of these systems through using automated verification solutions that serve as teams of “virtual engineers”, which proactively alert the organization to possible issues, potentially saving weeks of time and effort. As a result, they are making it much easier for contact centres to know that all calls are received, routed and recorded properly.
From the performance of a single handset to a holistic view of the health of an entire telephony infrastructure, this distinctive solution automates manual configuration and monitoring to create efficiencies, improve accuracy, save money and reduce risk. The net benefits are big savings and major advancements in compliance and customer loyalty for forward-thinking companies.
How RPA eliminated 10,000 hours of work
Here is an example of the benefits applying RPA for contact centre infrastructure can provide. In a highly-regulated industry like banking, accurately and completely recording phone conversations is imperative. For a large European investment and retail bank, supporting 120,000 IP telephones across multiple locations, its sheer size and operational complexity posed a significant challenge in meeting this objective. The handsets are situated in a variety of locations, including front offices, branches, trading floor desks and contact centres.
The financial institution’s expansive phone lines and related systems had to be checked manually before the start of each day by staff at each location. Results were then manually recorded and any issues were communicated locally, but not shared across other locations or the broader organization. In addition, the tests were not consistent between sites and were often based on local and/or onsite knowledge. This impeded the availability of test results to the right teams at the right times, with key trending and incident information not properly circulated or used to improve service over time.
With automated verification, the bank reproduced its previously manual test flows, with robots simulating the key strokes and system interactions used for each test on each platform. The bank developed more than 150 tests for its critical voice platforms globally. Dashboards provided centralized views of all tests, and the testing schedule across sites and alarms and outputs, so that local and global monitoring teams could see all issues as they happen. Access to the dashboards is based on user role, enabling the bank to provide the right level of visibility to staff, as well as limit viewing by site, country, region or globally, depending on role privileges.
As the bank went about the process of automating its manual tests, automated verification helped it uncover and fix several configuration inconsistencies across sites. Moreover, the introduction of automation challenged the bank’s support team to ensure that service and infrastructure builds were standardized globally, so that automated tests would run consistently time and time again. This focus on configuration consistency not only helped eliminate issues, but also resulted in a consistent operational platform based on a standard configuration guideline.
Thanks to the process and testing with automated verification, the bank saved more than 10,000 hours of staff-time, while also increasing the consistency and accuracy of reporting and alerting. Additionally, the solution helped the bank improve adherence to voice recording compliance, thus reducing fines. Finally, the bank’s local and global monitoring teams benefited from enhanced visibility of tests, results and issues via a central dashboard
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The foundation for a positive CX
As organizations implement unique RPA solutions in the contact centre they usually start by identifying a list of current tasks and processes as candidates for automation. Many of them are self-service processes that don’t require any human intervention, such as handling customer address changes. Still others are hybrid processes, where RPA serves up the information an agent needs to complete a customer transaction or solve a customer problem.
If your organization is making its list of candidates for automation, don’t forget to consider innovative RPA for protecting the infrastructure that makes the all-important phone interactions possible with your customers. That is the key to a strong, positive CX.
Kelly Koelliker is director of content marketing for Verint, The Customer Engagement Company (www.verint.com).
1 Craig Le Clair, et al. “The RPA Market Will Reach $2.9 Billion By 2021”, report, Forrester Research, February 13, 2017.