Attended Vs. Unattended RPA: Which Should You Choose?

While we can all agree that automation is here to improve the way we work, there are different ways to achieve this goal – even on a technical level. As enterprises continue to invest in RPA, they’re distinguishing between attended vs. unattended RPA – the former benefits employees by complementing their workflows, while the latter frees them up completely from mundane, repetitive work.

In our experience, attended and unattended RPA perform best when they’re used in sync across the enterprise. However, to maximize RPA’s value, process owners and automation champions need to understand these two types of automation, how they work, their benefits, and where to deploy them. 

Let’s start by understanding what they are. 

Attended Automation

Attended automation refers to automation that helps human workers perform their tasks. In the context of robotic process automation (RPA), this means digital workers – or RPA bots – will help professionals be more productive by working alongside them. Attended automation typically involves implementing RPA on a human agent’s desktop – which means the bot will switch tabs, pull information, and display it on the same screen.

For example, attended automation is used in call centers to help customer service agents manage their workload and deliver connected customer experiences. Consider this specific RPA use case: when an employee takes a call from the customer, the agent presses a hot key on their computer. This triggers an RPA bot, which pulls customer data – like their purchase history, personal details, previous interactions – from different systems and displays it in front of the agent. 

Now, the agent doesn’t need to put the customer on hold while they search for the data, and they have enough information to adequately address the customer’s needs.

Advantages of attended automation

Attended automation helps:

  • Employees, by reducing the amount of manual work they have to do and allowing them to allocate more of their time to decision-making and other “human” parts of their job. For example, in the scenario we discussed in the previous section, attended automation frees the support agent to focus on the human aspect of handling support calls – understanding the customer’s problem, empathizing with them, and working towards a resolution.
  • Customers, by providing them with superior customer experiences. Automation increases the efficiency of customer-facing processes, which means less wait times, fewer inaccuracies, and better service. 

Common use-cases for attended automation

Here are some ways that attended automation has benefited different industries.

Use case 1: Helping customer service agents.

Customer support teams typically have to switch between different systems to access customer data, and sometimes to update it or make changes. RPA bots help customer care agents by pulling data from different systems and automatically updating the different platforms when a change is made.  

Use case 2: Processing insurance claims.

Healthcare providers deal with a continuous influx of claims for reimbursement. Attended automation streamlines this process by expediting data extraction, validation, and submission, significantly reducing the time required for claims processing. 

Use case 3: Managing bookings.

In the travel and hospitality industry, a customer service agent and RPA bot can work together to book flights, accommodations, and other excursions, making the reservation process more efficient and user-friendly.

Unattended Automation

Unattended automation is deployed for processes that don’t require any human involvement, which are primarily back-office functions. RPA bots will independently handle end-to-end processes, in accordance with predefined rules. This type of automation is viable for processes that:

  • Are predictable and repeatable – i.e., they follow clear steps that a bot can continuously repeat.
  • Don’t require human intervention.
  • Have sufficient volume. Enterprises will typically invest in automating a process when they’ll yield sufficient business value, in the form of cost savings, error reduction, or productivity gains. This means that processes with greater transaction volumes – e.g., order processing for a telecom operator – are strong candidates for automation.

Advantages of unattended automation

  • Less errors and improved efficiency. When a process is executed solely by RPA bots, there is no room for human error – like typos, miscalculations, incorrectly copying data, etc. This radically improves the efficiency of high-volume processes.
  • Productivity gains. Bots can perform repetitive, mundane tasks round-the-clock without tiring or getting bored. Working 24/7 also translates to greater outputs.
  • Increased security, privacy, and regulatory compliance. Involving humans in certain processes increases the security risks, but you can mitigate these risks by deploying automation instead. For example, customer service centers may use chatbots to verify a customer’s identity – e.g., through their unique T-PIN – before connecting them with a human agent.
  • Anyone can access it. Unlike attended automation, which runs on an individual’s desktop, unattended automation can be deployed on the cloud where it runs in the background.  Thus, you can access data from any device and share it with ease, which is especially helpful for data collection, analytics, and reporting. 

Common use cases of unattended automation

Use case 1: RPA for processing paychecks.

Traditional payroll processing involves numerous manual tasks, including data entry, tax calculations, and deduction adjustments. These tasks are not only time-consuming but prone to human error.

RPA steps in by automating these routine processes accurately and efficiently. Bots can swiftly calculate salaries, deductions, and taxes based on predefined rules and regulations, significantly reducing the risk of payroll discrepancies.

Use case 2: Automating credit scoring and risk assessment processes.

This type of automation analyzes customer data against predefined credit criteria, including factors such as credit history, income levels, debt obligations, and other relevant financial indicators.

Automating this process ensures an applicant’s financial profile is rigorously and fairly assessed, eliminating the human bias and error. This not only streamlines the lending process but also contributes to sound financial decision-making, reduced risk exposure, and improved customer satisfaction by providing quicker credit decisions.

Use case 3: Order processing.

Within supply chain management, unattended bots can efficiently process incoming orders by cross-referencing them with available inventory and production capacity. They can automatically generate pick lists, allocate resources, and initiate order fulfillment workflows. This automation expedites the order-to-delivery cycle, reducing lead times and ensuring that customer orders are met promptly and accurately.

Implementing a hybrid automation strategy

Using attended and unattended automation does not need to be an either/or decision. Both types of automation are key to driving enterprise digital transformation and benefiting from reduced costs, improved efficiency, secure processes, and substantial productivity gains. 

Thus, an enterprise’s automation leaders should work closely with process owners to identify RPA opportunities and determine where to employ attended and unattended automation, respectively, and where to combine the two. 

Is your organization in the telecommunications industry? These telecom RPA use cases can help you get started. 

By carefully assessing the specific requirements of various tasks and processes, organizations that employ both attended and unattended intelligent automation can maximize their returns on investment, achieve cost savings, enhance efficiency, and boost customer satisfaction. 

Need help implementing RPA in your organization, or just identifying opportunities? Book a meeting with one of our RPA consultants today. 


Umair Maqsood

Director and Head of Digital Delivery Centre at M.M. With over 20 years of professional experience, including software and telecom industries. Has in-depth insight into the life cycle of tailor-made to off the shelf software solutions.
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