This week the webinar “Transform your contact center operations” took place, organized by the Customer Contact Management Association (CCMA) and UiPath. Sandra van Maarseveen, Manager Customer Care & Operations at Eneco spoke openly during this digital meeting about the use of robots and the associated challenges at utility companies.
Huw Williams, Global Practice Leader Contact Center at UiPath kicked off the meeting with a brief talk about RPA, the “fastest growing sector in tech” after the opening of Melanie Stemerdink of the CCMA. “Our vision of RPA is” a robot for everyone person,” says Willams. “It takes over the routine tasks of employees, so that people can focus on tasks that really add value. RPA imitates human actions, but faster and more accurately.”
The figures show that RPA can have added value in contact centers. 90 percent of companies say customer experience is a business priority. But only a third of those companies allow themselves to be guided by this. Nor is it made easy for them because there are quite a few technologies that contact centers deal with.
Williams: “The data is fragmented across systems and front, middle and back office. All of that must be put together manually. RPA can be the glue to connect all of that and ensure unambiguous customer interaction and simplify the work of the call center agent.”
Bots can quickly and accurately extract content from multiple sources. The bot can then take care of the fulfillment, and finally help with the wrap up. “That quickly saves 40 percent in processing, and customer satisfaction increases. Robots ensure more compliance, and are, as it were, a second pair of eyes to keep an eye on the process. The agents are also more satisfied with their work. And that can all be built quickly; the average bot is set up in 8 to 12 weeks.”
In practice, robots are used, among other things, to fill in self-service with chatbots and email, as unattended robots. Attended robots can provide the agent with personalized information at their fair, to ensure that much-coveted personalized approach. The recently introduced UiPath Apps responds to this, with which a bot as well as an interface and presentation layer can be built.
Sandra van Maarseveen, Manager Customer Care & Operations at Eneco spoke from her practical experience with robots in customer service. She herself is responsible for Eneco’s customer care, provided by approximately 1,000 employees. They now receive 3.2 million customer inquiries per year, covering matters such as service, payments, and technical questions. The costs for this amount to 40 million euros per year.
“We have set up RPA in that environment. We started this two years ago. The first use case was a good collaboration between the IT department and customer care. We saw that a lot of manual work was done. We initially looked for solutions within the existing systems, but that was too expensive, and sometimes too complicated. In those cases, RPA turned out to be a good solution to tackle the manual and repetitive work.”
“So, we started with RPA to take away the tedious work from our employees so they could focus on the customer questions where they can provide added value, and which are more challenging for them. But although you want to make work more valuable for your employees, you do face cultural challenges. Because the first reaction to RPA may be that employees think robots are taking over their work. It requires a different way of leading your team.”
The benefits are immediately clear: “The activities the robot does are always done correctly, and it means fewer mistakes. Customers get answers faster, and it is always the right answer. In addition, scalability played a role for us, because we are dealing with seasonal peaks. Winter is busier than summer. And upscaling of those activities can be done faster by adding more robots.”
Another benefit is proactive risk management. “When building the robot, you really must map out every step in the process, down to the smallest details, such as where exactly to click. And by documenting your processes in this way, you also ensure good risk management.”
Thirty processes have currently been robotized at Eneco, which has resulted in a cost reduction of € 340,000. “We processed 15,000 outages, managed 13,500 new installations, registered 8,000 new customers, refunded 7,000 times, contacted 3,000 customers by email, and hired 1,000 new people.”
She does have a side note about management: “You build the robot on your existing IT landscape, but that landscape changes over time. The user interface is also constantly changing, new products and services are being introduced, which in turn leads to new processes. You must pay attention to that. And of course, robots have already retired, because the relevant process has stopped, or the systems are no longer active.”
Van Maarseveen shares a number of lessons: “Challenge IT. We always first looked at whether we could find a solution in the existing IT systems. Often that is possible, but sometimes it is not possible. The second lesson is that you must always ensure an interface that is up to date when the underlying system changes. Always have someone who keeps an eye on both the robots and the user interface.”
“And the last is: start as small as possible. We tried to stay away from difficult business cases. See if it works, let the results speak for themselves, and build on that. Because if you come up with something innovative that people are unfamiliar with, it takes time to convince them. And what also takes time is the procurement process, which is often the biggest bottleneck, not only with RPA. Once you get through that, you can take full advantage of RPA.”