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Tuesday, March 13, 2018


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In our The Road to Success: How to Become a “Best-in-Class Back-Office” Organization study, we found that one of the unique characteristics of today’s leading back-office organizations is their adoption of robotic process automation (RPA) technology.

This refers to software designed to automatically execute specific tasks (e.g., copying and pasting account information from one system to another) repeatedly. The tasks for which RPA is used are typically not complex, but rather tediously repetitive activities that require minimal human decision-making.

Here’s an example of how RPA helps back-office activities: A customer looking for a student loan submits a loan application online through the company website. Traditionally, the company would have dedicated loan specialist(s) review this information to gauge customer credit worthiness. Using RPA, specific tasks can be automated throughout this analysis, and the robot can be programmed to copy the content of the online application into the company system. The system would then automatically process the application and assess the customer’s credit worthiness.

Automating these steps helps back-office organizations use employee time for more valuable tasks, rather than copying and pasting content. Furthermore, it minimizes the risk of error and potential fraud in the process, helping to ensure compliance and minimize costs.

While 100% of best-in-class back-office organizations—every single one in our study—is found to currently use RPA, this doesn’t mean that RPA is only relevant for back-office activities. In fact, our research shows that companies get the most out of their RPA investment when they adopt a “center of excellence” approach. This refers to acknowledging RPA as a best practice that may be applied to solve problems throughout the enterprise. Figure 1 shows that companies incorporating RPA within their activities—both back-office and front-office—enjoy far superior performance improvements, compared to those that don’t.

Figure 1: RPA Helps Improve Performance in the Front Office

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Considering RPA as a centralized technology capability that can be used to drive efficiency throughout the business clearly pays off. Specifically, RPA users achieve 5.8-times greater annual improvement in number of positive social media mentions, compared to non-users. Use of RPA helps automate certain activities in analyzing a company’s social media mentions to separate the social media content that the company needs to respond to (e.g., a customer complaint) from content that doesn’t require a response (e.g., a customer “liking” a post on the company Facebook page).

Improving website conversion rates, measured as the percentage of visitors to a website purchasing company products / services, is a key measure of success for digital marketing and commerce departments. RPA users enjoy 3.4-times greater annual growth in this metric, compared to non-users. RPA can automate the analysis of website data to determine the most relevant content for visitors in each customer segment. Coupled with machine learning, companies can rapidly scale how they collect, analyze and use customer data to improve website conversion rates.

Yet another benefit observed by firms using RPA is increasing contact center agent utilization rates by automating rules-based tasks. For example, RPA can make use of self-service portals more efficient, requiring less agent interaction. The company can program the RPA solution to automatically capture the data from the self-service portal and input it into other relevant systems (e.g., CRM), minimizing agent and customer effort and reducing the risk of error in the process.

These measures are just a representation of the far-reaching benefits of RPA. While the technology continues to deliver strong results for next-generation back-office organizations as highlighted in our research, taking a broader look into how RPA can be applied to other activities across the business will help firms truly maximize their returns from investing in this technology.

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