Robotic Process Automation: A Future Boon for Buyers
By: Brett Halverson
In today’s fast-paced, omnichannel business world, efficiency is king. Business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) customers alike expect companies not only to provide them with a diverse range of channels to place their orders, from apps to e-commerce to email ordering, but also deliver these orders with rapid, pinpoint accuracy. As a result, companies are continuously seeking new ways to cost-effectively optimize their workflow and productivity, while increasing the quality of their customer service. But what more can they do?
Automation of key business processes, such as invoice and sales order processing, has already produced significant benefits for many organizations. Capturing critical data with 100% accuracy and requiring zero need for human intervention, this technology has allowed businesses to process incoming orders up to 95% faster, reducing operational costs by 80% and saving customer service staff hundreds of hours of error-prone manual data entry. However, there’s a new game changer on the horizon set to revolutionize back-office, rules-based tasks: robotic process automation (RPA).
The 4th Industrial Revolution
RPA is quickly becoming recognized as the next step in automation. As I discussed in a previous article on technology trends for 2017, cloud-based RPA uses machine learning to mimic user actions and map enormous quantities of data, learning and adapting as it goes. It will therefore be able to take over a large number of time-consuming, error-prone duties from customer service representatives, such as purchase order processing, without the need for human touch or explicitly programmed instructions. Though dependent on the size of the implementation, RPA’s agility also means that its application and deployment can take mere weeks or months instead of years.
It is little wonder then that this market is growing at a rapid rate across industries, such as finance, manufacturing and distribution. Valued at $183.1 million in 2013, recent research by Transparency Market Research indicates growth at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 60.5% in the coming years, increasing annual revenue to $3 billion by 2020.
Positive Impacts of RPA
Transforming numerous industries, the benefits of implementing an RPA solution for your business are manifold. Among these
- Accelerated order cycles: Say hello to real-time order fulfillment. With no need for human intervention or supervision in order processing, RPA technology instantly extracts the data from incoming purchases orders and translates it into a sales order in your ERP system for delivery. According to research by the Hackett Group, this reduces handling cycle times by up to 40%, increasing productivity and customer satisfaction.
- Deepened data insights: Capable of rapidly cross-referencing and analyzing vast data sets, RPA solutions can compile a long-term historical view of purchase orders you receive, pinpointing patterns and providing prescriptive recommendations that enhance your sales and marketing efforts. This includes identifying peak order periods, seasonal trends, customer buying habits, and new products that are gaining traction.
- Errors eliminated: Purchase orders can contain thousands of unique product numbers. With a rush of orders arriving daily, it is not surprising that errors occur. RPA technology not only processes huge amounts of data, it also reviews it to ensure 100% accuracy, leading to an unparalleled reduction in errors. In the process, you also significantly decrease the cost and time your CSRs spend resolving issues with frustrated customers.
- Strong scalability: Order volumes often fluctuate, whether by season or exceptional circumstance. In the case of rising order numbers, recruiting, hiring and training employees to meet this increased demand can take considerable time, money and resources. RPA gives you access to a tireless digital workforce that scales up or down according to your order volumes and company changes while maintaining consistency in service.
Ultimately, RPA will digitize operational processes and deliver sustainable back-office optimization in short time frames, increasing the efficiency of RPA-enabled businesses and liberating staff time to refocus on other key, profit-generating tasks. But it is still crucial to assess this emerging technology within the context of your overall automation strategy and long-term service delivery model to understand its impacts and fit within your infrastructure. Once you are certain it is the right solution for your organization though, implementing this next generation of automation technology can drive cost-effective efficiencies, improve scalability and deliver the exceptional customer service required to stand out in today’s fiercely competitive marketplace.
Brent Halverson is president and CEO of ecmarket, creators of Conexiom, Vancouver.
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