RPA stands for Robotic Process Automation. If you work in banking, finance or insurance, at a telecommunication operator or an energy provider, in a mutual fund or a local authority and you have not yet heard the acronym at a meeting, it should not be long.
For a very simple reason:
RPA is the first step on the long path of digital transformation.
Let’s see through two examples what it is precisely. You will then understand how Robotic Process Automation is now a must have in the world of services, for the benefit of both the company and its employees. Finally, we will give some perspective on what will happen to jobs in the services sector.
Bank: onboarding a new customer
The challenges of conquering new customers
During Spring 2013, a large French bank launched a new online bank offer on the European market. Opening customer accounts online through a website triggers a complex process. It involves checks, validations, and administrative steps in the back-office IT.
The onboarding process involve seven regulatory verifications that required copying and pasting the name, first name and date of birth of the potential client on regulatory websites, such as the bank incident file, the stolen checkbooks file etc. In addition, there are 5 data and documents checks and 17 data processing performed by different applications. The average processing time for a file was 25 minutes.
The employees of this bank are now assisted by Contextor software robots who automatically carry out all the control tasks: these software bots launch via the Internet many third-party applications, in particular those of the Banque de France. They ensure the quality of data, the consistency of information and the eligibility of subscribers.
In addition, creating a context-based banner on the desktop made it easier to master the process. It was easier to learn, resulting in fewer errors. Employee performance was boosted by a significant reduction in the number of clicks and application switching. Robots helps the operator’s decisions, while taking over the unpleasant and redundant tasks.
The average processing time of a file is reduced to 5 minutes, by robots designed and deployed in a few weeks!
Energy: managing a customer’s claim about a bill
The challenges of claims management
At a major energy provider, processing claims from customers who receive their bill is a real issue. Indeed, to the complexity of the bill that includes a subscription, consumption according to various tariffs, taxes etc is added seasonal summer / winter effect. Many customers do not understand their bill, the amount often seems too high, and they call their supplier for explanations.
To process a client’s request, it is necessary to retrieve a hundred of information from a dozen applications and then enter them into a rule engine that will analyze them to decide if the customer’s claim is admissible or not, and of the action to be taken.
Such a process was too long to be done during a phone call from the customer. The customer adviser was to take note of the complaint, to inform the client that he would call him back after analyzing his request. This created great frustration among clients, who did not have an immediate and accurate response to their request for information.
Customer advisors are now assisted by Contextor robots: these software bots automatically retrieve all the information giving the context of the client who is on the phone, launch the business data analysis engine and immediately present the response to the advisor. He can either explain to the client why his complaint is not admissible or indicate that it is accepted and explain the commercial gesture that will be done immediately.
Now, 90% of customer complaints are processed in minutes, from the first call!
RPA, an “exoskeleton” for employees in the service sector
One can find such in all areas of service industries. In large enterprises, employees working on PCs spend a lot of time interacting with the different applications of the IT: in order to carry out their mission, they are forced to copy and paste data from one application to another, or even to manually re-enter information. Robotic process automation, or RPA, is implementing “software robots” to make these tedious, non-value-added tasks as easy as possible.
Today, an exoskeleton allows a construction worker to effortlessly carry heavy loads from one place to another on the job site, or to a caregiver working in a hospital to relieve the sick person without back pain.
Similarly, Robotic Process Automation makes available to all tertiary workers a set of robots that will ease their workload by allowing them to devote more time to tasks that leverage their intelligence and sense of human relationship.
As we have seen, automation and robotization now affect not only industry but services. Alarming news have been published in the last few months by the media concerning the massive destruction of jobs that could result from it: some studies have suggested that half of the service jobs are destined to disappear in a relatively short period of time.
France Stratégie is a French government agency whose purpose is to help determine key directions for the future of the nation. By analyzing French statistical data over the period from 1998-2013 based on a repository of specific jobs, France Stratégie classified jobs into four broad categories, according to whether or not the job requires an externally-imposed rate, and applies strict guidelines or indicates autonomy:
Source France Stratégie
France Stratégie’s evaluation is also based on work by the OECD and the Employment Advisory Council [Conseil d’Orientation pour l’Emploi] – COE :
Source France Stratégie
The idea that emerges from France Stratégie’s research is that automation does not destroy jobs, but rather takes over tasks within a job. As a result, the job is transformed, incorporating new tasks, which provides greater added value than those delegated to the robot.
This measured position is what the economist Michel Volle expresses in his works on iconomics. In a blog post, he states that “taxing robots would be a historic mistake” because “Iconomics introduces a new being, the ‘augmented human being’, with unparalleled faculties and capable of previously impossible actions. The future belongs neither to absolute automation nor to the maintenance of obsolete forms of employment, but rather to the symbiosis of human beings and computer automata. To achieve success, we must be aware of their difference and perceive what we each can do better than the other in order to reasonably articulate them. Seeing in the robot a human worker equivalent and taxing it accordingly would inhibit it and delay the contributions of this symbiosis.”
These analyses are consistent with what we Contextor have been able to observe, having deployed nearly 100,000 software robots in large companies. Robotic Process Automation handles the tedious tasks that some employees perform every day, which can free 10-30% of their time. Clearly, RPA bots” are not destroying jobs, but rather, they are improving the working conditions of the employees they assist, who can they focus more time on tasks that are truly interesting for them and that leverage their intelligence and their sense of human relationships.
It is in this sense that the robots augment human capacities, without replacing human beings. And that’s why Contextor’s motto is
“We augment humans with bots“!
P.S: If you want to go further on this subject, feel free to download our White Paper on Robotic Process Automation.