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Is Front Office Automation for You?

Posted by: Manish Arora On June 21, 2017 11:15 AM facebook linked in twitter

Process Automation has touched new heights in recent times, it is one of the most exciting technologies in Business Process Management (BPM). When we talk about automation/RPA/RDA, we generally think of robots, but automation plays a key role in the front office too. Front office automation can completely transform how companies communicate or engage with their customers. Within the front office, there are multiple applications to do tasks such as a security check, fetching customer/product details, updating the information provided by customers, updating query/request/complaint, but all of these require human intervention unlike the back office. Automation in the front office makes agents more productive, it reduces the transaction time, manual errors, helps in responding to customer queries with data available at a click. Every single company targets customer experience, shorter conversations, first call resolution, errorless transactions, etc., and this is possible with automation. It actually allows front office users to focus on an important part of their job—nurturing valuable customer engagement with new and existing clients.

How Automation is Beneficial in the Front Office

Shorter call duration – An important factor for the front office is how much time it takes to answer a customer’s query. It is very important to deliver customer facing services in a timely manner. Automation provides a solution to the front office agents that helps them access details in no time, and if there is any information that is to be updated in the systems, it can be done quickly by the means of a click. From security checks to the call wrap-up, all process steps have a scope to be automated.

Error reduction – When a task is handled manually, there is always chance for error, especially when agents are engaged with customers. Once the properly programmed automation solution is deployed in the front office, the process gets streamlined without potential human errors. For example, a front office agent has to collect information required or update the details collected from a customer by toggling between multiple applications, he/she will not only take too much time for completing the process, but chances are he/she will make mistake always chance of committing error. With automation, agents can answer the customer’s query more accurately and efficiently.

Improved Customer Satisfaction Rate – First Call Resolution (FCR) () significantly improves the Customer Satisfaction Rate (CSR). Automation helps the agent in resolving a customer’s query by providing precise and detailed data on single screen, with guided work flows and integrated knowledge banks. This provides the customer with an accurate resolution with the added benefit of a focused conversation, which ultimately raises the CSR.

Reduced Operational Cost – Automation in the front office allows for the calls to be closed faster with accurate resolutions. Hence, the numbers of calls per day get reduced and require a less number of FTEs, which translates to less operational costs.

Reduced Training/learning time – In order to answer customers’ queries or to take the correct action as per the a customer’s request, agents have to undergo detailed and extensive training before coming on floor. Additionally, in case there is a change in the process, the team has to go for further training, which adds to more time of the floor depending on the nature of change. But when automation is implemented in the process, agents only have to learn how to navigate the screen; they don’t require any further training on what to refer or how to access any details, etc. Any changes in process are done at the back-end.

Owing to the multiple benefits of automation in, many organizations have either started automating their front office or are planning to start it in near future. Some organizations have developed their own RPA teams, but fail to realise that just implementing automation in the front office process doesn’t guarantee ROI or benefits. There are many points that need to be considered by organizations while getting their process automated, if these are taken care of, ROI will be maximum. These are:

Getting everything automated

Automating anything in a process involves cost, in the front office as a process owner, one should focus on key areas where automation should be implemented. For example, a voice process, whether it is Banking, Telecom or any other domain, has multiple call flows (type of calls). Most organizations automate the whole process. Doing this creates two issues. One, the investment costs are extremely high, and two, ROI from this investment will only show after a prolonged period. A process owner should identify the call flows with high-volume and skip those that have a very low volume. These can be automated in future, if required, when ROI start to show.

Underutilization of automation

Most people think of front office process automation as a single screen that shows data from different applications/screens and links/buttons to perform a required action. But automation is far from it and can also be utilized for cross sell and up sell. For example, in a banking process when customer care agent resolves a customer’s query, the happy customer can be offered a new product or service, and it can be done using a smart single screen that shows which offers to pitch based on the customer’s interest.

Choosing the wrong process for automation

Not everything can be automated in the front office process. A voice process is sub divided into call handling time, hold time, wait time, after call work, etc. One should know that automation is implemented on applications, and it automates the task that agent does in those applications. Before any process is to be automated, a Time & Material study should be conducted to find out how much time is actually being taken by an agent to complete actions in the applications, this includes work done on the application during a call as well as after the call is closed. If this is high compared to the voice part of the call, automating the process will be beneficial.

Treating Back office process separate

Front office agents always have pressure of completing the call within AHT targets, and customer’s requests like update in customer’s profile or any change requests, etc., are forwarded to the back office. Automation is fast and smart enough to complete these tasks in no time. A process owner should identify such processes where a front office agent can complete back office tasks while customer is on the call. This saves costs.

Thinking of Present only

A process may change in future, especially in a voice process, new products/services are launched frequently. There is a possibility that the solution will have no use in the future; this is owing to the fact that only the As Is process was considered. That’s why it is necessary to identify processes with less updates/changes before choosing to automate it or alternatively, a solution should be designed in a way that changes in future can be accommodated easily.

Setting unrealistic expectations

Automation too has limitations and expecting everything from automation is not wise. To implement any automation tool, one should study its capabilities and limitations, and then study the processes to identify whether these are suitable for automation or not. For example, an automation tool has limitations with hand written scanned images/PDFs. Now if this process needs to be automated, it can be done with the help of OCR, but again it doesn’t have a 100% quality rate. So this solution can be implemented in the process where quality doesn’t matter, and it can’t be implemented in the process where quality is an important factor.

So there are multiple factors one should consider before getting any process automated. It requires research and planning before the finalizing any processes or tools for automation.

About Author

Manish Arora, RPA Solution Designer

Manish Arora is based in Noida, India. He is part of RPA Pre-sales team at TechMahindra and having 5+ years of experience in RPA Industry on multiple RPA tools and domains. He is a travel enthusiast, a blogger and environmentalist

Follow him @ arora_manish_

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