RPA in Customer Service: The Transformative Potential

Can RPA in customer service help businesses keep up with evolving customer expectations?

Customer behavior and expectations have evolved considerably over the years, and the customer of today expects quick, frictionless, and personalized service. Consumers are less forgiving of poor experiences, and they’ve got multiple alternatives available to them if one brand lets them down.

Businesses are certainly aware of these changes, and it would be incorrect to say that organizations don’t prioritize customer service. In the U.S. alone, companies spend over $100 billion annually on call centers and customer contact technology. 

However, despite this steep investment, nearly 135 billion customer calls end with unresolved issues, contributing to substantial losses. Contact centers and support teams are struggling to provide customers with quick, personalized, and connected experiences at scale. 

So it’s definitely time for businesses to consider different options to improve their customer service offering — options like automation, a powerful tool that helps companies meet growing customer expectations. Robotic process automation (RPA), in particular, is a versatile, effective, and scalable automation technology for transforming customer service functions. 

In this article, we’ll explore the behavior and expectations of today’s customers, the potential and benefits of RPA, and practical use cases of RPA in customer service. 

Understanding customer behavior and customer service challenges

Customer satisfaction strongly influences a business’s profit and reputation, so as customer expectations evolve, companies need to continue delivering stellar experiences. Here are some ways that customer behaviour and expectations have changed:

  1. Loyalty is shakier. As competition grows, customers have more options to choose from, and they’re ready to make the switch if a brand disappoints them. A 2022 survey by Amazon found that 64% of respondents would switch to a different service provider after one bad customer service experience.

  2. Customers are more comfortable with technology. While the role of technology in people’s daily lives has grown steadily over the years, the global pandemic drastically accelerated the pace of this shift. Now, 40% of shoppers don’t mind if they’re served by an AI tool (like chatbots or virtual assistants) or a human agent, provided they receive the necessary support.

    As consumers become more comfortable with technology, they’ve come to expect brands to leverage digitalization to deliver superior experiences with less friction — as many as 70% of customers now expect websites to have a self-service option.

    Customers are also more likely to search for answers to their queries online rather than contacting the company by phone, which means it’s important for businesses to create relevant knowledge bases to satisfy this preference.

  3. Urgency is even more of a priority. Likely as a result of digitalization and increasing competition, customers expect quicker service without compromises on quality.

    While the average customer service response time is 12 hours and 10 minutes, almost 50% of customers expect companies to respond in under 4 hours. This discrepancy shows that, on average, businesses are struggling to keep up with customer service expectations. 

Naturally, the contact center plays a key role in meeting these expectations. However, contact centers face challenges along the way, like:

  • Increasing operational costs and hiring shortages. High operational costs present a problem for over 50% of contact centers, while 49% are struggling to hire enough agents.

    These challenges are interlinked because human resources are one of a business’s biggest expenditures. Additional factors like recruiting challenges and difficulties onboarding new agents also contribute to hiring shortages.

  • Inconsistent experiences across channels. Over 70% of customers expect businesses to already know why they’re calling—i.e., they expect agents to know who the customer is and their previous interactions across other channels and with previous agents.

    However, 53% of callers report having to repeat their reason for calling multiple times to different agents. This indicates that contact centers are struggling to deliver consistent omnichannel experiences.

  • Agent burnout. Growing customer expectations and hiring shortages mean customer support teams are under pressure to deliver quick, personalized experiences at scale. Unsurprisingly, this leads to stress, and almost 60% of contact centers’ agents are consequently at risk of burnout, according to one study


To comprehensively solve these problems, contact centers will need to rethink the way they operate, redesign workflows, and invest in orchestrating better customer journeys. And while technology has contributed to evolving customer expectations, it also provides the necessary tools to help meet them. Automation in particular can transform customer service as a whole, which brings us to out next discussion.

RPA in customer service: potential and benefits

Robotic process automation’s (RPA) potential in customer service is twofold; it not only helps reduce friction from the customer journey and enhance customer experiences, but also frees support teams from mundane, repetitive, and laborious tasks. Consequently, both customers and agents alike benefit from the implementation of RPA.

For example, RPA in customer service:

  1. Facilitates omnichannel experiences. RPA helps businesses deliver consistent customer experiences across different channels through:

    • Unattended automation. This type of automation does not involve human input and is typically used in the back office. RPA can integrate various systems to facilitate information sharing across them and provide customers with connected experiences.

      For example, RPA can provide customers with automated updates (e.g., order confirmation or shipping updates), process refund requests, and both share and update account information.

      Additionally, integrating RPA with chatbots enhances self-service experiences, since RPA bots can extract data from different systems to help chatbots deliver personalized experiences.

    • Attended automation. Attended automation workflows include RPA and humans working together. RPA bots can help human agents deliver omnichannel experiences by instantly extracting the customer’s data from internal systems and displaying it on the agent’s screen.

      This means agents will have access to previous interactions, with different agents and across multiple channels. Customers will no longer have to repeat their queries, and agents will have the necessary context to deliver personalized support.

  2. Automates repetitive, rules-based processes. RPA can automate various repetitive processes in customer service workflows, like call routing, updating and retrieving data, filling in forms, automated ticket handling, and managing multiple logins.

    Eliminating these tasks from a human agent’s workflow reduces stress and helps them focus on resolving the customer’s query.

  3. End-to-end workflow automation. Some workflows are primed for end-to-end automation, especially with the help of AI technologies where necessary. For example, RPA technology can automate customer onboarding, service cancellations, generating invoices, order confirmations, and account information retrieval and updating.

  4. Feedback collection and analysis. RPA bots can be deployed to collect customer feedback via surveys (like CSAT or NPS) after key interactions. Using AI technologies like Natural Language Processing (NLP), RPA bots can also analyze these surveys and data from interactions across various channels (like live chat logs).

Thus, implementing RPA in customer service unlocks many benefits for a business, including:

  1. Superior customer experiences. Self-service options, automated workflows, and attended automation reduce friction from the customer’s journey and help fulfill today’s customer expectations. Thus, implementing RPA helps businesses deliver personalized, connected experiences across all channels.

  2. Reduced agent burnout. RPA bots alleviate the burden on your agents by automating laborious tasks and some back-end workflows entirely. As a result, agents are under less stress and can focus on resolving customer inquiries.

    RPA also simplifies an agent’s workflow — for example, bots retrieve data, update customer records, and manage logins for multiple systems. This means agents may not need to learn to use as many systems, and their day-to-day workflows become less technical.

  3. Reduced costs. Automating various tasks means you won’t have to increase head counts to the same degree to manage larger volumes. This is good news for the nearly fifty percent of contact centers that are struggling to hire new agents.

  4. Error reduction. RPA drastically improves data hygiene by eliminating human error—no more typos or instances of data being incorrectly copied from one system to the other.

  5. Improved contact center performance. RPA bots can improve call center metrics like average handling times and wait times, by:

    • Providing self-service support options (with the help of chatbots) to decrease your human agent’s workload. This means your agents are free to take cases with complex customer queries.
    • Automatically routing calls. By analyzing a customer’s account information and previous interactions, RPA bots can automatically route them to relevant personnel.
    • Reducing average handling times. RPA bots simplify human agents’ workflows, provide them with instant access to relevant information, recommend appropriate resolutions, and take relevant actions (like processing refunds) automatically.

      Ultimately, this helps agents resolve customer queries faster, decreasing the average handling time. Consequently, agents can quickly move on to the next customer, reducing wait times

5 Use cases for RPA in customer service

1. Order fallout management

The problem of order fallout is a pressing one for telcos, which is a result of several factors, including poor data transfer across legacy systems, missing data, duplicate orders, and varying response times.

Telcos can add a layer of automation to the order fallout process by assigning RPA bots to accurately manage and transfer data, address error-coded requests by applying predefined procedures to resolve queries, and escalate requests that require special attention. 

2. Predictive churn management

The telecommunications industry suffers from some of the highest churn rates — approximately 26-31%. RPA bots help telcos reduce churn by proactively taking action to resolve critical service requests (SRs).

RPA bots identify and segment potential churn cases by analyzing factors like the severity of open SRs, the duration of unresolved requests, and by performing sentiment analysis on customer interactions. After identifying high-risk cases, RPA bots can take preventative action to reduce churn, like offering incentives such as limited time upgrades or by escalating the case to a support agent.

3. Know your customer (KYC) compliance

Manual KYC processes struggle to keep up with the sheer volume and frequency of transactions across multiple systems. Additionally, the complexity of these processes – including multiple steps – results in data inconsistencies and errors.

KYC compliance is an ideal candidate for RPA, as RPA bots can effortlessly manage large transaction volumes – checking, processing, and compiling data without the risk of human error. RPA bots can validate and transfer processed data to KYC files, recording daily updates, compiling reports, and dispatching relevant files to agents via email.

4. Automated refunds 

RPA bots can take refund requests from multiple channels, like emails, SMS, or ticketing platforms, and process refunds with little to no human intervention. Refund processes usually follow repeatable, rules-based steps, which RPA bots can easily replicate. Bots can verify refund requests against pre-established rules, including return guidelines or prior transactions, as soon as they are received.

Bots can proceed to take relevant actions, like crediting the customer’s account, handling cancellations and reimbursements, and updating records. If necessary, the RPA bot can send an approval request to relevant support personnel before processing a refund. 

5. Updating Customer Information

RPA bots can manage multiple logins and instantly input data to multiple systems. This means when a customer submits a request to change some information, such as a change of address or contact details, RPA bots can automatically extract this data from the customer’s input or designated forms. The bots then validate the information against existing records to ensure accuracy, and proceed to update it on internal systems, like the CRM.

Summary: RPA in customer service

RPA can transform your customer service function by reducing repetitive, laborious work, and giving human agents the support they need to deliver efficient, personalized customer experiences at scale. 

The technology isn’t just effective for automating back-office tasks, but it also adds value to the front office by increasing self-service options (especially by integrating RPA with chatbots), assisting agents in day-to-day tasks, and consolidating data across different channels to deliver connected customer experiences.

Interested in learning what RPA can do for your business? Book a consultation with an experienced RPA consultant today. 

Author

Kash Sadiq

Director Marketing at Mercurial Minds. With broad experience covering several areas including, new product development, user experience design, product and project management. Has worked in broadcast television production and programming, advertising, sales, live audio reinforcement, audio studio engineering, artist management and telecom-media convergence.
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