Automation & AI – the human workforce’s new best friend?

Could AI and automation become the employee’s new best friend at work? Gareth Hole at NICE answers that question in this exclusive op-ed for CBR.

Robotic Process Automation is a huge trend with businesses across the world. By combining artificial intelligence with other technologies, organisations are automating routine, repetitive businesses processes to improve efficiency and drive better results. According to the National Association of Software and Services Companies, RPA can already reduce operations costs as much as 65 per cent, with ROI within as little as half a year.

Every business has processes that can be automated from start to finish by an unattended robot, working without intervention, 24/7, without errors, collecting and executing tasks from a queue. But what about the business processes that have decision points requiring human intervention or communication skills?

This is where attended desktop automation comes into play. Attended desktop automation allows a dedicated, smart desktop robot to help a human with certain tasks. This robot can mimic human actions, from copying and pasting information, to data inputting and even opening up applications and performing actions. It can even exceed what a human could achieve on their own, by gathering and analysing large amounts of data 100% accurately and rapidly in real-time and taking actions based on the results. All of these activities can occur on an employee’s desktop, in the background, triggered by any type of event, such as a button click, switching tabs, checking a field has specific data or even a complex combination of multiple events.

Recent improvements in algorithmic techniques and the expansion in the use of deep neural networks have also enabled significant improvements in the technology’s ability to deliver value.

In the contact centre industry, for example, where agents often have to juggle multiple tasks, (talking to customers, sourcing information, inputting data etc), attended automation certainly lightens the load. It allows those agents to focus on talking to a customer whilst tasks like looking for relevant data in multiple applications or figuring out what the best next step to take is, are done for them in real-time.

With this approach, the human and the desktop robot are working side by side, in full collaboration, with humans overseeing the execution of each activity. Humans can then focus on more interesting, valuable work, while also being empowered to make the best decisions in real-time.

Large businesses that run attended desktop automation robots, enabling their employees to make the most of their expertise and focus on the essence of their jobs, report high customer and employee satisfaction and operational efficiency which leads to a better bottom line. One of the UK’s largest mobile network provider, has automated 32 processes across a wide variety of process types, realising a saving of over 4 million seconds per month in automations alone. Using both attended and unattended automations, there is also the expectation of delivering about £1 million per year of additional benefits from these processes.

Attended automation can also identify events and processes that require training, enabling managers to take the necessary steps to improve the employee’s performance. For example, if the employee is required to read a disclaimer as part of the call but the disclaimer text was only open for two seconds, the system can detect that it is most likely that the employee did not read the disclaimer, and an alert will be sent to the manager.

Managers, in turn, will be better equipped to focus their limited time on delivering tailored coaching and support. This will help employees further hone their customer service skills, as they focus on delivering the sort of service that builds loyalty and satisfaction, and not on mundane, routine tasks.

Deciding on what to automate can be a huge challenge. With customer expectations constantly changing and new channels of engagement emerging, deciding on where to begin, as well as the long-term plan is not always straightforward. This is where attended desktop automation can again help, this time by gathering process information to uncover further opportunities to optimise those processes in real-time.

There is also the issue of how automation fits in with existing systems and processes. For example, does process automation still have value against a backdrop of investing in ‘best of breed’ IT systems? With traditional automation, the value can often be challenged but with attended desktop automation, a smart desktop robot can leverage even more value out of those systems to help their users in real-time.

Every organisation, in every vertical, has repetitive, time-consuming, error-prone processes which demand accuracy and speed, and don’t necessarily rely on human ‘out of the box’ thinking. The automation of these processes has become a reality but there is a growing realisation that humans can add more value to an organisation when freed from this repetitive and mundane work.

Attended desktop automation does not just save organisations valuable employee time. You could go as far as calling it the employee’s new best friend, keeping them engaged in the most important and valuable tasks for the business. After all, who wouldn’t want their own smart robot helper?

Source: & AI – the human workforce’s new best friend?


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