Robotic Process Automation: Our journey so far and what’s next?

Posted by: Lowell|November 16 2020


Back in January, we published our first Robotic Process Automation (RPA) blog entitled ‘The robots are ready: Utilising RPA in the debt collection sector to drive value. At that time, we had just introduced RPA to the business and automated a few routine operational processes. Eleven months on, Allan Surtees, Head of Intelligent Process Automation examines how we have fast-forwarded our RPA capabilities and are delivering more value to the business.

In Quarter 1 2020, we increased our robotic workforce from 10 to 35 digital workers. This gave us the capacity we needed for our future roadmap of automations, as well as being able to cater for high volume processes that can take longer to run.

With Lowell 23 strategic pillars in mind, including better operational foundations, we also changed how we work internally by creating a Centre of Excellence (CoE). The CoE utilises continuous improvement and process excellence experts who work alongside the RPA team under a business transformational environment. This new approach has allowed us to identify even more automation opportunities aimed at driving efficiency savings by removing waste, re-engineering processes and introducing automation where possible.

At the start of our RPA journey, we envisaged that it would be a shared service across the business. This ambition has come to fruition as the automations now span a number of operational areas including HR, Finance, Client Experience, Contact Centre Resourcing and Complaints to name but a few. This shared service approach has now delivered approximately 65,000 hours back to the business to date, allowing colleagues to concentrate on more complex or higher value-adding work.

Here are some examples of our robots in action

Contact agent queries – RPA has improved the Customer Engagement Centre agent ‘query sheet’ process. An agent now utilises a new solution that integrates to RPA to request assistance from colleagues with a higher level of authority or triage before taking the next best action e.g. gaining approval then processing the request using RPA. This saves substantial colleague time processing customer queries from days to under 1 hour.

Rebecca Tomlinson, Lowell Collections Team Leader involved with the contact agent queries said, “Using RPA is a fantastic tool to enable change. I know everyone involved couldn’t be happier with the improvements it has made to the query sheet process.”

Customer complaints – RPA has enhanced the customer complaints process where the complaint relates to the original creditor. The robot forwards the complaint to the client, using their channel of choice, which enables the customer’s complaint to be addressed more efficiently and also saving circa 10 – 12 FTE worth of hours back to the Complaints Team. 

Ashley Wynn, Collections Process Manager said, “Introducing RPA to our Complaints process has been significant not only for the Complaints Team but for our clients too. It has improved the process substantially.”

Customer COVID-19 triggers - Given the current pandemic, one of the RPA team’s proudest achievements is the work carried out with the Debt Management and Insolvency team. An RPA solution now identifies and highlights customers impacted by COVID-19 to ensure that we understand their situation and subsequently deliver the right outcomes for that customer. 

Vanora McCullagh, Debt Management Relationship Manager said, “I am proud of the way in which Lowell has conducted business during the pandemic, treating clients, customers and colleagues in the right way.  The RPA solution that identifies customers impacted by COVID-19 is just one of the great examples of this treatment.”

Client Experience - One of the new teams that RPA have been working closely with is the Client Experience team. The team identified a number of opportunities to proactively upload ‘client provided’ customer documents into our CRM system. This has been rolled out across several clients, which has resulted in improved response times to customer requests for documentation associated with their debt. 

Carley Cowdell, Client Operations Partner said, “Using RPA to automatically upload client documents into our CRM system has been such a benefit for our clients. It has saved time for both our clients and Lowell. It has also improved first time resolution within the Contact Centre by having access to the documents at the click of a button, which provides our customers with a better experience”

So what’s next for Robotics?

There is no doubt that RPA is already delivering significant value to Lowell and its adoption is increasing quickly across the business. We are continually assessing where the robots can add value to our customers, clients and colleagues and acting swiftly on these opportunities. We are also looking at emerging technologies that can complement our current RPA capability, e.g. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) to further expand the reach of automation into 2021 and beyond.

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