Part 2: Robotic Process Automation bots in action

My previous post looks at how AT&T employees have embraced Robotic Process Automation, creating hundreds of millions of dollars in value a year by automating routine processes. This one focuses on how they’re using RPA every day.

Billing: Happier customers, fewer adjustments

Our many enterprise customers count on AT&T for integrated voice, video, messaging and meeting services. Given the volumes, it’s hard for them to manage how much they actually use, and sometimes they run into overage charges.

Our AT&T Business unit was looking for a solution – namely, to avoid overage charges in the first place. That would prevent frustration for customers and translate to fewer follow-up calls and inquiries to our customer service team requesting bill credits.

So our team devised a unique bot to reduce the number and amounts of billing credits. Around the clock, the bot monitors usage of these services, scouring 21,000 records per minute. If it finds an overage charge above a pre-set amount, it automatically notifies the customer and the assigned AT&T sales rep.

This quick intervention enables both sides to mitigate overages and avoid excessive charges. The bot has helped reduce the number of credits we issue to unhappy customers, saving AT&T tens of millions of dollars a year in customer service costs. Happier customers and fewer adjustments – thanks to RPA, that’s a win-win.

Overwhelming compliance paperwork: Game-changing bot to the rescue

AT&T takes regulatory and permitting requirements very seriously. In a company this size, compliance takes nearly Herculean effort. We operate in hundreds of countries and work with thousands of agencies that generate hundreds of thousands of forms and invoices. Regulations, costs and deadlines – not to mention document formats and terminology – vary by location. In the past, the company spent hundreds of hours per month on the tedious and repetitive job of manually processing these filings – a slow, complex endeavor.

Enter RPA. We worked with the AT&T Finance Modernization team to develop a bot leveraging AI to automate the process. It interacts with applications across different systems to open each invoice and interpret and extract all relevant information using Optical Character Recognition and Natural Language Processing capabilities.

The bot validates invoice data against contract terms, does basic calculations and transfers data into the accounts payable system, triggering the payment process. It then automatically routes invoices for approvals and follows up with deadline reminders. Company rules, compliance and governance controls are embedded into the system. If the bot detects any exceptions, it flags the transactions for human review.

This bot is a game changer. It operates with 99% accuracy and has reduced processing time for permits and invoices from minutes to seconds. Automating these tasks is projected to redirect approximately 3,500 manual working hours each year so that employees can focus on more complex and strategic priorities.

Transferring account responsibility: From painful to frictionless

Companies and individuals eager to shed costs contact AT&T to transfer accounts to other groups or people within their organizations. Our Business Mobility Care Centers field these calls from businesses large and small. During the past 2 years because of COVID, the centers have had to handle a sharp uptick in such calls, which now regularly exceed 40,000 a month.

This was always a complicated process, bringing together 2 parties for each telephone number to transfer ownership. It was also time-consuming, averaging 25 minutes per call. Imagine what that was like for an enterprise wanting to transfer 5,000 bulk mobile numbers.

Not surprisingly, these transfers were a pain point, leading to poor customer satisfaction and higher churn rates. So our team from the Chief Data Office stepped in to develop a fully automated, frictionless, self-service solution. To that end, we assembled an ecosystem of technologies including intelligent voice routing, CallVu – our call center system which transcribes audio info provided by customers as text data on customer service agents’ workstations – web-based data entry methods and APIs. The glue holding it all together: Bots.

Now when account owners call AT&T, the IVR collects information and automatically sends the customer a secure, intuitive webform to complete. When the account is staged for transfer, the bot drafts and sends a notification, verification code and link to finalize the process to the customer. At pre-set intervals, reminders go out to finish up via the MyATT app.

In addition to improving the customer experience, the solution has freed up hundreds of hours per month for reps to spend on other activities. The call center team also expects higher customer retention, safeguarding revenue and reducing equipment return costs. 

Part 1: Automation Bots

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Dhru Shah
Dhru Shah Head of AT&T’s Robotics Center of Excellence

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