Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has greatly improved job satisfaction and opportunities for people at customer service provider Teleperformance.
The company initially introduced an RPA project, using UIPath software, during its operation in the Netherlands and, following its expansion across Europe, the project now has the attention of its global human workforce of around 400,000 people. .
Indeed, rather than spreading fear of jobs being taken over by robots, staff are competing to come up with the best new roles for their robotic colleagues.
Danny Kuivenhoven, head of digital transformation at Teleperformance, which provides outsourced customer services to its corporate clients, including 500 global organizations, joined the company in 2011 as an IT services manager. He told Computer Weekly: “RPA has been a natural journey because automation has always been in our DNA.”
The first RPA projects were aimed at reducing costs, and he started with a project close to home: in the IT department.
It began in 2014 using automation for staff provisioning and deprovisioning, a job traditionally done by the IT helpdesk. There was a vacancy on the team at the time, and Kuivenhoven convinced the CEO to fill it with a robot.
This was welcomed by other staff members because the repetitive and laborious nature of procuring and de-provisioning carpenters and dropouts was the task no one wanted to do. “We have a lot of dropouts and carpenters in our industry, so we need to provision and de-provision regularly,” said Kuivenhoven.
The project proved to be a success by cutting costs, improving accuracy and saving team members from having to do the most tedious task of all. “There was an obvious cost advantage because we reduced the team by one, but that’s the way it is [also] reduced errors that can be problematic, “he said.
If mistakes are made during provisioning, new staff cannot, for example, start training or start their roles on time, which is business critical for a company that outsources people. “I would say there have been at least four incidents of incorrect check-in per month in the Netherlands alone,” said Kuivenhoven, adding that this can easily happen, such as typing incorrectly.
He said the added benefit was to extend the recruitment processing beyond the working day. “As a result, we may actually be recruiting for an extra day because the robots keep working over the weekend.”
When Kuivenhoven became responsible for digital transformation for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, excluding Spain, Portugal and the UK in 2018, the RPA strategy was expanded.
The RPA department is located in the digital transformation department, which is kept separate from IT, although both departments work closely on RPA projects. “Transformation isn’t part of IT, it’s a separate department, intertwined with IT because we use the IT department, like RPA developers,” he said.
In the region for which Kuivenhoven is responsible, the company achieved operational savings worth € 25 million through RPA last year. The company now has RPA centers of excellence around the world, all of which carry out RPA development.
Of its 400,000 employees worldwide, approximately 95% are customer service agents, who perform contact center and back-office roles.
Staff who perform customer service roles tend to be young and just starting their careers, and Kuivenhoven said RPA has improved their job satisfaction and career prospects.
“Many of our customer representatives are young, often just starting out and in touch with modern technology,” he said. “Through RPA training, important skills are provided at the outset that they could benefit from throughout their career. In the past they were just there to answer calls, but now we are offering new career paths, including becoming an RPA developer. “
Kuivenhoven expects that over the next two years each project will have its own RPA developer. “What I love about this technology is that it’s getting a lot easier to use and you don’t really have to be a technician to do it,” he said.
Rewarding staff innovation
The company is raising awareness of the technology and its capabilities among staff and is looking to engage more people. The company organized what Kuivenhoven calls the botathon, a hackathon focused on RPA development, and awarded prizes for the best ideas from staff around the world.
He also has a project known as All Ideas Matter (AIM), which is a suggestion box for all employees, where they give ideas that the company can implement around the world. “We explained what RPA is and gave our employees the opportunity to come up with ideas for their departments,” she said.
1,500 ideas were captured in the first month alone. She then picked a couple of ideas from each country and allowed the people who came up with them to develop their own bot.
Working with UIPath, staff have received four hours of training on the basics and then, with the guidance of a mentor from the transformation team, can build their own minimum viable product in two weeks.
“We wanted to promote capabilities but also show what was possible and how easy it was to implement,” said Kuivenhoven.