Robotic process automation (RPA) is about using ‘robots’ to handle repetitive, rule-based digital tasks in much the same way as human workers do. So, what exactly is a bot in RPA? It’s not the sort of robot you might see on the floor in a car manufacturer or the metal automatons walking around in science-fiction film. Instead, an RPA bot is a form of intelligent software. A basic example of a bot might be an Internet search engine’s spiders – little pieces of software code that trawl websites to update search engine indexes.

Attended versus unattended RPA bots

Bot in RPA

So, having defined what a bot is in RPA, let’s take a closer look at the two different types of RPA bots one will encounter. These are unattended RPA bots and attended RPA bots. As the name implies, unattended robots get on with their work without any human help. Attended robots, on the other hand, work with people on processes that require human intervention.

Unattended robots are server-based bots that fully automate processes that do not require human judgement or intervention. Some examples of these processes might include creating a letter of employment, updating a database with new customer contact details, or extracting data from an invoice using optical character recognition

Attended automation, is when robots help workers to complete repetitive desktop tasks faster and more accurately. The bot may, for example, automatically fill in a form or provide employees with links to data and real-time next best-action guidance as they help a customer to open a new account. The attended bots can help ensure people adhere to regulations and corporate policies. They let people focus on adding value rather than on processes and systems.

An attended bot is essentially a digital personal assistant for the employee. It can even be personalized to match the needs, proficiencies, and skills of each employee. The personal assistant is always there, ready to be triggered by the employee’s desktop activities. Most employees will love having a virtual assistant to do the drudge work.

Attended and unattended bots: better together

Most organizations can benefit from both types of bots. The combination of attended and unattended automations can enable greater process efficiencies than either could alone. It is not yet possible to hand off absolutely everything to an unattended robot, but the human team can work hand-in-hand with the robotic workforce when a complete unattended automation isn’t possible.

Think of a service employee in telecoms, for instance. RPA could be used to generate and categorize technical support tickets for contact center agents. As the agent speaks to the customer to resolve a ticket, their desktop robot could pull customer data from multiple sources into a single view. This spares the agent the need to find data from multiple, dedicated searches. The robot can also create quick links to the key actions and applications, enabling the employee to provide the end customer with a quick and highly personalized service experience.

When there are both attended and unattended bots in the workforce, a server-based robot could refer a request to an attended bot, when it cannot complete a task. The human worker will then receive an alert from the attended bot, requesting specific input from the employee, when it cannot complete a task. The human worker can then ‘collaborate’ with their attended bot to resolve a process error or complication, in real-time. The automated flow can then resume without any downtime.

What are the benefits of bots in RPA?

The benefits of integrating robots into the human workforce are numerous. They can significantly boost enterprise productivity because they are several times faster than the average employee when it comes to repetitive, rules-based, admin tasks. Plus, they never need a rest or lunchbreak, working tirelessly 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Automation of routine processes eliminates the risk of human error and significantly improves SLAs, resulting in happier customers. Employees will be happier to, because they will spend less of their working day on soul-crushing and repetitive tasks.

A robotic workforce can be scaled up rapidly as a business grows – there is no need to recruit or train people. What’s more, with improved performance, better resource utilization and less time spent fixing errors, enterprises can realize a rapid return on their investment.

What can RPA bots do?

We touched on what RPA bots can do earlier in this post, but let’s explore their capabilities in more detail. Back-office employees spend up to 80% of their day on such mundane activities like filling in forms, making repetitive calculations, and processing orders — all things that are vital for customer satisfaction but tedious for employees. This sort of work is better suited to a robot.

RPA bots can handle tasks such as grabbing data from multiple applications, filling in the same information in multiple places, reentering data, or copying and pasting — nearly any task that is largely driven by rules and schedules. RPA can also perform many complex rule-based tasks through interaction with any software application or website.

The agent can get a lot done with those applications, but it’s not always as quick and easy as it should be. The manual processes are a recipe for inefficiency, and, for the worker, a source of boredom and frustration. It makes little sense to waste a good human brain on dull work that does not need subjective judgment, creative thinking, interpersonal skill or problem-solving.

What are some use cases for RPA bots?

RPA bots can be used to solve problems and improve efficiencies in every industry, with applications ranging from onboarding employees to customer service to back-office administration tasks such as processing claims in insurance. Let’s look at a couple of real-world examples that illustrate the breadth of the use cases for attended and unattended RPA.

One NICE client – a call center firm – needed to update customer details for a government agency. It uses 200 robots to copy the details gathered by the call center into the internal systems, handling 25,000 cases every day. Attended robots help employees more effectively field complex requests for financial information that used to require navigation through multiple screens of information.

Meanwhile, a major retailer uses interactive voice response (IVR) to schedule deliveries for customers. A robot uses ZIP codes for each case to find a delivery vendor, opens that vendor’s scheduling app, schedules the delivery, and sends a notification to the customer. The system processes more than 150,000 cases annually, saves some 4,000 hours of human work time a year, and has an error rate of zero.

Get ready for the robotic workforce

Enterprises that embrace RPA, across the front office and back office are experiencing dramatic increases in business performance and ROI. NICE offers the only solution that delivers both Attended and Unattended (server-based) automations, so employees can focus on productivity – not processing. Explore our RPA hub to learn how we can help you to build your robotic workforce of the future.

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