When it comes to automation, skeptics often worry that it’s about replacing humans with machines. In fact, it’s a far more complicated relationship than that. For example, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) tools are designed to automate the more mundane, repetitive tasks in any business, thereby freeing up the people who would previously have had to carry them out to focus on other, more valuable tasks. 

In other scenarios, automation can work closely alongside humans, carrying out certain parts of a job, but still allowing the humans in the loop to intercede and make overriding decisions where necessary. 

This is the idea behind Attended Automation, software that can be deployed on a worker’s desktop to carry out tasks in a way that greatly increases the human worker’s productivity — and benefit from humans’ experience in the process.

The rise of Attended Automation

In addition to automating particular tasks on the user’s behalf, these collaborative tools can offer real-time next best action advice to improve performance and, in some cases, compliance.

However, while these measures can work autonomously much of the time, there are also scenarios in which a human is needed to step in and help make difficult, or more complex, decisions. As an example, imagine a scenario in which an automated chatbot is interacting with an unhappy customer, who needs hand-holding to ensure that they feel listened to and have their problem resolved. As an alternative, picture a scenario involving a mortgage loan where there might be the need of an experienced mortgage loan officer or banker to decide on a borderline case. Or consider document verification in situations in which there may be reason to examine this information more closely.

Attended bots can successfully carry out the majority of cases in these two areas (answering questions with a chatbot and advising on mortgage eligibility), but may benefit from having a human able to step in and make the call when it comes to challenging edge cases.

The best of both worlds

The advantage of this approach is that businesses and customers get the best of both worlds. RPA tools aren’t just about lowering costs. They can also greatly speed up the process of answering customer queries. For instance, answering customer requests can be reduced from days or even weeks down to single-digit minutes or even seconds. This would be impossible in many cases without hiring an unfeasibly large number of dedicated staff focused on this one task. At the same time, the advantage to human interaction is that it provides a, frankly, human service that isn’t simply following a rule-based script.

In many cases, customers will be happy with interacting with a bot so long as it reduces the amount of time it takes them to receive an answer to a particular query. However, it’s the difficult cases in which there is a possible exception to the rules that highlight the need to have humans play an active role in being able to help a bot decide on the right answer. While RPA tools — especially Cognitive Automation, which builds on RPA with machine learning methodologies — are getting better at dealing with complexity, there are still plenty of times when a person’s expertise is required. 

Everyone reading this will know that there are times when we’re happier with an automated message and times when we want to pick up the phone and speak to a human being about a problem.

A collaborative relationship between humans and machines

This collaborative relationship between humans and algorithms is seen in other fields as well. For example, self-driving cars promise to chauffeur human users around, and may in many cases be safer than having a human driver behind the wheel. However, there are edge cases that a self-driving car could be confused by, in which a human can take over control of the vehicle and help it to continue safely on its journey. This same idea applies to Attended Automation.

It’s not just limited to difficult customer requests, either. Attended Automation can be useful in a wide range of areas — such as guiding a human user when it comes to compliant behavior in industries that are highly regulated. As another illustration, imagine on-the-job training, whereby a bot can support a human user as they learn to carry out specific tasks.

Attended Automation is revolutionizing RPA. Leveraging these attended bots can make RPA tools more useful, and grow the number of tasks they are able to help with. At the same time, they can greatly improve human productivity, aiding with improving performance on a regular basis. In processes that can benefit from human judgment, combined with machine speed and accuracy, Attended Automation is a game-changer. 

After all, why should you have to choose between an efficient and a human-centric workplace? With the right tools, you can have both at once.