By Tim Mercer, CEO of Vapour
For many, robots are a thing of the future. People imagine Wall-E type machines that can think and feel emotion just like us, or multi-million pound, multi-arm robots on factory lines that only blue chip organisations can afford. But in reality, they come in all shapes and sizes, including software-based robots that can’t be physically seen.
And it’s this type of robot that companies – particularly in the finance sector – should be taking a particular interest in. In fact, these ‘invisible’ helpers are more prevalent in the business world now than ever before – with 71% of firms using some sort of robotic technology to improve workplace efficiencies. There’s therefore no reason why every business won’t – or shouldn’t – have a ‘robot’ by 2023.
There are critics out there who believe that robots are here to replace humans at work, making people redundant and reducing vacancies. But this is a common misconception which needs to be addressed. That’s why the ‘cobot’ has emerged.
A cobot can be defined as a collaborative and complementary assistant which works alongside staff, instead of replacing employees altogether. This technology, technically referred to as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), automates operational tasks, which would otherwise take up copious amounts of employee time.
Not only does this speed up manual processes, but it lets employees focus on strategic, value-driven work, which is typically more engaging and fulfilling too – like servicing customers. And it’s in industries where Customer Experience (CX) really counts – like finance and banking – that this will make a real difference for both customers and employees alike.
RPA boosting banking CX
Since the pandemic and the ongoing shift from physical to digital business, CX is a major focus for every company trying to meet the needs of their customers, wherever they are. For the banking and finance sector this is especially true.
Interestingly, research from Gartner reveals that 81% of banking companies compete mostly or completely on CX, which makes it key for many such organisations now and in the future. Not only is optimal CX going to attract new customers, but it’s going to boost retention of loyal customers too.
Imagine calling your bank to report an issue and being put on hold for minutes on end, perhaps even hours. You’re probably going to have thoughts about leaving that provider, and maybe even act on this if it’s a continuous occurrence.
Being understaffed, with an overdemand of angry customers, is not a situation that any financial organisation wants to be in, or any organisation for that matter. But, thankfully innovative automation technology has come to the rescue.
The rise of intelligent automation
Rather than wasting valuable time trying to get through to someone on the phone, customers would much rather self-serve. And this is where cobots can improve the way the industry, and many other sectors, works.
To meet this demand, AI-enabled chatbots are becoming increasingly popular. These software-based robots can locate and process information based on basic data provided by the customer, such as an account number. They can then help and respond to requests, only escalating this to a live operator if it cannot resolve the problem.
As technology continues to progress, automation capabilities are advancing too, now evolving into ‘intelligent automation’, where software can ingest and interpret data – and sentiment – whilst acting on predefined tasks.
These cobots are working like virtual assistants, feeding customers with more helpful information when they visit a banking website or app, and even using Natural Language Understanding (NLU) on customer calls, for instance, to truly augment the CX based on how the individual is feeling and behaving at that time.
These technologies mean customer support is of a good quality and accessible, irrespective of location or opening hours.
However, as mentioned earlier, cobots aren’t here to replace people working in these industries and people still value human interaction – particularly with more challenging or emotive matters. Therefore, banks and other businesses are learning to mix both technology-based and human-based, improving efficiencies on both ends.
Benefits on both sides
Cobots are set to transform many businesses and improve CX significantly. Financial organisations can reduce in-branch and call centre resources and costs, freeing up representatives for issues chatbots cannot solve – enhancing the role of that person. In fact, recent research has shown that chatbots will save over $8 billion per year by the end of 2022.
If that isn’t enough to get business leaders attention, then the effect of cobot technology on company growth and recruitment might turn heads. Perhaps unsurprisingly, technology is at the top of the agenda for many looking for new roles, which makes it increasingly important for attracting new talent.
Savvy tech-first employees are now challenging inefficient processes which slow their work down and stop them from performing to their full potential. A study showed that 91% of Gen Zs said technology would influence job choice if offered similar roles and 80% believe technology and automation will create a better working environment. Therefore, leaders also need to consider this as a major benefit when thinking about implementing cobot technology.
This use of intelligent automation can be translated across many sectors to free up resources and create a more positive CX – from insurance and real estate to ecommerce and retail. Any industry that relies on process-heavy operations can benefit from cobot technology in the future.
Gartner already predicts that 70% of customer interactions in banking will involve some form of innovative tech – such as AI-powered chatbots. And this is why other businesses should quickly follow suit.
If CX is really the top priority for so many in 2022, cobots are the answer.