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American retailers appear to be facing a crisis. Brands like JC Penney, American Apparel, and Sears are all closing stores and customers there...
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is making waves in several industries today, but what is it and why is it becoming so important in UK banking?
RPA is a branch of analytics that allows robotic agents to handle customer interactions automatically. The name might imply robots, as you see on a factory production line, but really we are talking about intelligent software systems that can analyse processes, such as customer enquiries, and take action automatically – in this case it would be for the automated agents to handle customer questions before a human advisor needs to be involved.
To make this type of system work requires data and the ability to analyse it so there is a blend with Big Data systems and biometric authentication, but in general RPA will feel natural to the customer – as if the technology involved in a chat session or call managed to answer the required questions before a human needed to be on the call.
Why is this important for UK banks? Utilising RPA solutions can generate cost savings in back office processes by automating tasks that are often low value and high volume. This repetitive manual work often arises from legacy systems that are inflexible and not integrated into other areas of the bank systems. In addition to automation offering the chance to reduce costs, there is also the advantage of reducing back office errors because the automated agents don’t get bored when performing repetitive work.
Although there are opportunities, as mentioned, for RPA to be used for the most common customer service enquiries there are other opportunities for banks to streamline their internal systems. Repetitive processes that are handled manually at present, like the accounts team raising an invoice, offer great opportunities for creating internal efficiencies. It’s true that many modern Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems can automate internal processes, but adding RPA agents to ERP allows the automation of many of the remaining manual processes.
RPA allows for the gaps between legacy systems to be filled. Instead of operating many manual workarounds to get different – often ancient – systems to work together RPA can be applied to ensure that the systems are integrated in a safe, stable way. No back office should be operating critical banking processes with basic manual processes such as cut and paste.
The application of RPA to banking systems has several benefits for customers. The back office systems will be faster and more reliable, leading to time saved and more consistent, services. It also offers the ability for banks to improve the way that their front office customer-facing systems and back office processing systems are connected. For example, it’s not possible for many banks to make an instant decision on a loan application made on a mobile device because manual processes are required to connect the application to the systems that can make a decision. Better connectivity and internal process flows can create a much better customer experience.
So RPA can be applied to the customer service enquiries directly as well as to the flow of information inside the bank. By using RPA in both these ways the customer experience can be dramatically improved by making customer enquiries work better and by facilitating a better and faster service from any platform the customer is using to contact the bank.
Over the next five years, developments in regulation and digital technology will reshape customers’ experiences with retail banking providers. As a result, existing banks will need to transform their digital capabilities. Those that do not will be relegated to acting merely as wholesale providers, competing solely on price.
It’s time for digital transformation…