Everyone knows that customer service levels have a significant impact on a company’s bottom line. Companies that provide a positive customer experience outperform their lagging competitors by 80 percentage points. Good customer service bolsters profits both from the top by decreasing excess costs and from the bottom by growing market share and revenue. But the breadth of core activities that impact customer service levels goes far beyond the call center. When it comes to the supply chain, executives may be missing hidden opportunities. When supply chain processes are optimized, it allows organizations to deal with what’s actually happening with their customers instead of what they’re predicting will happen.
Anywhere a company’s operations meets a customer is an opportunity to provide an experience that’s easy and impactful, and most companies have invested in technology of some sort to address the obvious touchpoints. Customer relationship management (CRM) software such as Salesforce is everywhere, for example. But in the last couple of years, enterprise technology has made advances in other core departments that can have a profound impact on service levels.
Enter Document Automation
In recent years, a slew of technologies like dynamic data capturing (DDC), graphical user interfaces and optical character recognition (OCR) have converged to allow organizations to automate document-heavy workloads such as accounts payable and sales order processing. Document process automation moves critical paper-based operations through departments faster and with greater accuracy, and the technologies that support it are constantly evolving.
At its core, document automation is about improving communication with the biggest stakeholders in a transaction. From high-volume workloads like billing to time-sensitive services such as real-time inventory portals, automation supports business needs and virtually eliminates manual touchpoints. Designed not as a job replacer but a job enhancer, document automation results in a range of benefits for both the company and the end user.
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According to a Gartner and Esker report on sales order solutions for the supply chain, for instance, implementing automation technology for order processing achieves some significant and measurable metrics, such as:
- 55 percent lower order processing costs
- 99.6 percent order entry accuracy rate
- 60 percent reduction of labor overhead in order entry
- 40 percent increase in electronic throughput rate
If companies can achieve this level of savings and productivity by automating just sales order processing, what might they be able to do with an automated accounts payable/receivable system or online ordering?
Indirect Benefits of Automation
There’s a first tier of immediate customer service benefits that automation gives, but then there’s a second tier of indirect advantages. The ability to glean operational metrics for things like exception handling, error reporting and workflow by job function gives management a big advantage when it comes to improving business outcomes. Access to business intelligence allows companies to identify key pain points to focus on in order to achieve maximum return on investment. It’s an invaluable tool for upping a department’s game.
In addition, when CSRs are freed from the tedious and time-consuming process of data entry, they can spend more time on impactful service activities such as proactive customer relations, order tracking, change orders and customer questions. Giving your team visibility into order status empowers them to prioritize more accurately to keep issues from escalating past the first call, and issues can be managed more quickly to better satisfy customer concerns.
Examining workplace productivity even closer, the visibility provided by document automation allows managers to improve job satisfaction. CSRs are best able to provide a positive experience for customers when they have a balanced workload and fulfilling assignments. With real-time information at their fingertips, managers can allocate resources to areas of need and measure performance. As the customer service industry typically suffers from high turnover, managers’ ability to promote the right people is key to retention. In turn, satisfied CSRs are better positioned to provide customers with more immediate, personalized and even proactive attention.
Another benefit of implementing a document automation solution is the inclusion of, or seamless integration with, a customer portal. There’s a real and positive benefit to an organization’s reputation that comes with digitized, easy-to-use solutions. According to Forrester’s recent report about the future of customer service, users desire self-service and digital communication channels. As consumers, we’ve been conditioned to expect easy options that provide increased transparency. We want fast, accurate quotes and real-time shipping estimates. An online portal enables customers to place and track orders, update payment information, and communicate with CSRs at their leisure. As an added bonus, when customers have access to a portal, the volume of requests flooding the customer service department is alleviated.
End users may not consciously recognize when an excellent customer service experience increases their loyalty to a brand, but you can be sure they notice the negative impacts of a bad customer service experience. And never let you forget it.
Competitive organizations in 2016 are leveraging technology to improve processes anywhere they can, both in the now and investing for the long term. Those businesses that don’t modernize processes are at a significant disadvantage in the marketplace. When it comes to customer service, opportunities to leverage impactful automated document management solutions can be found at every stage of the document lifecycle, from initial sale to final delivery. For customer service to have a real, measurable effect on the bottom line, they have to be given the technological tools to succeed.