Improving the customer experience continues to be a hot topic moving into 2017. However, as companies strive to improve their offerings and engagement with consumers, they often overlook the relationship between internal communications and its effect on end users. The best way to appreciate this is by looking at a company’s employees as internal customers.
An employee seeking information from another part of that company should have a positive experience, just like an external customer. There are steps that small businesses can take to improve communications to each of these critical constituents, the internal and external customer, that leads to significant improvements in organizational efficiency and better engagement.
Improving the Internal Customer Experience (Information Management)
An often-overlooked component of customer engagement is the internal communication that serves as the foundation of the external end user experience. For small businesses in particular, shaving off time on remedial tasks that could easily be done through automation, like the creation of proposals and sales quotes, is critical. It leads to an improvement in team morale, which keeps employees more engaged and can also boost customer satisfaction.
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Improvements in internal communications can also improve the bottom line. An SMB communications study posited that poor internal communications cost businesses more than $26,000 per employee in lost efficiency.
A major pain point of organizational inefficiency is the sharing of information. Relying on legacy communication methods in 2017 is comparable to building a high rise on a faulty foundation. Sooner or later it’s going to be a major problem – and for many companies it already is.
Research by IDC found that a knowledge worker spends about 2.5 hours per day, or roughly 30% of the workday, searching for information. Similarly, another report from McKinsey found employees spend an average of 1.8 hours every day (9.3 hours per week) searching and gathering information.
Put another way, this is equivalent to a business hiring 5 employees but only 4 show up to work.
Modern communication systems can reduce the time spent looking for information. Incorporating a customer communication management system that links to your CRM dashboard and ECM platform can simplify the processes behind managing an enormous amount of information, and finding what you need. A stand-alone ECM platform will capture data and route it internally, but this process doesn’t get to the customer.
Similarly, a CRM platform will house a lot of important customer information, but it won’t be automatically placed in all the appropriate communication materials for distribution. These segmented systems create room for errors and confusion that consume valuable time. In fact, research by Gartner found that by 2018, the rapid creation and retrieval of relevant content (KM) will be the key attribute of leading enterprises.
Improving the External Customer Experience (Omnichannel communication)
Speeding up company workflow is the first step toward matching increasing demands of instant information, but there is also the importance of extending the experience to external clients. Customers want information when and where they need it.
This is especially true of complex businesses like banking and insurance, where consumers feel like they are forced to engage with their providers. According to a PWC report, 86% of banking customers want responsive customer service. Their demands aren’t complicated in theory, but providing them on a large scale can be challenging.
The best way to satisfy this expectation is through omnichannel communication, offering complete continuity across any channel whether it is SMS, email, web, phone, social media or in-person. New forms of communication mean more places businesses must optimize content for. A Gallup poll found that sending and receiving text messages is the most prevalent form of communication for Americans younger than 50 and they prefer to receive information from brands via SMS.
Omnichannel appeases the customers’ need for expediency, and saves employees time by reducing manual interventions associated with outbound customer communication. On average, it takes employees 64 seconds to get back to a task after reading and responding to an email. When there are hundreds or thousands of emails coming through, it can be a constant source of interruption.
Omnichannel communication that is an extension to internal communication processes, like data capture, information routing and placement in external-facing communication materials, helps complete this arduous cycle, where workers can access all pertinent information at a moment’s notice. This automation greatly reduces repetition in customer service, which is a common cause of frustration for customers and also increases human error.
An increasing number of companies are turning to investments in technology to provide better customer experience. Gartner forecasted worldwide IT spending to reach $3.5 trillion this year with over $1.4 billion spent sorely on communications services. Although they delegate considerable budget on IT systems, SMBs must be strategic about how they funnel the investment in both internal and external communications to be successful.