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BPO Automation: opportunities, challenges and successes told from an inside perspective at INGO

16 November 2023

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SUMMARY

What do we mean when we talk about BPO Automation applied to contact centers? Alessandro Fossati, Data Scientist at INGO, tells us.

How does the BPO come about?

The BPO, which stands for Business Process Outsourcing , means the outsourcing by a company of one or more business processes to companies that specialize in that type of activity.
The goal in choosing such a service is to entrust secondary or high-cost tasks in terms of resource use to entities that deal with them more efficiently and economically.

The origins of BPO date back to the 1960s, when early companies began to outsource some non-primary activities, such as warehouse management or PC maintenance.
Gradually, first in the 1980s with the increasingly massive use of computers and then in the 2000s with the evolution of the Internet, BPO became a full-fledged industry, with major players providing increasingly complex management services.

Today the BPO has a global value of more than $200 billion. Companies use it not only to save money, but also to access specific expertise and scale quickly. Sectors such as health care, telco, fashion have outsourced many processes.

The present and the near future are leading to further service changes in Business Process Outsourcing, thanks to technologies such as automation and artificial intelligence , which are accelerating its evolution and benefits for businesses.

Alessandro Fossati, Data Scientist at INGO, helps us highlight what the main trends in automation in the BPO sector are today, and what the benefits and challenges are for those working in this field.

Hi Alessandro, first of all I would ask you to explain more about what the Data Scientist role consists of: what are the key skills and knowledge needed to deal with automation in BPO?

The Data Scientist plays an all-around role within the technology area of the company. Must have a combination of technical, analytical skills and industry-specific knowledge.

In fact, the Data Scientist develops and creates systems, writes code, and manages data throughout its entire flow, starting from its entry into the systems, through the analysis phase, and then extracting statistical evidence and reports useful for monitoring service performance.

On the technical side, it is therefore necessary for a data scientist to have Programming and database skills. It is also important to Who is familiar with the business intelligence framework, that is, all the reporting part from which you have visibility of the data and through which the customer can check the progress of the automation service. The data that is extracted must necessarily be correct, since it is often used for billing purposes.

To date, what are the main automation trends in the BPO industry?

In this industry now, automation has become an essential component to improve operational efficiency, reduce costs, and make the customer experience more reliable. If we talk about automation, right now the main trends in the market are:

  • Intelligent automation: the artificial intelligence (AI) is a very recurring theme nowadays. Using machine learning techniques, systems learn automatically from data while constantly improving their performance.
  • Decision-making automation: process automation algorithms use AI to make data-driven decisions without human intervention. This solution is particularly suitable for repetitive and standardized processes, which are therefore automated.
  • Automation of customer interactions: it is increasingly common to exploit chatbots , automated email responses, and virtual assistants for customer care management. This improves the customer experience and reduces the workload of contact center operators, allowing them to perform more valuable activities in their area of expertise.
  • Human-machine collaboration: many view automation and the use of artificial intelligence with fear, but in fact there is no intention to supplant the work done by the ‘human; on the contrary, there is a need for deep sharing between machine and human. In fact, very few processes are fully automatable. Should the machine fail to provide adequate answers, it is essential that the customer have direct interaction with the human operator. This also becomes supportive of the BPO agents themselves, who are relieved of the more repetitive and less engaging demands.
  • Agility and adaptability: automated work environments are designed to be “agile,” meaning they are easy to use and adaptable so that they can be modified or reconfigured in response to changing business needs.

What are the benefits of automation in BPO and how do they translate to operations and costs?

There is no denying that in an area like BPO, automation offers a number of benefits that translate into real improvements for client companies.

  • Cost savings. Automating processes reduces costs in the medium and long term.
  • Increased efficiency. Automation enables immediate data processing and rapid execution of repetitive tasks: this reduces handling time and improves response time, but at the same time, by configuring a machine to perform certain tasks serially, the risk of error is almost reduced to zero.
  • Improved customer experience: as a direct consequence, the customer experience benefits from automation, as the user is provided with quick and accurate answers based on a company-defined database that identifies the customer and his or her history through certain and specific data.
  • Adaptability: automated systems can be easily adapted: just configure a machine or file and the system will execute what is required.

Can you tell us an example, a successful case where automation has been decisive for an INGO customer?

INGO has supported a well-known hospital in northern Italy in improving its switchboard precisely through the use of a system that uses artificial intelligence to fulfill its tasks.

Let’s talk about one of our products, Reception AI: Reception AI is a system VoiceBot , which allows the user to express themselves freely and make their request in a completely natural way, as if they were talking to a human operator.
The artificial intelligence system intercepts the need and understands the real intention of the user.

Basically, when a user contacts the switchboard and expresses his request, Reception AI understands its real intention, directing the call to the correct hospital extension, or providing the necessary information in order to fulfill the user’s request, without the need for direct intervention by the operator, who can thus perform more valuable tasks.

In this way, eight out of ten calls are handled without human intervention. However, human-machine collaboration remains indispensable if the bot is to improve and perform better and better. Moreover, in some cases, it is precisely necessary to transfer the call to the human operator before passing the hospital interior.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL CASE STUDY

What are the most common challenges found in implementing automation within customers’ business processes?

The use of automation brings with it significant benefits, but several challenges also emerge that need to be addressed.
Some companies show resistance to change because some (operators, but also salespeople or management itself at times) see artificial intelligence systems as a danger.
Companies need to be able to provide adequate training to their staff and make it clear that the use of AI can be of considerable help, enabling human professionals to perform higher-value activities.

Other challenges to be faced are those on the technical front, such as the complexity of existing processes: they need to be carefully analyzed to understand which can be automated and which cannot.

One must then pay close attention to data security, carefully manage customer privacy policies, because automation may result in some sensitive data being used.

Another challenge is that of the costs to be incurred initially, as it takes several days of work to develop an automation system. Therefore, it is crucial to make it clear that these investments will return in the medium to long term.

Much attention should also be paid to the choice of the best technologies, which vary depending on the project to be developed.

Then there is the variability in input data, because the data needed to develop the automations are collected differently, through various acquisition channels (client sites, portals, pdfs..etc.). In this case, human input is what makes the difference: it takes mental elasticity and technical expertise to take this data and standardize it in order to fuel automation.

Adaptability to changes in work volume: There can often be peak call periods for a particular customer, so systems need to be Horizontally scalable, that is, a mode whereby the system must already be prepared to maintain consistency in performance as the amount of data to be handled increases.

Finally, maintenance and updating of systems are necessary, because the Bot present within an automaton must be trained constantly in order to improve and perform better and better.

INGO, thanks to the multichannel and technological innovations, is able to build specific projects for each company, following the process from the initial analysis phase to the implementation of integrated, scalable and modular omnichannel strategies.
For more than 20 years, Made in Italy has been serving the customer experience.

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INGO, thanks to multichannel and technological innovations, is able to build specific projects for each company, following the process from the initial analysis phase to the implementation of integrated, scalable and modular omnichannel strategies. For over 20 years, Made in Italy at the service of the customer experience.

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