As we’ve seen time and time again, RPA is most widely - and arguably most effectively - used to help companies enhance their back-office operations and streamline their operational platforms for increase efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Whether it’s automating tedious, repetitive functions such as claim processing, copy paste tasks, or data migration, RPA has proven to be a key value proposition for companies to leverage higher degrees of productivity and profitability.
But RPA can also play an important role in the front office, or rather in helping companies more swiftly execute their customer-facing tasks. While the end result is still similar - increased functionality and a high level operational success - the vehicle through which this is achieved is customer relations and customer relationship management. Essentially, just as RPA helps companies function more successfully internally, it can also help companies operate more effectively externally in terms of increasing customer satisfaction and even turning one-time customers into repeat customers.
While some might argue the lack of real connection between the back-office and the customer-facing aspect of business management, it’s important to remember what happens to one side of the equation impacts the other, and modifications to back office processes can impact the front office because employees will have more time to focus on improving customer engagement, satisfaction, and retention. But how? How can RPA help companies streamline their customer-facing tasks? Moreover, what kinds of these tasks are prime for automation? To help answer this question, we’ll examine a handful of customer-facing tasks that are right for automation and the value companies can derive from automating these functions.
Why automate customer facing tasks?
Before we examine which customer-facing duties are the most applicable for automation, let’s first understand why companies should bother considering automation in this context. It cannot be understated that the customer is an essential part to the success of every business. While back-office automation is important in order to alleviate strain and provide support customer-facing functions, customer-facing automation can completely transform how companies interact, communicate, and engage with their customers?
The benefits of customer-facing automation are two-fold: facilitating tasks for which front office employees are responsible, who can then focus more closely on developing and growing relationships with customers who might then be more apt to transform into repeat business opportunities. In support of this idea, Deliotte recently released a report that highlighted the true value of automating customer-facing tasks by arguing companies across a wide range of industries are using RPA to help focus more attention and resources on the front-end and enhancing the overall customer experience through a more streamlined, lean customer engagement moment. What makes the automation of customer-facing tasks so valuable is it removes the burdensome, repetitive duties associated with serving the customer while at the same time allowing companies to actually interact with the customer to create long-term, productive business relationships.
Best customer-facing tasks for automation
Now that we understand and realize the importance of customer-facing automation, we can examine a few of the broad categories of business practices companies can automate in order to improve their customer relations and create the opportunity to improve and enhance company-client-customer relations.
Transactions and customer engagement timelines
Especially important for customer-facing operations is something quite simple and basic: the time it takes to address a customer’s questions or concerns. Delivering customer-facing services in a timely manner is crucial, especially for call centers that depend on customer satisfaction. With RPA, tasks that would normally be done by a human employee can be done much faster through automation and clients can be contacted in a more efficient manner. RPA can also help employees tackle current backlogs and large volumes of newly incoming requests. This results in increases the productivity of employees, allowing them to focus on the customer. In addition, shortening these customer engagement transactions and timelines means companies can not only put more emphasis on the individual customer, but it also allows companies to interact with a larger volume of customers, thus increasing the company’s outreach and footprint.
Communication and collaboration
RPA can be used in a customer-facing manner to manage customer interactions and communication, but also encourage greater collaboration in a cross-organizational manner. Because RPA can be deployed within workflows with automatic notifications or alerts, companies can use RPA to control a customer contact schedule, triggering notifications or reminders when it is time for employees to follow-up with customers or alert employees to new correspondences between companies and customers. On the same note, RPA can be used to send automated messages to customers regarding new services or product offerings, or to new offers or deals for existing products. These enhanced levels of communication fosters a greater understanding of a company’s consumer base - the wants, needs, and desires, and how best to position products to satisfy those needs.
And because communication between companies and customers is much easier, more consistent, and more in-depth, companies can leverage the insights gained from this communication to create more opportunities for collaborations between departments or individuals within any given company. Essentially, better communication with customers has the potential to bring employees together in a unified mission of improving the customer experience.
Error reductions and efficiencies
Yes, RPA software robots drastically increase accuracy when deployed in the back-office, but RPA can also significantly reduce errors and increase efficiencies when it comes to customer-facing tasks as well. Once properly programmed and mapped, RPA software will be able to execute and streamline a number of actions without the potential for human error. For example, customer service agents often have to navigate between multiple systems during the course of a single call in order to access stored data, record new information, and answer questions for a customer. This process is not only time consuming but also prone to errors. By automating this transfer of data and allowing information to be accessed more easily in one place, RPA will allow employees to provide more accurate services, thereby reducing the number of complaints received from clients.
Additionally, automating this customer-facing aspect of business operations can drive overall growth and profitability by allowing employees to focus on innovation and creativity rather than working through repetitive, elementary tasks automation can complete with a greater degree of efficiency and accuracy.
Nick Ostdick is a Digital Content Strategist.