Is a robot after your Job?

How many people saw that video online about the robot that could hold a conversation with a human? She looked like a woman, had mannerisms, thought about her answers and even blinked. The video went viral and was even on 20/20 but obviously not enough people were paying attention to realise we need to destroy it and soon. Has no one seen that movie I-Robot?!

I will be the first to admit that I hate robots. They scare me. No thanks, uh-uh, not today, bye. So when I hear the term RPA or Robotic Process Automation in the workplace I immediately recoil. I imagine the Terminator answering my calls with his stupid robot voice, ruining my grade of service and stealing my job. But that’s not what Robotic Process Automation does and little did I know that I’ve probably been enjoying the benefits of RPA for a while now and it hasn’t tried to kill me yet….Yet.  Many of NZ’s largest companies are using RPA to make processes faster, give more accurate and better service.  RPA lets those companies reduce their costs and provide me with better services.

So as someone working in a contact centre, if RPA isn’t in fact trying to destroy me or steal my job, what is it up to? In short RPA is making jobs like mine easier and faster. An inbound call can be tricky and fiddly, especially when there are several different systems to log into and processes to follow. It takes time and all the while the caller on the line is getting frustrated with how long the process is taking after having to deal with countless security questions. This is where RPA comes in to save the day. Instead of entering details a hundred times over you enter them once and the RPA software bot works in the background to login to each system, look up data and copy and paste it into other systems, all the time saving me from having to do it myself.  Information can be at my fingertips in seconds rather than minutes and my customer’s satisfaction with my service increases as a result.  Imagine what that will do to my NPS scores!

I’m pretty sure my best typing speed is 55 words per minute, an RPA bot can type 100s of strokes per second and drive a mouse around the screen at warp speed. Add voice recognition in there and you could have all your caller’s details verified and right in front of you before the call pops on your screen. Say you want to take it one step further and get super techy- combine RPA with speech recognition and you get an automated speech system. A caller could come through the queue, give their details using speech recognition, say what they want to do and the system would transmit the information to the RPA software bot.  The bot would login to the various systems needed, find the information the customer wants and then the speech system would read it out to them.  One whole inbound call, details verified, questions asked and answered all without human interaction.

But that brings us back to job stealing I hear you scream, or is that me? Yes that’s me still trying to refuse the Age of the Bots. Where are our agents if these bots are taking all the calls? Well the bots aren’t taking away ALL the calls. They are only taking those mind-numbing repetitive calls you let the newbie on their first day handle while you take the more difficult interactions. That’s where the agents are, they are diving into those more difficult cases now that those pesky 30 second calls aren’t coming to them every other breath.  The bots aren’t going to steal our jobs, they’re going to enhance them. They’ll give us more time to spend helping customers with more complex calls. They’ll change our jobs by letting us focus on calls that will develop our skills and give us more variety while removing the drudgery of doing the simple same tasks over and over.

So, like them or not the robots are here to stay and I’m sure they’ll make my life run a little smoother but I’ll keep Will Smith on speed dial just in case they do ever decide to rebel.