While assisted service aptly describes the human-touch component, intelligent agent engagement more accurately describes the human-touch fueled with technology to drive improved operational efficiency.
Agent engagement refers to any customer interaction that requires a human-touch. While much of the technology focus of recent years has been with self-service, the assisted service channel is seeing a resurgence of interest and importance. There is also a growing realization that customers no longer need to make a binary decision on using one form of service over the other - instead, self-service and assisted service are deeply intertwined, so much so that a single customer interaction can span both channels, multiple times.
Within the broader domain of Customer Experience (CX) technology there has perhaps been no greater technological advancement than self-service products and solutions. The dizzying pace of innovation - artificial intelligence, chatbots, machine learning, autonomous service - is enough to leave any CX practitioner feeling overwhelmed. Coupled with the fact that self-service initiatives are often high-visibility and high-priority projects, the risk of a failed implementation always looms large.
The strategic importance of investing in the Customer Experience has led organizations to improve all aspects of the customer journey. While the self-service channel is being prioritized in part due to customer demand and in part due to cost advantages, companies are being driven to take a renewed look at agent engagement due to a number of factors:
Intelligent self-service refers to the new generation of self-service solutions. These solutions are changing the paradigm over the old way of doing it. The highly structured classification and prescriptive knowledge bases are being replaced (or fronted) with virtual customer assistants (VCA’s) or chatbots. The old IVR phone trees (“press one for billing, press two for services…”) are being replaced by graphical or digital alternatives. Automation technology, often thought to be the exclusive domain for organizational automation, is now being utilized to assist customers.
Today, if you scrolled through the latest news regarding RPA, whether it be around new funding, company announcements in this space or industry growth, you would think RPA is scaling at an unprecedented pace for whatever company just decides to take the plunge. However, the reality on the ground continues to paint a drastically different picture. The truth is that, according to new data from 590 enterprises worldwide, only 13% of RPA adopters are currently scaled up and industrialized, while most RPA adopters are still tinkering with projects and not progressing towards enterprise scale adoption. Indeed, if there is one thing this tells us when it comes to enterprise RPA, is that it is not nearly as easy as the hype suggests. The problem doesn’t seem to be with the technology itself, so why are there such a large number of businesses that are, at best, slow to fully benefit from RPA software?
So where do business users fit in this RPA space? Business users have a role to play – and it’s a very integrated role but it is not in developing the automations no matter how good a vendors’ “automation recorder” may be. The business should be the ones identifying the opportunities, documenting the opportunities and be an integral process in the agile process contributing to ongoing process improvement, testing, adoption, etc. That’s the beauty of agile delivery…collaboration between business and IT quick and iterative development, not letting fear of failure delay progress, if at first you fail… try try again. Wasn’t this the root cause we were trying to solve for😊 in the first place.
Before I profess my thoughts on this one, let’s first look to the experts in the field who are implementing RPA. The big consulting shops or boutique services companies who are also fighting for your business. Groups with hundreds of onshore and offshore employees dedicated to building RPA bots for their clients. Surely the truth of this business user RPA battle lies within their four walls.
While all three of these approaches have proved valuable in addressing business pain on the surface, these strategies have also failed to address the true root cause (business / IT wedge) and in many cases have only exasperated the problem by overlooking it altogether as vendors continue sell the business “ready to go” applications to help remove their dependence from IT. It’s almost as if organizations are looking externally to companies for quick app functionality much like we look to the app store to fill small pockets of functionality in our daily lives. In our personal life as in business, these apps offer quick ways to fill gaps / add new functionality but unfortunately often act in their own silos and don’t typically integrate or automate with other apps.
Why do business users want to build RPA bots in the first place? The answer seems simple on the surface (business owned flexibility and adaptability of their technology) but if we dig a bit further into the root cause of this one, you will surface other organizational pain points that have contributed to this business quest for IT independence. Yes, we are in a disruptive high-pressure “change or be changed” business climate where none of us want to end up as the next #blockbuster case study. Yet the two teams that should be working hand and hand to respond and adapt to this rapidly changing customer environment are not always aligned and in sync as you would expect.