What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and What Does It Have to Do with Customer Care?

gears illustration to represent robotic process automation or rpa

“Oh great,” we’re all thinking, “another buzzword.” Although RPA sounds like just another acronym we all have to learn, this technology has meaningful real-world applications, and businesses should consider using it to improve functions across their organization, including customer care.

What is robotic process automation (RPA)?

Robotic process automation, or RPA, is a technology that can accomplish highly structured tasks following pre-set logic and instructions. With RPA, you can configure a bot to perform a specific function. This can be as basic as an auto-reply to an email to programming hundreds of different bots to perform different jobs within a larger system.

According to Gartner, less than 10% of enterprises have adopted RPA today, but they project that number will grow to 40% by 2020 alone. The benefits of RPA include managing higher workloads without increasing staff, preventing human error, and freeing up employees from having to perform mindless, boring tasks.


How is RPA different from artificial intelligence (AI)?

Although some providers combine both AI and RPA into their solutions, the two technologies are quite different. An RPA tool is like a worker bee, a drone that operates along a finite set of rules. Artificial intelligence, on the other hand, is capable of learning and making decisions.

As RPA expert and London School of Economics professor Leslie Willcocks explains, “[RPA] takes away mainly physical tasks that don’t need knowledge, understanding, or insight—the tasks that can be done by codifying rules and instructing the computer or the software to act.” Think of tasks like collecting and coding information, using rules to suggest next best actions, and so on.


Some companies have embraced RPA as a pre-cursor to AI, even enhancing it with the addition of natural language processing, speech recognition, and other technologies that enable RPA tools to handle more sophisticated tasks.

How can RPA benefit customer care?

Robotic process automation provides all sorts of efficiency benefits across organizations. In fact, case studies from McKinsey found that RPA return on investment can range from 30% to 200% in the first year alone.

But as with chatbots, experts warn against only considering the financial benefits since there are other benefits to the organization. For example, employees welcome help from RPA when it’s automating tasks they don’t like doing. What’s more, RPA can help teams cope with the increasingly large workloads.

For customer care teams specifically, RPA brings five main benefits:

  • Increased agent engagement: Freed up from the most mundane parts of their jobs, agents can focus on interacting with customers – the part of their work that they enjoy most.
  • Higher efficiency: Automating repetitive, time-consuming elements customer case management workflow lets agents resolve cases faster and more effectively.
  • Ability to support new channels: With greater efficiency comes the ability to serve customers across newer channels like live chat and SMS without necessarily increasing headcount.
  • More scalability: As companies seek to have more engagement with customers, current resources won’t be able to scale without embracing some form of automation.
  • Better customer experience: Quicker, more accurate resolutions make customers happy!

Using customer case management tools with RPA functionality already embedded can jump-start your journey towards smart automation.

At Astute, we’re focused on building the future of customer engagement leveraging technologies like RPA and AI. Our technologies are designed to provide your team with the benefits of advanced technology without having to build or buy a separate RPA or AI platform. Our agent tools, digital self-service, and social media management software all use the latest tech to help you deliver amazing customer experiences.

Ready to learn more? Schedule a demo to see our software in action.