The Ultimate Guide

Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA)

Technical concepts and jargon don’t exactly simplify the world of automation. Yet, a few practical insights can help leaders and key decision-makers recognize dramatic optimization opportunities across their organization. This non-technical guide will help you navigate the entire topic of Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA).

Whether you want to build your first business case, determine key applications relevant to your organization, or simply want to understand how RDA technology works, this practical guide can be your starting point.

With leading transformation capabilities, SYKES Digital Services helps hundreds of clients optimize their cost-structure, drive operational efficiency and revolutionize customer experience through automation technologies. RDA is one of them.

1. What is Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA)? 

RDA is a form of desktop automation, also known as ‘attended automation’, or ‘attended RPA’. We often refer to RDA tools as ‘cobots’, or ‘digital assistants’, simply because the software sits on a users’ desktop to assist them with their work. For instance, RDA can relieve employees of repetitive and admin-related tasks, such as pulling a daily report and emailing it to a particular person.

RDA is a great example of how technology and humans can work together to augment experiences. The software is triggered when a user acts, and so requires human intervention to operate.

While the automation technology is scaled down to individual users and installed on single machines, its broader purpose is to enhance efficiency and unify desktop experiences by transferring data back and forth between workflow and desktop applications, and ultimately, improve customer experiences.

2. How does Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA) differ from other models?  

Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA) vs Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

RDA is primarily used in front office automation. This is because it has a direct impact on the customer experience. Robotic Process Automation (RPA), on the other hand, streamlines back-office processes and serves a more supportive function.

RPA focuses on high volume, repeatable work, which is sent to a queue and picked up by a robotic automation virtual machine (VM), whereas RDA provides a centralized desktop experience and reacts in real-time to deliver the most valuable information for front-line employees such as customer service agents.

RDA and RPA can be implemented in parallel to improve communications between the front and back office. Typical RPA pain points are unstructured comments from agents, usually made during customer interactions. RDA ensures such notes are standardized which then provides a better data input into an RPA process.

robotic process automation vs robotic desktop automation infographic

Fig.1 – RDA vs RPA

Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA) vs Machine Learning (ML):

Machine learning (ML) is a category of artificial intelligence (AI) and data analysis that automates analytical model building. The system learns from data and recognizes patterns. RDA is typically not model-based. Rather, it interprets what an agent is doing and triggers real-time responses based on the best outcome. Whereas RDA sits on a desktop, ML would usually be a back-end model.

The two concepts can be combined to enhance an offering; for example, understanding the next best action (NBA). This is a model that could be trained over time to, for instance, optimize sales or improve troubleshooting effectiveness. Whereas RDA sits on the desktop, ML usually operates in the back-end, learning and providing results.

Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA) vs Hyperautomation

Hyperautomation is the concept of combining many digital transformation technologies, including RDA, to augment an enterprise. At SYKES Digital Services, we often refer to Hyperautomation as an enterprise-wide automation strategy.

Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA) vs Intelligent Automation (IA)

IA is a combination of chatbots, machine learning, and optical character recognition (OCR) technology. These use smart automation to intelligently work on their own and create optimal outcomes for employees and end-users.

Some applications of IA can be used in RDA, such as OCR to confidently read a PDF which then alerts an agent for further review if the threshold required for successful OCR is too low.

3. How does Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA) work?  

RDA works by monitoring interactions with applications and triggers automation processes relevant to the event that takes place. It involves a new user interface that enables agents to make better and faster decisions. It can also work by suggesting the Next Best Action (NBA), based on the events that have happened to date. We address the concept of NBA in deeper detail later in the guide.

Two examples of how desktop automation can optimize front-line operations:

Customer Profile:

The Customer Profile is an RDA process that starts with a list of all fields relevant for validating a customer or solving a caller’s case. These fields are then prioritized in an order that will most efficiently aid the agent. The robotic automation will access the customer database to read the fields in priority order and display them to the agent in an easy-to-use user interface. This equips agents with all the necessary information to efficiently begin the call.

Call Wrap-up:

Another high-value example is the Call Wrap Up for an agent. This process records events on an agent’s screen and stores a list of these events in a rule engine that consists of a complex set of rules that can determine certain attributes of the call. From there, the system knows which actions it must complete to wrap up the call.

The agent can verify the outcome of the rule engine via a user interface and then the agent’s work is complete. The robot can independently complete the wrap-up activities and the agent is free to prepare for the next call.

robotic desktop automation process sykes digital

Fig.2 – Robotic Desktop Automation Process

4. How to implement Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA)

The first phase of your RDA program, as with any automation program, is considering the Define and Design stages.

In this phase, we scope out the potential process, process maps, and complete the “To Be” design. We assess how the solution should be implemented and optimized to best achieve specific goals, e.g. reducing handling time.

Once the design is confirmed, developers can configure the process within the chosen tool, and test as necessary. The next phase includes System Integration Testing Best Practices (SIT) and User Acceptance Testing Best Practices (UAT). This entails collecting feedback from a group of employees with a variety of skills and experience to optimize usability.

With every RDA implementation, we have to consider the user interacting with the robot. That’s why it’s necessary to create user guides and a user adoption plan prior to deployment. Automation design and user-friendliness are imperative to ensure a successful implementation.

When the deployment is complete, we continually engage to ensure the solution is optimal. We do this by collecting agent feedback while the process is running live and bringing value. We can then optimize the automation coverage by holding continuous user adoption sessions. Without user adoption, the benefits of RDA will not be fully captured. Implementation plans must actively address continuous improvements and successful change management.

5. Why should we use Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA) in our business?

Aside from significant cost-reduction, RDA can supercharge your workforce, drive continuous value and improve customer-driven KPIs. Jobs characterized by a customer-facing element are particularly likely to experience a high-value impact and meaningful ROI from using RDA tools.

Benefits and attributes of Robotic Desktop Automation:

  • Speed: In a contact center, RDA tools will significantly reduce the number of actions an agent is required to make during a call. Plus, RDA performs activities in parallel to provide agents with more information and often one-click fixes. This results in a substantial reduction to the Average Handling Time (AHT).
  • Training: Over time, with the addition of step-by-step guidance, the assistance can accelerate their learning and reduce time to competence.
  • Next Best Action (NBA): When combined with ML, RDA can support agents in making the most customer- centric decision in real-time. By placing reminders in key places throughout the call, agents can easily see the best moment to steer customers towards a self-service channel, leverage cross-sell or upsell opportunities, or deliver the best troubleshooting methods for the given call driver.
  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT): The reduced AHT will lead to improvements in CSAT, and the correct information quickly and concisely presented to an agent will increase the confidence of the agent and therefore the end customer. Plus, standardized call logs will ensure there are fewer miscommunications.
  • Employee Satisfaction (ESAT): RDA solutions allow agents to focus more on providing a great experience to the caller, and less on navigating through applications, searching, copying, and pasting values.
  • Compliance: Automation ensures processes, work order notes, and call logs are unified and standardized. It also drives out miscommunications between teams, allowing a flow of structured data sources to be analyzed for insights.

6. How does Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA) improve the customer experience?

By offering faster case resolution, improved accuracy, and better outcomes, the RDA software can significantly enhance the customer experience.

This happens because all information is displayed from multiple systems upfront to an agent. This means easier and faster response times, better preparation from the agent side, and less confusion on both ends.

The nimbleness and accuracy, driven by the RDA software and led by the agent, quickly generates customer confidence. The agent can focus on the customer issue at hand and delivering excellent customer service rather than navigating through systems or performing admin tasks.

How does Next Best Action (NBA) impact the customer experience?

Through the process of Next Best Action, the robotic solution can inform agents of additional products and services that may be useful to the customer. Examples of this include offering a better phone contract or selling additional features that are tailored to the customer’s needs and requirements.

RDA can learn and use findings from previous interactions and navigate to troubleshooting resolutions more efficiently. Enabling a much faster case resolution for modern customers who have anything else but time.

RDA can provide greater consistency and a unified experience for customers. Emails or SMS follow-ups will always be sent with the correct information with relevant next steps derived from the call. Steps will also be accurately so that there is traceability. If the customer calls back, all their previous interactions will be remembered.

7. How does Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA) support Digital Transformation?

RDA can play a significant role in supporting a digital transformation program. For instance, RDA solutions help standardize processes across distributed teams and streamline offerings and technology usage. Aside from this, RDA tools allow for a more effortless customer resolution journey, and as such, drive loyalty by delivering the efficient and personalized experience customers expect.

Within the company, RDA can also boost business performance by improving KPIs such as Employee Satisfaction, thus improving attrition rates. RDA technologies can accelerate time to competence, and streamline onboarding and coaching programs while also reducing training costs. The automation solution can be targeted towards allowing agents to focus on specific customer problems and other benefits such as supporting cross-sales.

RDA can impact the compliance and reporting side of digital transformation. This is achieved by ensuring processes are easily auditable using data from the robot logs which highlight the exact steps taken.

8. How to get started with a Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA) Program?

If automation tools were sold as standardized test pilots, the result could be disappointing. Why? Because most automation solutions are not one-size-fits-all.

The first automation program is often the most difficult one because it involves a significant pre-prep phase and drill-down of your current state. In this phase, operational shortcomings and inconsistencies should be revealed.

It is important to know what your data and current call drivers look like, i.e. AHT, the customer hold time, review time, and volumes. This will expose the most significant improvement areas.

The next stage is a deep dive into the call drivers. This can be done internally, or by leveraging external industry expertise. One of SYKES Digital Services‘ offerings is our Digital Assessment product. This engagement consists of a 360 review of your front office. We explore your processes, call metric data, and applications to identify where the greatest RDA opportunities are. Typical outputs would include a thorough analysis of the As-Is process and To-Be maps of the identified solutions. Within the product, we also provide example User Interfaces, To-Be solution design walkthroughs, business case impact, and recommendations for performance improvement.

It’s always good to gain insight from your agents. Understanding daily struggles and pain points is imperative to determining where to focus efforts.

Once this current state is understood and opportunities are identified, then RDA can be scoped and implemented.

9. How much does Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA) cost?

An RDA implementation can vary significantly when it comes to pricing. The main factors that drive this are which tool is selected and the number of agents that are being considered for deployment, as this may impact the number of licenses required. Infrastructure can also impact the cost, the tool will need to be set up for development and the servers will need to be configured to allow deployment to end-users. The number of opportunities contained within the scope and the complexity of the opportunities will of course also play a role, this is typically determined by the applications involved, several automation steps, business rules required, and user interactions.

An RDA implementation can vary significantly in price, depending on the tool selected and the number of agents that are being considered for deployment, as this may impact the number of licenses required. Infrastructure can also impact the cost, as the tool will need to be set up for development and the servers will need to be configured to allow deployment to end-users. The number of opportunities contained within the scope and the complexity of the opportunities will of course also play a role. This is typically determined by the applications involved, several automation steps, business rules required, and user interactions.

10. Which industries can benefit from Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA)?

Industries that particularly benefit from RDA tools are those defined by a customer-facing element. For instance, RDA is a great automation fit for customer engagement departments and contact centers, because not only does it solve repetitive tasks, it provides agents with real-time assistance based on the most valuable outcome.

We have seen success across a wide range of industries, within technology and insurance departments.

RDA is also a useful tool within the troubleshooting world, due to its ability to guide agents through to an expected outcome.

This automation technology will be useful anywhere where there is a high volume of calls across a large workforce of end-users.

11. Practical tips for a successful Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA) program?

  1. User Adoption: This is extremely important for successful deployment and continued use of the RDA solution. Always ensure the appropriate training has been given to users and that they are fully onboarded.
  2. User-friendly UI: When designing the user interface, always keep the end-user in mind. You want it to be intuitive, easier, and more pleasant to use than previous solutions.
  3. Ramp Up Plans: It is essential to predefine your rollout and ramp-up plans. RDA is often deployed across an entire front office operation and this must be a smooth transition across all agents and regions. How this will be supported, and the ongoing change management to ensure continuous improvement and adoption is critical.
  4. Involve your Subject Matter Experts (SMEs): As early as the design phase, a select group of SMEs should be involved. They will become further engaged during testing and deployment. This handful of SMEs will form a beta group who will be RDA advocates and help ensure the digital transformation journey is seamless.
  5. High Benefit Use Cases: Typically, where RDA can shine the most in terms of providing benefits is at the beginning or end of a call. For this reason, focus efforts on designing a Customer Profile and a Call Wrap-Up solution.
  6. Quantifying Value: Ensure that you can quantify the value of each opportunity, whether that be time saved directly, or another KPI, such as CSAT or compliance. The most effective RDA opportunities will provide value to an agent independent of any others.
  7. Complement the Agent: RDA needs to complement the agent and work with them synchronously to provide the best possible customer experience. Automation can streamline several areas of a call; however, we are careful to avoid automating positive moments that help establish connection. This would lead to wasted time as agents wait for automation to complete.
  8. Be Creative: Although RDA is a powerful automation tool for existing tasks, it can also be leveraged to improve interactions, introduce the next best action items, and rapidly realize up-selling opportunities to drive value. Recommendations can be presented to agents in real-time to offer advice and guidance which can impact coaching time significantly.

12. Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA) technologies summed up

RDA is a powerful tool in any digital transformation journey. Its diverse capabilities can be utilized to drive value for nearly any industry that relies on front-office operations. Whether your most important medium is phone calls, email, or customer chats, the purpose of RDA is to work together with humans to provide the optimal interaction and customer experience.

RDA unifies experiences and allows agents to interact with an intelligent system that guides them, relieves them of dull and manual tasks, and ensures accurate reporting and compliance forms. This is the perfect framework for ensuring an efficient workforce, smooth operations, and better customer experiences.

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