Stay human: Avoiding RPA pitfalls that derail automation benefits

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Business leaders are excited about the cost savings and other benefits of robotic process automation, but need to beware of RPA pitfalls before rushing ahead with the technology. Common RPA pitfalls include:

1. Using RPA to automate processes that aren’t suited to automation

2. Eliminating employees in charge of automating processes when a project is done

3. Failing to include the human element in their RPA initiatives

RPA pitfalls can sink CX

Automation technologies enhance my experiences as a customer all the time. They help me find the right products and can answer my questions by making intelligent personalized suggestions – without me having to wait on hold for a customer service agent.

But sometimes I need that human element, especially when a chatbot can’t solve my problem. I’ve walked away from businesses that only offered a chatbot when I needed to talk to a human customer service agent.

In response to experiences like these, many automation experts advise that businesses deploy technologies such as RPA more strategically, which helps avoid growing challenges to the customer experience and overall business.

In previous episodes of “CXO Corner,” our new video series, I’ve explored the benefits of RPA and how businesses are using the technology. This week, I spoke with Marie Nadia Vincent, an executive advisor and consultant for digital transformation and innovation, and Sebastian Schrötel, Head of Intelligent Robotic Process Automation at SAP, to explore common RPA pitfalls.

Keep business moving with RPA

Automation can help businesses stand strong in the face of uncertainty, even when supply chains are disrupted, or employees can’t make it to the office. One such business, Zuellig Pharma, used SAP solutions to deploy 20 RPA bots that automate incoming orders. Schrötel said that, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, these bots were able to streamline the ordering process and get pharmaceutical products to the company’s customers faster.

It’s easier now than ever before to set up RPA instances like these thanks to drag-and-drop, low-code and no-code development. But some companies fall into the trap of trying to automate preexisting processes that aren’t a great fit for automation in the first place. Vincent said that, if a process was built for the industrial age, retrofitting it with automation isn’t going to make that process any more efficient.

Both experts also warned businesses against eliminating those employees responsible for newly automated processes. Rather, those process experts and the IT developers or consultants responsible for programming that automation should work together to create an effective and efficient automated instance.

“They are the ones who can simplify those processes. They are the ones who can bring efficiency and really convert those processes to be more efficient in the digital age. So, executives should really look on where to optimize those processes and the people who can do it best, who are the experts and know the history of those processes, why they were made, and where they encounter more problems,” Vincent said.

Focusing on the human element

Businesses make a conscious decision to deploy automation. It’s no accident when a chatbot can’t solve a customer’s problem and that customer can’t reach a customer support agent. But businesses must do more than simply provide the automated tools, Vincent said. They have to support these tools with the right leadership and strategy.

“We should never forget who we are serving: people,” Vincent said. “We are in the second machine age, but when it comes to people, people are the most unpredictable. People have emotion. And we need to serve people where they are at their emotional level.”

She offered an example: When travelers arrive on-time at the airport, they can take their time interacting with a machine to print their boarding passes. In contrast, a late traveler in a hurry is more likely to seek out a customer support agent for help. In that moment, the customer wants to see, hear, or speak to a person who can understand their feelings.

Both Vincent and Schrötel agreed that, while technology will virtually almost always offer the same experience, humans are the variable. Businesses are more likely to see success when their RPA goals include the human element rather than eliminating it.

Watch the full conversation here.

Want to learn more RPA best practices? Watch THIS.

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Abadesi Osunsade

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