Transitioning from Transactional Order Entry to Relational Customer Experience

 

Gartner predicted that by 2016, 89% of companies planned to compete primarily based on customer experience. In the past three weeks I’ve been on the road meeting customers across all different industries and they all have taken this to heart.

It is no longer sufficient to compete on price and product alone. So there is a lot of emphasis on transitioning customer service from transactional order entry to an informed experience that generates new revenue streams. Oracle has noted that 74% of executives believe great customer experience impacts loyalty, and American Express found that 60% of customers are willing to pay for a better experience.

What’s impressive is the simple steps that our customers have taken and their results. They can cut order entry from 9 minutes to 2 minutes, which frees up their customer service representatives (CSRs) allowing them to spend more time talking to their customers.

Typically, sales teams are expected to build relationships and drive sales, but a chemical company I visited explained that CSRs are their secret salesperson. CSRs are not seen as sales, yet the customer trusts them as a seller since they work with them on a regular basis. The chemical company explained that freeing up CSRs to build relationships and allowing them to travel to meet customers has generated additional revenue. In some cases, their customers even noted on their order that they’re buying more because of the phenomenal service they received.

I’ve met CSRs that hold Master’s degrees and even a Ph.D. There are smart folks in customer service who are unable to put their analytical problem-solving skills to work because they have to hit their line entry quota. When given more time and the right technology they can do things like:

  • Always call the customer when there is an issue with ship date, quantity etc.
  • Educate customers who continue to issue wrong part codes, descriptions, obsolete products
  • Track all field changes and determine if an issue is related to the customer or internal master data
  • Move into coaching and supervising new hires and CSRs creating errors
  • Transition into other departments such as IT, logistics and inside sales

Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Empire, is famous for saying “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”  Happy, engaged employees will always go the extra mile to serve and delight the customer. What I saw over the last three weeks was our customers giving their CSRs the ability to that.

What would it be worth to your company if you could unleash the full potential of your CSRs?

3 Lessons the NBA Can Teach Collections Management About Analytics and the Art of Working Smarter, Not Harder

Exactly one week ago, the National Basketball Association (NBA) tipped off its 72nd season. The league is in a good place. It just had, arguably, its most interesting offseason to date. Young, marketable and uber-talented stars are everywhere. And it’s never been more universally popular.

Still, the NBA is not for everyone.

Trust me. As someone who’s loved the league and the sport itself since childhood, I can say with absolute confidence that the NBA doesn’t just have stubborn factions of non-fans out there — it has true-blue haters.

Case in point: When the question, “Do you watch the NBA?” comes up, a terse “Yes” or “No” would do just fine. However, in my experience, there’s roughly a 50/50 chance that this line of inquiry will lead to an impassioned list of Reasons I Don’t Watch being rattled off.

Shoot, I’ve heard them so many times I might know the list better than the naysayers do:

  • They’re primadonnas who don’t play any defense!
  • The college game is way more entertaining!
  • The referees NEVER call traveling!
  • They whine at every whistle!

Aww yeah, that’s the good stuff. Pure, unfiltered NBA animus.

But I’m not here to convince anyone to watch the NBA who doesn’t care to. More so, I can even admit that perhaps there’s a sliver of truth to those tired grievances (maybe more than a sliver).

The point is, you can dislike the NBA and still learn something from it — especially if your job has anything to do with accounts receivable (AR) or collections management. As unlikely as it sounds, it’s my opinion that today’s NBA teams have a lot of valuable lessons to teach collections management about analytics and the art of working smarter, not harder. Three of them to be exact:

Lesson #1: Define value through data.

In the not-so-distant past, determining an NBA player’s value was based on visceral impression — what’s often referred to as “the eye test.” Watch the game and the best players will reveal themselves, or so the theory goes. Rudimentary per-game statistics (e.g., points, rebounds, etc.) were the only accepted metrics used to support a player’s abstractly defined “value.”

The NBA of today is vastly different. Coaches and front-office execs have largely abandoned the go-with-your-gut mentality for an analytics-driven strategy that drills down into player performance at the micro-level with the aim of quantifying the impact of each action. PER, WS/48, BPM and OffRtg are just some of the new statistical models being used to shed light on qualities that were previously intangible. As a result, players defined as “all-purpose” or “versatile” are now deemed more valuable than, say, “volume scorers” — players who score a lot of points but often do so with inefficient shot selection and/or at the expense of defensive effort.

AR departments haven’t been as eager to jump on the analytics bandwagon. Besides metrics like DSO and Amount Written Off, most teams don’t have a strategic way to gauge performance on an individual or process-based level as accurately as the NBA does. But they could. And it doesn’t have to be overly complex to make an impact. Using an automated collections management solution, for example, financial execs can easily measure KPIs like:

  • Response Time (e.g., # of requests, average response time, etc.)
  • Invoice Received
  • Automated Reminders (e.g., new invoices created, emails sent, etc.)
  • Collection Calls (e.g., # of calls made, # of calls made on time, etc.)
  • Root-Cause Analysis
  • Collections Goal

Lesson #2: Don’t overthink your next competitive advantage.

The most drastic and noticeable change that’s resulted from the NBA’s analytics era has been the proliferation of the three-point shot. Although the three-pointer has been part of the NBA game since the 1979-1980 season, its stigma as a high-risk/high-reward gimmick meant that, for a long time, only a handful of players with exceptional shooting range even attempted it in the course of a game.

Turn on the NBA today and you’ll quickly notice that, not only are three-pointers a more central element of the game, they’re arguably the most important part. In just five years (2012-2017) there’s been nearly a 50% increase in the number of three-pointers taken per game. Why? The NBA data-heads did the math: Even though a three-pointer has a lower chance of going in, on average, it still leads to more total points than taking a two-point shot. Golden State Warriors guard, Steph Curry, has taken this new-school mindset to the extreme with three-point statistics that are, almost literally, off the chart.

What does this have to do with collections management? Three-pointers have been around for decades; despite this, smart NBA teams turned it into a transformational competitive advantage. With automation, collections management teams have a similar, often under-utilized tool at their disposal. If the goal is to get paid faster and drive repeat sales, few technologies have shown the ability to do this as effectively thanks to automation’s ability to:

  • Reduce DSO and invoice disputes
  • Increase staff productivity
  • Lower transaction, finance and admin costs
  • Enhance visibility and forecasting
  • Improve staff and customer satisfaction

Lesson #3: Repurpose talent to be more strategic.

See that rather large man hanging from the helpless rim? That’s none other than Big Daddy Diesel himself, Shaquille O’Neal. For roughly two decades, Shaq was the quintessential NBA center — impressive in size and unstoppable in the paint. However, in today’s NBA, the Shaq archetype doesn’t really exist. And it’s no accident.

By the time Shaq retired from basketball in 2011, the gears of NBA analytics were already in motion. Thanks to a greater emphasis on the three-point shot and player versatility, having a traditional “big man” clogging up the lane was no longer a necessity; it became a disadvantage. Thus, the center evolved from being a player primarily relied on for his size to someone expected to be leaner, rangier and more multi-dimensional.

Similarly, automation within AR processes is a catalyst for enhancing individual and team performance. Often times, the fear is that people will be replaced by technology but this is almost never the case. Billing and collections is something that can’t (and shouldn’t) be fully automated. By eliminating tedious and low-value collections tasks, staff can be repurposed to spend more time on key accounts and new customers. It’s a benefit that Esker customer, Crescent Parts and Equipment, discovered firsthand.

Don’t fight the future …

The last thing anyone wants to be is that rigid purist, fist shaking in the air, clamoring about “the way it ought to be” versus the way it actually is. Ask ex-Lakers coach Byron ScottAsk Charles BarkleyAsk Phil Jackson. There’s plenty of proof, in the NBA world, at least, that the future is something worth fighting for, not against.

It bears repeating: The NBA is not for everyone. Furthermore, AR automation might not be the right fit for every business, either. But hopefully these lessons show that, when approached smartly, the embrace of modern strategies and technologies is a critical component to creating your next competitive advantage.

 

PepsiCo selects Esker to Enhance its Order Processing and Better Serve its Cutomers

Sydney, Australia — October 9, 2017Esker, a worldwide leader in document process automation solutions, and pioneer in cloud computing, today announced it is working with PepsiCo in the UK, the British subsidiary of the world leading food and beverage company, to automate its order processing

PepsiCo has a portfolio that includes 22 brands that each generate more than $1 billion in estimated annual retail sales. PepsiCo maintains its world-leading status by being at the forefront of innovative practices and adopting the latest ways to continually improve its business. With this in mind, a project was devised to improve the way certain customer orders were being processed to eliminate any non-value added tasks and reduce the risk of manual keying errors.

The challenge that was identified showed that smaller independent traders who placed frequent orders, could not be set up with EDI, due to the complexity, time and resources required. Therefore, a much simpler but just as efficient process was required. PepsiCo selected Esker to achieve this with Esker’s order processing automation solution.

Simplify the process and free up customer services

The first plan of action was to assess the current order process and simplify how orders were being received, how the information was being captured and finally, how orders were then approved. PepsiCo wanted to offer its customers the simplest way to place their orders whilst considering some of the bespoke customer requirements of their own individual choosing.

Secondly, PepsiCo wished to free up its customer services representatives (CSR) from non-value added tasks such as the data entry from orders, so that they would devote more time to serving the needs of their customers.

Fully automated order processing

PepsiCo uses Esker’s on demand solution to first receive the customer orders in any file format (e.g. fax, email, EDI) which are then automatically routed to the correct CSR Team based on product categories contained within the order.

Next the relevant data is extracted automatically through an intelligent recognition tool to create the corresponding sales order in their ERP system without the need for any manual input. This means that the CSRs can simply verify that the data has been correctly extracted or adjust any missing elements.
If any exceptions occur or approvals are required then the order is automatically placed into a workflow to be actioned. Once approved the order is electronically archived with easy access made available to any authorised user.

“Currently PepsiCo manages approximately 4,000 orders per month (outside those received through EDI) and over 90% of these can now be processed without any human intervention at all,” commented Tom Durance, Customer Order and Strategy Manager, PepsiCo.

“The benefits we have already gained have been; increased data accuracy rates, faster order processing speeds and improved customer service productivity leading to better customer satisfaction rates. Also this would allow us to obtain 100% visibility of order/issue management via a full audit trail and KPI dashboards for monitoring and reporting,” added Durance.

Esker UK’s Managing Director, Alistair Nicholas said, “We are delighted to be working with PepsiCo and have been very pleased that the project has been a success so far both in terms of the benefits achieved and the timescales that were requested. We look forward to continuing this success to other PepsiCo subsidiaries in the future”.

Future outlook

Looking forward towards future projects, the solution now in place could be rolled out easily to other PepsiCo subsidiaries around the world using the same automated process. Also using Esker’s agile development methodology allowed a quick project delivery in less than 3 months.

About PepsiCo

PepsiCo products are enjoyed by consumers one billion times a day in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. PepsiCo generated more than $63 billion in net revenue in 2015, driven by a complementary food and beverage portfolio that includes Frito-Lay, Gatorade, Pepsi-Cola, Quaker and Tropicana. PepsiCo’s product portfolio includes a wide range of enjoyable foods and beverages, including 22 brands that generate more than $1 billion each in estimated annual retail sales.

At the heart of PepsiCo is Performance with Purpose – their goal to deliver top-tier financial performance while creating sustainable growth and shareholder value. In practice, Performance with Purpose means providing a wide range of foods and beverages from treats to healthy eats; finding innovative ways to minimise their impact on the environment and reduce their operating costs; providing a safe and inclusive workplace for their employees globally; and respecting, supporting and investing in the local communities where they operate. For more information, visit www.pepsico.com

 

 

10 Eye-Opening Quotes About the Importance of Customer Service

Customer service is a tough, but important, gig. In a NewVoiceMedia survey, 49% of respondents said they have switched to a different business as a result of poor customer service.

Every year, poor customer service costs businesses billions of dollars. In 2016, they lost a total of $62 billion to be exact. Customer service is extremely important, and these quotes help to explain why.

10 Eye-Opening Customer Service Quotes

  1. Loyal customers, they don’t just come back, they don’t simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you.
    Chip Bell
  1. In the world of Internet customer service, it’s important to remember your competitor is only one mouse click away.
    Doug Warner
  1. Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.
    Mother Teresa
  1. Customer service represents the heart of a brand in the hearts of its customers.
    Kate Nasser
  1. Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.
    Dale Carnegie
  1. Customer service shouldn’t just be a department, it should be the entire company.
    Tony Hsieh
  1. There is a big difference between a satisfied customer and a loyal customer. Never settle for ‘satisfied’.
    Shep Hyken
  1. It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.
    Henry Ford
  1. Although your customers won’t love you if you give bad service, your competitors will.
    Kate Zabriskie
  1. Courteous treatment will make a customer a walking advertisement.
    James Cash Penney

Customer Service Appreciation Week: How Are You Doing?

 

 

This week is Customer Service Appreciation week and as we all know, customer service can be one of the toughest jobs there is. Dealing with difficult customers and solving problems day after day can be exhausting, but it can also be a rewarding challenge when done correctly. And with studies showing that customer experience will overtake price and product as key brand differentiators in as little as three years, now is the time, more than ever, to make sure your customer service is the best it can be.

But where do you start? You probably have a lot of blind spots when it comes to assessing your own customer service level, because you may see the good intentions behind it instead of the actual results. Plus, customer service can be easy to write off as something you’ll eventually get around to improving when you have the time. But in a time when almost 90% of consumers say they would pay more for a better customer experience, optimizing customer service should be a priority, not an afterthought.

Like most things in business, customer service should have a process — one that is well designed, adaptable, and proven time after time. Falling into the trap of keeping up the same customer service habits you’ve always had, whether they are good or bad, can keep you from realizing the full potential of your customer service department and the positive effect it could have for your company. Sometimes, it’s best to have an outside perspective to shed some light on the potential blind spots you may have.

Check out this quick and practical self-assessment guide from The Art of Service to take a closer look at how your customer service is actually doing. This is just an excerpt from the full guide, but it will help you develop a clear picture of areas that you may be blind to right now, and implement evidence-based strategies that align with your overall goals!

And to all our customer service reps out there — thank you for doing what you do! Your work can often be underappreciated and undervalued, but it continues to play an integral role in how a company relates to its consumers and subsequently, the success of the company overall.