Why RPA is Only Half the Digital Transformation Battle
By Howard Schulman
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is one of the fastest-growing technologies in many industries, especially the financial sectors. RPA’s effectiveness plays a massive role in most companies battling the bureaucracy of paperwork and fending off menial data entry.
Not only are these processes very tiresome, they are also prone to a lot of errors and inaccuracies. These are just a few of the reasons underpinning the rapid adoption of RPA and why it’s heralded by some to be a savior in businesses that have repetitive tasks.
RPA makes many tasks easier for personnel. It lessens the burden of repetitive and cumbersome tasks. And, the technology helps eliminate preventable errors that any human being is prone to. With RPA, the accuracy levels of data entry and processing become higher.
RPA works by accelerating processing, digitizing, and the auditing of data. Unfortunately, even with all these capabilities, RPA alone cannot solve businesses’ needs effectively. Automation cannot independently and automatically complete processes that are dependent on customer actions.
RPA’s value is stymied when customers are required to do something. And, as customers, who are often asked to provide consent, forms, documents, payments, we need customer simplicity - not back-office automation - to complete our business interactions.
Digital Transformation vs. RPA
For many businesses - especially that operate in regulated industries like financial services, insurance companies and telco- there has been a recent push towards efficiency and back end digitization. They are pushing for productivity and cost efficiencies to regain their competitive position vs. more digital competition. While there have been early efficiency gains, their digital capabilities are not complete.
That’s because, in a large part, automation is dependent on customer-facing digital transformation too. So while RPA is a technological development that is instrumental in streamlining cumbersome and inefficient processes, it lacks the full cycle capabilities as it can only act on digitized pools of data.
Unfortunately, many business inputs are from a myriad of analog, offline or obscure sources like phone calls, faxes, emails, paperwork, PDF, and HTML. So RPA is unable to start or close the loop. Wherever it can, it can expedite, but at the customer endpoints - the technology is impotent. So, to date, its impact has been felt on back-office tasks and has yet to drive digital returns on customer-facing activities.
For example, for insurance companies, automation processes can route claims that are already digitally digested by the company. However, many insurers, in their First Notice Of Loss (FNOL), still require their customers to print, scan, draw details of their insurance claim and scan, fax or mail them in for adjudication (FNOL).
These manual processes cause enormous problems in terms of processing times, cycle times, and compliance concerns. To put it bluntly, RPA is only effective when all forms have been fully filled, digitally read, regulatorily validated and then automatically processed.
As is, RPA is a partial solution in the insurance space, dependent on other customer touchpoints to digitize interactions. As a result, insurers and other financial institutions have to work round the clock to come up with a less time-consuming process of digitizing the collection of customers’ data.
It is clear that RPA has a tremendous organizational value which gives a major advantage for the insurance industry. It is also clear that it is not the customer-facing digital service or experience that businesses desperately need.
RPA increases back-office efficiency, but is irrelevant in terms of customer experience
For businesses to succeed, they need to be more than just efficient. They need to deliver compelling value to the customer. And, now more than ever, that value is an effortless customer experience.
Today, RPA’s digital innovation is internally focused. It doesn’t directly impact the customer’s experience. So while back-end processes have been expedited, customers are still forced to endure painful, brand-destroying experiences and perform manual tasks. Those manual, repetitive tasks may include mailing, faxing, physically visiting retail locations at certain times, scanning items and worse.
For example, looking at the insurance vertical, a fully optimized digital process should make the entire process of business operation effortless, error-free, and quick. In the case of core insurance processes, it might include capturing customer information, completing applications or customer claim forms, submitting documents, gathering signatures and consent, sharing images, processing secure payments, and the like.
When digitizing the various end-points like initial customer requirements and the final customer deliverables, the entire end-to-end processes are accelerated for both the business’s and customer’s benefit.
Currently, too many of these critical activities are not digitized. The paperwork and manual forms are sent in, often difficult to decipher, or incomplete - not usually in good order (NIGO). When such errors occur, the company is forced to go back to the customers just to recollect the data. This is tiresome for both the insurance company and its customers. No customer likes these experiences and no business can spare the excess expenses associated with it.
How RPA Must Evolve: Customer-RPA.
The shortcomings of RPA can be addressed by using a streamlined digital process that utilizes digital front ends. For customers that are accustomed to digital interface this is a given. But for RPA engineers, this is new territory.
To leverage RPA’s power, businesses need to add a digital customer component. In so doing they create a full circle system - a Customer RPA. Where the key value adds are the digital interchanges between the business and the customer. Those may be features like smart-field validation, digital form digestion, digital consent, digital documentation and the like.
CPRA solutions help the insurance industry create, deploy and manage front-end interactions with their customers. Those are then integrated with traditional RPA solutions to deliver key benefits of
RPA has an essential place in the optimization of back-end operations for the insurance industry. But for the front-end experience, we need a revolutionized and thrilling experience; intelligent automation and digitization platforms are mandatory.
For customer-centric organizations looking to drive efficiency and efficacy, they must find set a strategy that enables full process automation - digitally transforming the back-office tasks, but more importantly, the customer-facing interactions.
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