Artificial Intelligence and robot automation have been two of the most talked about topics in recent months and several large corporations have started to adopt and implement the technology. The question is: has the investment been worth it and what does the future look like for business and robots?

A recent report by the Everest Group titled: Robotic Process Automation (RPA):Technology Vendor State of the Market, claims that the market is exploding and the growth trend is set to continue for the foreseeable future.

The UK is the second largest adopter worldwide, greater than both Continental Europe and Asia Pacific. However, North America is by far the leader accounting for at least 50% of RPA technology implementations. The maturity of the outsourcing market and stringent financial regulations have been cited as reasons RPA has been so successful there. While the rest of the world certainly has some catching up to do, indications are that adoption rates will accelerate rapidly, making RPA the new norm in business operations worldwide.

What’s driving the change?

In the global economy many industries such as the financial sectors and healthcare are highly regulated and involve large volumes of detail oriented, repetitive processes. These are ideal candidates for robotic processing which is not only more cost effective, but also more efficient at the task. Estimates are the cost reductions due to RPA could be as much as 65%.

While back office functions may be seem obvious candidates, some of the most rapid growth is in front office customer facing functions where robots are taking on assistive roles to contact centre and sales agents. Perhaps one of the most exciting developments is that of cognitive Artificial Intelligence, that not only assists agents but also offers an alternate automated channel of customer service.

Key elements of success

There is much to learn from early adopters for companies that want to consider implementing this technology in the near future. While AI and RPA has huge potential it is still relatively new in terms of its practical application and business needs to be realistic about their expectations.

Successful implementation requires that process consolidation and implementation already exist and that the processes up for automation are rules based and well defined. Automation won’t really translate into greater efficiency if there is still mass duplication of processes.

A phased approach that assesses process viability through various pilot projects is most likely to succeed. In this way by starting with smaller projects it is easier to perfect deployment and methodology before full scale implementation is rolled out.

Pilot projects can help demonstrate proof of value (PoV) and not just proof of concept (PoC). While the concept may seem feasible, the proof of value shows that the expected value for the company can, not only be achieved, but also be accurately measured and justified.

For those involved in the development and implementation of RPA, there needs to be a continued investment in internal capabilities to support the growing demands of the industry. Factors such as corporate governance and ownership of automation processes are other issues that need to be clarified.

Lastly organisational readiness requires that all stakeholders are on board including top management, process and technology stakeholders. Change management is integral to implementation success and need to be addressed at every organisational level.

What does the future hold for RPA?

The past year has seen a growth of more than 64% in robotic process automation (RPA) and as pilot projects continue to succeed, implementations are more likely to evolve into full scale deployments. Early adopters are likely to lead the way and inspire confidence in their respective industries, demonstrating that RPA is not only feasible but also potentially highly valuable.

These are exciting times not only for the RPA technology industry but also by those impacted by it. The contact centre industry in particular is likely to experience an evolution in how it operates as RPA technology is implemented. Those contact centres proactive in adopting the technology have the potential to gain market share as the technology could help to improve CX and CSAT scores. Agents can look forward to more support as repetitive tasks are taken over by robots, freeing them up for more complex tasks. Technology can also be used to increase engagement not only for customers but also for employees – creating better work environments and team efficiency, which in turn stimulates better customer service.

Looking at these technological advances, contact centre managers should start preparing their teams for the changes to come, training agents in advanced soft skills and how to make use of the technology available. In this way they can not only achieve greater organisational efficiency, but also revolutionise customer service – setting a new standard for customer experience and satisfaction.