How the Pandemic has Accelerated the Need for RPA

How the Pandemic has Accelerated the Need for RPA
October 22, 2020 Integration

The recent global pandemic has caused a revived interest in implementation of robotic process automation (RPA) for organisations. Automation has taken centre stage in the wake of the pandemic.  

According to Gartner, 90 percent of large organisations will have adopted RPA by 2022. 92 percent of business leaders believe that process automation and digitisation are critical to both short- and long-term organisational success. These numbers hint at the fact that despite the economic pressures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the RPA market is expected to grow at double digit rates through 2024. 

What has caused such growth in the automation industry despite economic recession? How is it helping businesses from varying industries cope up with the novel challenges that the pandemic brings with it? And most importantly, how does it ensure a more secure future in the wake of more uncertain events? Let’s explore. 

What is RPA? 

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a software that mimics repetitive human tasks in a fast and error-free manner. With RPA, organisations can take care of their mundane activities with little to no requirement for human intervention. With automation taking care of so many chores fast and in a flawless manner, employees are left with more time to focus on goals that require strategic and creative thinking. 

RPA and Covid-19 

RPA was a talked about concept even before the pandemic hit the world. But the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis forced leaders to take automation seriously. Meeting growing service demands, supporting colleagues, managing an entirely remote workforce and keeping businesses going have been challenging for organisations during these unprecedented times. For organisations struggling with clerical and time-consuming tasks, RPA has emerged as a blessing. 

There was never a bigger need for chatbots and automation tools to take care of rising backlogs. Here are some of the ways in which RPA has been helping organisations in the pandemic. 

  1. Helping businesses run leaner without compromising on quality 

Covid-19 has made many employees work remotely. This brings on its own set of challenges for organisations that have always operated in a structured form. Firstly, it’s difficult for remote employees to turn directly to their colleagues or supervisors for help and support as they are not around each other physically. Virtual assistants can play a potentially big role in offering this support, as well as keep employees updated, informed and feeling connected to each other.  

Second, RPA can help organisations ensure compliance. Any new additions to company policies, guidelines or procedures can also be prompted to employees in real-time through virtual assistants. 

Third, software robots can help ensure that all staff have access to the tools and data that they need to keep business up and running. Software robots can assist with the setup of remote working tools of an organisation and provide intermediary support. It can give employees privileged access to data sources so that critical operations can continue without any delays.  

In these ways, RPA has acted as a silent workforce that has helped organisations work with their current employees, without having the need to hire more workforce to address the added workload.  

  1. Creating more capacity within organisations 

Time and again, robots have been perceived as a technology that will eventually snatch human jobs.  RPA has managed to smash this misconception of simply replacing humans and eliminating jobs. Rather than having to let people go, RPA creates more capacity within teams to accomplish far more than manually possible.  

Internal processes that cost a lot of manual labour hours can be prone to delays and errors. Automation can speed these processes up; help meet deadlines for routine activities and improve business as a result. All of this can be done while creating more accuracy as RPA eliminates the scope for errors. 

By automating routine, repetitive tasks, employees get more time to perform value added activities. Rather than being stuck in mundane activities, employees can divert their creativity and strategic mind to answering important questions that can help grow the business in these tough times. Questions like how to improve existing processes, how to serve customers better etc. deserve more attention than they get. 

  1. Helping legacy processes take a new shape 

Covid-19 pushed certain legacy processes and BPOs well beyond their peak capacity. These processes got exposed for their inefficiencies and excessive reliance on manual processing.  

For instance, an airline company experienced a surge in cancellations due to pandemic shutdowns. From an average of 500 requests per day pre-pandemic, the requests increased to 4000 per day. Managing such a magnitude with existing staff was physically impossible, and hiring new employees was out of the question as business took a big hit.  

RPA helped the company by addressing their “right now” needs. With the help pf RPA, the staff was able to shift focus to more pressing problems. RPA helped the airline company face these unprecedented challenges with much ease and accuracy in the middle of a global pandemic. 

There are similar examples in the healthcare sector where bots and automation tools have been utilised to handle unexpected volumes and surges that the pandemic has caused. Once bots are used to scale, even if volumes go down, going back to manual modes is not an options companies will opt for. 

RPA has shown that the opportunities with it are practically infinite. This has been realised more so in the recent crisis.  

  1. Raising customer experience to a whole new level 

84% of customers said that the experience companies provide is as important as its products and services 

~ Salesforce “State of Marketing Research” 2020 

The pandemic has influenced new shopping behaviours and amplified volumes for digital customer support. Customers are buying everything online and the numbers are rising by the day. This is resulting in increased customer expectations for new and improved digital experiences at accelerated rates. 

While this presents an opportunity for businesses with an online presence, it has also put tremendous pressure on call centres. This pressure to respond to customers in a non-structured corporate environment can be very overwhelming for employees. At the same time, the need to provide a responsive, personalised, compassionate and immediate customer service will make or break businesses in these times. 

Automation can help businesses enhance the customer experience. Bots can connect customers to immediate responses and solutions, offering them real-time relief to their issues. Bots can also be used to guide service agents with solutions they can present to customers.  

Customer-facing automation is required for value-added services and as a competitive differentiation. Most common queries like order processing, refunds etc can be solved through bots and employees can focus on more pressing problems of customers that require empathetic human involvement.  

  1. Helping employees deliver more value 

As per a McKinsey survey, allowing ways for skilled resources to focus on more strategic and creative work has a direct impact on ROI and can boost it from 30 percent to 200 percent. Employees in industries like finance and insurance spend as much as half their time collecting and processing data. RPA offers a cost-effective solution to achieve superior capabilities to handle queries and manage compliance requirements.  

Automation frees employees of frustrations associated with complex, manual and time-intensive processes, thereby enabling them to focus on delivering experiences that their customers will love. All kinds of highly manual and administrative tasks like address change, claims for refund, order processing and other tasks be done by robots. This leaves more time for employees to focus on tasks that can deliver real value. 

For more ambitious organisations, analysing data and patterns from automated processes will also lead to new understanding and actionable insights to further personalise and improve the customer’s experience.  

Is automation here to stay? 

While most organisations have slowed down due to the economic recession induced by the coronavirus, technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA) have been working silently in the background. These technologies have proved to be recession-proof and have been successfully implemented across various sectors during the Covid-19 crisis. This has increased its future demand and as of now, RPA tools are getting more attention from the C-suite. 

Companies who had implemented automation before the pandemic hit the world are experiencing fewer problems. They are managing to keep a steady workflow, maintain productivity, aid customers and support their staff. The pandemic has forced organisations to reimagine the future of work and take steps that bring this vision to life. Automation seems like an inevitable part of this goal.  

Think of automation as a part of your investments going forward. Investigate how it can benefit your organisation and meet your challenges. Most importantly, RPA is a solution that can help future proof your business against another uncertain crisis that may lie ahead. 

Tags: Automation RPA