Over the past few years, the tech landscape has seen the emergence of terms that have quickly become buzzwords. From AI to Big Data to GDPR, these words were all generating noise even before their exact definition was agreed upon or understood. After a period of hype and overuse, buzzwords such as these generally cool down and become part of normal tech vocabulary until the next one appears. The latest ‘hot term’ may very well be Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

R-P-A – three letters that are currently being thrown around in technology and business as any trending topic would be. But this topic isn’t just a fleeting tech trend; it’s also one that could leverage great returns. Gartner recently announced that RPA software revenue grew 63.1 per cent in 2018 to $846 million, making it the fastest-growing segment of the global enterprise software with revenue expected to reach $1.3 billion this year.

So, what exactly is RPA? How does it really work, and why does it mention robots? We’ll start off by setting the record straight and demystifying some of the connotations surrounding the technology, and then we’ll provide a few good reasons as to why businesses should invest.

RPA is about people collaborating with machines

People often assume that call center agents spend all their time answering calls and talking to customers. However, this isn’t the case. Mundane and repetitive tasks take up much of an agent’s time and motivation.  For instance, after a call, the agent must write a summary of the conversation and perform any follow-up actions, which takes an average of two to three minutes each time.

This is where RPA comes in.  The ‘robot’ part of RPA is a clever piece of software that can interact with any existing application in the same way the agent can (clicking buttons, typing into fields, navigating to different screens).  Simple RPA solutions perform work without a person being involved – they take work from a queue and then process it case by case.  More sophisticated RPA solutions can work alongside an agent, helping them on their desktop as they take calls, understanding what they need and providing it.  This means that robots can not only automate the wrap-up actions for each call, but they can augment the agent during the call to ensure compliance, guide them through complex conversations and even help with cross and up-sell opportunities.  They can even trawl through hundreds of items of customer data to provide useful insight that the agent can use – all while the customer is still on the line.

As the agent’s time is less taken up by mundane and repetitive tasks, they become more engaged and in turn, more productive.  Having a robot helping them as they work really super-charges their engagement and enables them to do things they couldn’t possibly achieve on their own.  Ultimately, RPA will keep your agents motivated, engaged and productive, as well as reducing the chances of mistakes, and cutting waiting times for customers as processes are completed faster. This, in turn, will positively impact customer experience and satisfaction.  It’s not just contact centers either – any employee can benefit from having a robot ‘helper’.

Reaping the benefits of employee engagement through RPA

The correlation between employee engagement and performance doesn’t need to be proven anymore.  Numerous studies all point to the same conclusion.  Recent research from Dale Carnegie on over 1500 employees found that companies with engaged employees will outperform those without by up to 202 per cent.  According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace, companies with engaged employees can see a 240 per cent jump in performance-related business indicators compared to other firms.

RPA ensures the constant satisfaction of your workforce.  And as your employees are your first ambassadors, how they think and feel are key factors in whether they advocate for or against your company, which can sometimes have a greater impact than all your marketing and advertising materials ever could.

Not only are the financial benefits and returns of employee engagement quite clear, but RPA deployment will also lower your overall running costs by reducing turnover and the costs associated with recruitment or training.  You will make more and spend less, pushing your results ever higher.  As your employees enjoy their new streamlined work life, they will reward you by becoming productive, positive ambassadors and help push your turnover to new levels.

Transforming the work experience upgrade your customer’s experience

So, RPA isn’t as much about robots in the usual sci-fi sense, as it is about growing turnover and achieving excellence in customer services by both automating repetitive tasks and helping employees as their work.  Today’s economy is as much about the experience as it is about the product, and customer service is often the first-place people interact with a brand.  So goodbye to R2-D2 and BB-8 and hello to valuable business returns in a galaxy where every employee in every business can now have their own robot ‘helper’.