From horses to robots and AI: How Posten Norge took on the future
What happens when you bring Robotics and AI into an almost 400-year-old firm, trying to automate some of their most critical business operations?
Posten & Bring has always been an innovative company. Ever since their establishment back in 1647, they have adapted to changes in our society; from delivering mail using horses to the self-driving package delivery machines.
About Posten Norge
A Nordic postal and logistics group that develops and delivers integrated solutions in postal services, communications and logistics, with the Nordic region as its home market.
CEO: Tone Wille
As a major logistics company, a core challenge for Posten Norge is how to develop innovative customer-oriented services in an increasingly competitive market. Today’s customers are digital natives, demanding features such as self-service, flexibility, sustainability and low-cost solutions — usually all at once.
Due to a long history of mergers and acquisitions, as well as frequent changes in business functions and customer behavior, Posten & Bring have built up some legacy in their systems and processes. There was a need to streamline and simplify their internal processes, in everything from administrative invoicing processes to customer service interactions. In order to stay adaptable to new opportunities, they needed a new set of tools.
Together with a team from Posten, we started off in the shared services department, mapping key processes in an end-to-end perspective. Posten has throughout the years invested a lot in automation and process improvement and were now ready to take the next step with Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Even today, they had several rule-based processes that were perfect candidates for automation. By utilizing the technology, together with process improvement, we identified potential for Posten to free up a significant amount of time spent on manual work and instead focus on more creative and meaningful work.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA)A computer program that mimic the exact actions of a person on the computer. Simply put, the robots are digital employees that follow instructions to perform tasks in the same user interface as humans, such as clicking on a button or writing in a text field.
After successfully automating the first few processes, we developed an optimal robotics operating model together with Posten & Bring. Today the model is fully implemented and has become essential for a successful scaling and roll-out of RPA in their organization.
1. VisionIdentify the expected business benefits and align them with corporate strategy.
2. OrganizationDefine the organizational design that best supports delivery of the RPA capability and aligns with corporate strategy and culture.
3. Governance and PipelineDefine how processes should be mapped and prioritized to ensure maximum value creation.
4. Delivery StrategyDefine how the processes are designed, developed and rolled-out in a structured and controlled manner.
5. Service ModelSet up operational model to ensure the needed ownership, reporting, maintenance of developed processes for business as usual.
6. PeopleDefine roles and responsibilities needed for a strong RPA delivery and support teams included enablement such as training.
7. TechnologyDefine a secure and scalable technical architecture.
Next, we analyzed the customer service department in Posten & Bring to identify possibilities for improving their operations. Customer expectations are ever changing, and throughout the past years the changes have not only been driven by higher competition, but also by new technologies. In an “instant” world, we don’t have any time to spare. Therefore, together with Posten & Bring, we wanted to develop a smooth customer service experience – so that their customers could spend less time interacting with customer service.
Relying only on humans to handle every interaction alone has both been difficult and expensive. Especially since the goal was to deliver fast, high-quality responses. Like in most situations, there is a trade-off. By relying only on humans in customer service, Posten & Bring would be limited to opening hours and challenged by consistency in answers, changes in capacity and peak times, and turnover. On the other hand, we appreciate the human and personal connection.
So, how did we solve the paradox of personal and human communication versus instant and consistent communication? We knew that capacity was a true challenge, so together with an exceptional team from Customer Service, Marketing and IT, we developed an artificially intelligent chatbot to handle the most frequent customer inquiries. In order to secure a smooth customer experience, we integrated the chatbot with a live chat which seamlessly transfers customers to a human in case this is needed.
After a few weeks of development, the chatbot was able to handle more than 1000 different questions, 24/7, in Norwegian, Swedish and English. Throughout the process, training of internal employees at Posten & Bring was conducted. Today, they have a team of skilled AI Trainers teaching the chatbot how to be even more intelligent and enabling it to guide and answer even more complex inquiries.
”We set highly ambitious goals for the project and needed a very sophisticated solution. Working with experts from AVO it was a smooth sailing, even though we had tough deadlines. Our own AI trainers work on continuous improvement, while AVO helps us move the boundaries with ever-new functionality”
In September 2019, Posten Norge was named the most innovative company in Norway. The RPA initiative have boosted the work efficiency and increased employee satisfaction by eliminating the number of repetitive tasks. The work performed by the robots is reliable and consistent as they perform at high speed 24/7 with fewer errors and higher data quality in the processed tasks.
The chatbot has eliminated customer waiting time by providing instant answers to all types of customer inquiries, including qthe ones which require information from several back-end systems - all automated.
Moving forward, Posten & Bring are exploring how they can automate more end-to-end processes and tasks by utilizing different technologies that complement each other. Utilizing technology is an integral part of their long-term plan to provide even better services to their customers.
All photos: Posten Norge