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How intelligent automation is solving unforeseen COVID-19 challenges

April 10, 2020 - 952 views

How intelligent automation is solving unforeseen COVID-19 challenges

Here's a look at two companies that have successfully turned to intelligent automation to tackle the unprecedented challenges resulting from COVID-19. 

Disruption is nothing new to the tech world. We’re used to discovering new ways of using technology to solve problems. But even with our love for challenging the status quo, COVID-19 has disrupted the business world in ways many of us never anticipated.

With most of the world unexpectedly working and studying from home (or in the worst cases, completely shut down), we’re no longer looking at technology as an opportunity to solve tomorrow’s problems – we need it to solve today’s unprecedented challenges.

Companies across industries are turning to intelligent automation to not only overcome the hurdles created by the current global pandemic but also to make sure we’re better prepared for what’s to come. Here are two great examples of how our clients are turning to tech to tackle unforeseen COVID-19 challenges. 

The trials & tribulations of travel

Unsurprisingly, the travel and hospitality industry is taking one of the hardest hits. As cities, states and entire countries effectively shut down, people around the world are canceling their upcoming trips. In fact, the U.S. Transportation Department recently reminded airlines that they are obligated to refund tickets when they cancel a flight or make a significant flight schedule change that passengers opt not to accept. One major airline reportedly received over 120,000 cancellation requests in the early weeks of the pandemic – a 4,000% increase from its standard 3,000 cancellations per month. The refund process required a review of each cancellation to determine whether the customer was eligible for a refund or a credit to rebook their trip at a later time.

It took three to four minutes to manually complete each case review – even while volumes grew. By the time the airline cleared 5,000 refund requests, another 7,000 had been added to the queue. With a continuously growing backlog, the airline was struggling to keep up with demand. So, it used robotic process automation (RPA) tools to build a bot.

In just six days – including four days of round-the-clock building by engineers – with our assistance the airline created a bot that could determine whether a flyer was eligible for a refund or a credit. With the bot’s ability to clear 4,000 refund requests per day – more than would have been cleared in a month manually (and assuming 80% of the volume) – employees were freed to handle more complex work.

But the airline’s demand challenges weren’t completely solved yet. For members of its frequent-flyer program, refunds can only be issued if the name information on the service ticket matches the information the airline has in its database. If the flyer changed their name without updating their profile (or their name otherwise did not match), it would need to be changed before the refund could be issued. 

Before the pandemic, the airline had 19 full-time employees working on profile change updates, nine of whom were dedicated just to making name changes. The process included checking passports, driver’s licenses or marriage certificates to validate the information, which took about five minutes to complete without the help of intelligent automation.

To handle updates and changes, the airline leveraged RPA and optical character recognition (OCR) technology. With the deployment of these bots, it’s able to work through the increased volume and free employees to apply more constructive thinking to challenges that require human decision making.

Ensuring continuity of global clinical trials

For many of us, we're learning to manage the day-to-day challenges of the pandemic. We work from home, stock up on essentials and cancel the vacation we’d planned next month. But for others, shutting down businesses, hospitals and even borders means not being able to access life-saving drugs.

To ensure this didn’t happen to participants of ongoing clinical trials, we worked with a biopharmaceutical company to create a bot to help keep an eye on the growth of the crisis and manage both inventory and supply chain readiness.

In just five days, the company developed and implemented a bot that could pull information on the virus's spread from the World Health Organization (WHO) and compare it with the global locations where clinical trials were occurring. With this automatically generated report, leadership is able to assess the pandemic’s potential impact and severity on studies and participants, and make real-time decisions.

The bot also offers on-the-ground insights into the inventory and supply chain of each clinical trial. Rather than pressuring  study managers to pull daily reports (a process that could take up to three hours to complete manually, not including data analysis), the bot is able to download study data, including subject visit summaries and drug inventory levels overnight, and have the data ready for review in the morning. Study and supply chain managers can analyze the demand and supply each day to ensure patients get the life-saving drugs they need.

Staying connected & automated

We’re living in a time when news isn’t just changing every day; it’s changing every hour. It’s difficult to respond quickly to these accelerated changes when only relying on manual help. As the “new normal” continues to develop, we’re sure to see more and more innovative ways of adding intelligent automation and other advanced technologies to our business processes.

The more we share, the more we can learn and address the COVID-19 challenges we’re facing today and adapt to living in this new world. Feel free to share your stories on how you're using intelligent automation; the idea you share may be the lifeline that companies, colleagues and partners are searching for. 

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn and has been revised for Digitally Cognizant.

Visit our COVID-19 resources page for additional insights and updates.

Digital Business Operations, Intelligent Process Automation rpa, intelligent automation, robotic process automation, bots, coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic

Mariesa Coughanour

Mariesa Coughanour is the Head of Advisory for the Automation Practice at Cognizant. She leads a team that advises customers...

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