All posts by cdumonet

How to Start Building a Successful Customer Experience Program

By the year 2020, customer experience will overtake price and quality as the key brand differentiator. In other words, brands that don’t work on improving their customer experience will be left behind.

Customer experience is more than a trend or buzzword — it will play a pivotal role in the future of marketing and has an insightful ability to predict where a company will be 5-10 years down the line. What should you be doing, if anything to prepare for this change?

First, what is customer experience?

On a basic level, customer experience (CX) refers to how a customer perceives their interactions with your company. How does your customer feel at every touchpoint they have with you, from marketing to sales to support? CX is ultimately defined by the consumer, which means businesses need to actively adapt and set themselves up to exceed expectations.

Should you be investing in this?

Joe Hanousek, Esker’s Customer Experience Manager, believes that every company needs to be tracking their customer touchpoints and working towards continually improving that process. He often says that: “Seventy percent of senior executives in companies believe that CX is important. In my opinion, the other 30 percent shouldn’t be executives.” So much of the B2B focus is on lead generation instead of improving customer experience, although most people are well aware that it is less expensive to keep existing customers than it is to acquire new ones. Companies mistakenly start looking into customer experience as a last resort once they’re suffering, but customer experience is best as a proactive approach, taken when business is growing versus lagging behind. The graph below shows just how valuable an investment in improving customer experience could be.

How do you begin?

If you’re just getting ready to work on improving customer experience, aim for C-level sponsorship. It won’t go very far unless there are people at the top behind it, so do the research you need to convince someone to back you up. Most executives are aware of the importance of CX, but still aren’t taking active steps to improve upon it. If you haven’t already started in a few years, it’ll be too late.

Next, be sure you’re ready to invest a significant amount of time and human resources into building a solid customer experience program. At Esker, the process took a full year to go from conception to having a Customer Experience manager and a team in place. It’s a good idea to have at least one person fully devoted to customer experience and multiple people from different departments committed to being a part of the CX improvement process; otherwise, CX can easily become a task that is swept away on an already busy to-do list. This will also depend on executive buy-in, as far as whether the need to have a customer experience manager or team is understood.

Finally, it is important to communicate the goals of the customer experience program throughout the organizationEveryone should be on board and kept up to date. As Joe puts it: “It’s not C-Level people or managers that make customer experience better — it’s the staff working directly with them.” Educate, train and update all those who interact with customers at any level on what needs to be done to improve those important touchpoints.

The beginning stages of our customer experience journey.

Joe’s biggest recommendation for those starting to work in CX? Change your perspective. “It is not an area for problem customers to go to, but rather a way to prevent customers from ever having the problem in the first place,” he explained. As staff focus on offering solutions to immediate problems, the CX team should be looking into why those problems happened in the first place, and if there is anything that could be done to fix that.

Customer experience goes beyond customer satisfaction or happiness. A successful customer experience program will work to prevent problems before they arise, delighting your clients past the point of mere satisfaction. CX has become more of a trend in the past two years, but it is definitely here to stay for the long haul. If you have any questions about the process we went through to build our customer experience program at Esker, or about customer experience in general, leave a comment below and we will respond to you!

Success! Awe-inspiring Customer Results with Accounts Payable Automation

Are you sitting at your desk thinking of all the ways to improve your business? Ok, maybe you’re not at this exact moment but at some point, we all try to come up with ways to improve our businesses. After all, we want to impress the boss and see organizations succeed! One big step you can take to do so is through Accounts Payable Automation. AP Automation is an essential business process you don’t want to be without, and we have the results to prove it!

What can AP Automation do for you?

Many organizations are trying to improve their KPIs to keep up with best-in-class competitors by using benchmarks to improve supplier and employee satisfaction or track how their day-to-day operations are running. The big question to ask yourself before embarking on a major project is “Are we going to see the results we hope for and expect?” We know how important it is to be able to see how automation can truly affect your business, which is why we compiled four customers who are currently reaping the benefits of AP Automation. What are you waiting for? See the results for yourself and find out just how attainable the goals can be!

AP Automation Customers

If you are:

  • In the process of working on a business case for AP automation
  • Contemplating if automation is the right way to go
  • Wanting to see if the results align with your business goals
  • Interested in seeing what all the hype is about automation and simply what other companies are doing

this piece is for you! You can download your own copy today and see some awe-inspiring results of AP Automation.

Don’t miss this opportunity to see firsthand how impactful automation has been for our customer’s Farmland, Albemarle, San Benedetto and Austin Powder, and how it can do the same for you! Click on the download below to take off on the journey towards an easier and more efficient business process through AP Automation!

 

10 Eye-Opening Quotes About the Importance of Customer Service

 

  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

5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Manage Your Business Process via Email

 

This weekend I was hiking the Beaver Brook trail near Denver, CO, an 8.5-mile trail that many families and dog walkers will hike. Every now and then, we like to set up a car shuttle and hike one end to another. Much of the trail faces east and catches plenty of sun. The vegetation on either side of the trail has really built up — in some places the trail was overgrown and it was tough to see the trail and what lay ahead. Three hours into the hike, I heard my partner freak out behind me as he was backing away from me. He explained we had missed a rattlesnake that had crossed the trail between us, meaning that I may have just stepped over it. I was so busy working my way uphill that I failed to see or hear it. We were both very wary and enjoyed the hike out a little less for the rest of the afternoon.

Maybe that’s an extreme example of what a lack of visibility can mean in business. But it is very easy to get lost in what we are doing, like working hard to keep up with order processing to meet customer SLAs or routing AP invoices to be coded and approved in order to pay suppliers and not miss early payment discounts. However, a lack of visibility due to our focus can derail the entire process. Customers have explained to me that when an invoice sits too long, a senior leader may burst into the shared services center in need of an urgent payment as to not get cut off by the supplier, and any early payment discount opportunity on the invoice to that supplier already flew out the window.

In an earlier blog post, Mark gave some examples of how a group email inbox, also known as a “hotbox,” can hurt business processes like AP, order management and AR. IT staff have also shared that they do not care to use an Outlook hotbox as the company archive as it’s inefficient and inconsistent, and they get pulled away to try and find emails or fix issues plenty.

Last week, one of my customers shed more light on this and shared the following problems regarding managing a business process hotbox:

  • Hard to take ownership. It’s confusing who actually owns the next step. There are multiple people in a department; is the action on you or someone else?
  • Visibility issues. This often gets limited to one person, meaning emails may be stuck in one person’s inbox without anyone else ever knowing about it.
  • Schedule conflicts. This ties into visibility again. Someone being out of the office is a problem and urgent emails can be stuck or won’t get auto-forwarded to the team, especially if the employee is out of the office sick unexpectedly.
  • Inaccurate sorting. Emails can be dropped in the wrong folder and get lost forever. Then, customers get mad and suppliers don’t get paid and they are confused by our poor process, or our DSO gets dragged out.
  • Coding system. It’s easy to assume an issue is resolved because the email was color coded differently, but that’s not always the case. There isn’t really any accurate tracking on exceptions.

Before we talk about automation of these processes using tools like machine learning, what many are seeking is a set of clear dashboards that help sum up the current volume of orders, invoices, etc. in the process, ranked by stage (e.g., new, in process, under review, approved).

The ability to monitor these documents for key words/key SKUs helps ensure rush or priority orders actually get priority. For example, distribution centers may have regional cut off times that need to be met and east coast orders may need to be weighted higher to ensure on-time delivery and a positive customer experience. Layering on dashboards for extra visibility helps AP departments see which invoices are stuck in the approval cycle, how much money needs to be accrued, and the potential amount of pre-negotiated early payment discounts at risk if the business owners do not code and approve their AP invoices.

Esker provides visibility and automation across business processes to help avoid nasty surprises and stressful disruptions. I think I’ll take my hiking higher up to Snowline for a clearer path.

[Infographic] Sit Back and Relax with the Perfect AP Process

If you’re looking for a way to improve productivity, financial management, and overall AP performance, kick back and sip on this perfect AP cocktail.  Afterwards, have a look at our AP Buyer’s Guide and discover the 15 key questions to ask when scoping out an automation solution for vendor invoice processing.

Does Your Process Pass the Sniff Test?

Good order management goes a long way. But here’s the thing: It’s hard to know with certainty if your process is really best-in-class or bottom-of-the-barrel.

A little benchmarking makes a big difference.

Take our brief 10-question quiz to determine once and for all if your current order management process meet today’s standards for timeliness, efficiency, and cost.

Go on, see where you stand and comment or share your results!

7 Reasons to Automate Accounts Payable in an Oracle E-Business Suite Environment

 

 

Do you work in the Oracle® E-Business Suite realm? Are you still looking into automation and how it could fit into your organization? Look no further, Esker has laid out 7 Reasons to Automate Accounts Payable in an Oracle E-Business Suite Environment. That’s right, you heard me: in an Oracle E-Business Suite Environment! Not only does Esker offer accounts payable (AP) automation, we now have a seamless connector for those working in the Oracle space.

What’s Your Reason to Automate?

Do you suffer from lack of visibility into your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) on a daily basis? Maybe your AP specialists are being stretched thin by manually processing invoices, or you could be looking to take advantage of early payment discounts but don’t have a good way to track them in your current process. Whatever your reason to automate may be, you will want to start putting an action plan in place for automation by laying out how it will benefit your organization. Now, there is no need to rack your brain coming up with reasons to automate, I already did the work for you!

 Reasons to Automate Accounts Payable

  1. Address the Issues
    What pains are you experiencing in AP? I am sure if you have pains, others in your department feel them as well (or additional ones). Take a moment to familiarize yourself with all the procedures, or even give yourself a nice refresher, you might end up pinpointing a few issues automation could fix that you didn’t think of before. You want to make sure you have identified all the pains in your department to make a strong case for automation.
  1. Consider the Big Picture
    What is automation going to bring your organization for years to come? Maybe you are being hit by the lack of visibility, imagine the joy of automation providing total visibility into invoices throughout the process and the ability to track KPIs on a daily basis! Think of all those in your organization that will benefit. Are you looking to improve supplier relations? Automation can give you a vendor portal which gives vendors insight into where their invoice is without needing to pick up the phone! Think of the time that AP specialists could be saving. Can you already imagine a few of your vendor relationships improving? Maybe early payment discounts are a hot topic, think of the money your organization could save by having visibility into the process with real-time tracking. Catch those discounts before they are gone! What does your big picture look like and where do you want automation to take your organization?
  1. Assess Your Situation
    You have pinpointed your issues, taken a look at how automation will benefit your organization, in the long run, now it is time to assess your situation. How well do you rank among your competitors? Do you have easy access to your KPIs and other important data? If you are not happy with where you stand, or you are content with your ranking but know you can improve, it is time to take action with automation!

Get all 7 reasons to automate AP in an Oracle E-Business Suite environment by downloading our guidebook today! You won’t want to miss out — kick start your business case today!

Algoma Chooses Esker’s Cloud-Based Solution to Streamline Its Accounts Payable Processes in an SAP® Environment

Sydney, Australia — June 5, 2017 Esker, a worldwide leader in document process automation solutions and pioneer in cloud computing, today announced it is working with Algoma, a North American steel manufacturer, to automate its accounts payable (AP) processes. Esker’s cloud-based accounts payable automation solution will integrate with Algoma’s SAP® system to bring more speed, accuracy and visibility to the 12,000 incoming documents it processes monthly.

Algoma selected Esker after implementing an SAP system in 2012. One of Algoma’s top priorities was to gain greater real-time visibility into important invoice details. The ability to integrate with SAP applications and sophisticated analytical capabilities of Esker’s solution were exactly what Algoma was looking for. Additionally, Esker will enable Algoma’s team of AP specialists to transition from clerical work to analytical roles, setting the stage for greater productivity and professional growth opportunities.

“Our goal was to not only transact vendor invoices more efficiently, but to also gain rapid insight into the potential bottlenecks and problems in our processes,” said Piper Lee Frech, senior manager – financial accounting, taxation and pensions at Algoma. “Esker’s machine learning technology and real-time dashboards that can be tailored to individual needs of each AP Specialist, gives us the flexibility and user-friendly interface we need to achieve our goal.”

This project signifies a positive step for the organisation, as it is the company’s first venture with a cloud-based solution. Algoma believes they will see real benefits from Esker’s cloud capabilities when it comes to communication with its vendors.

About Algoma

Algoma has been a mainstay of the North American steel industry for more than 100 years. A fully integrated steel producer with a raw steel production capacity of approximately 2.8 million tons per year, Algoma’s size and diverse capabilities enables it to deliver responsive, customer driven product solutions straight from the ladle to direct applications in the automotive, construction, energy, manufacturing and defense industries. Algoma’s operations are based in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario with sales offices in Burlington, Ontario and Calgary, Alberta.

 

[Infographic] A Brief History of Payment Methods

We are excited to share a blog post from SlimPay today. This post features an infographic on the history of payment methods that evolved alongside civilizations.

The Business Case for Automating Stress Out of Your CSRs’ Lives

We all know the feeling. It’s certainly happened to me on more than one occasion.

There you are watching television, flipping through a magazine or checking your online news feed when, suddenly, you come across an urgent message about … [cue loud, menacing music] … THE DANGERS OF STRESS.

Naturally, processing this bit of “helpful” information only makes you more stressed out about how often you’re needlessly stressing out. A slice of deliciously cruel irony if there ever was one.

But let’s be honest: When put in perspective, the stressors of the average person are fairly trivial. Most of us live in general equanimity compared to, say, what a typical Customer Service Representative (CSR) contends with on a daily basis. It’s not a coincidence that the average turnover rate for CSRs in the U.S. is 33% — nearly double what the average turnover rate is among all professions.

These statistics are not lost on today’s forward-thinking companies.

As business leaders shift their focus to more value-added strategies such as customer experience improvement, the link between CSR burnout and business profitability has become painfully clear. After all, it costs a lot of money to find, hire and train new employees. The question is, can anything significant really be done about a department that’s long been synonymous with high-stress and high-turnover rates?

When looking at how order processing automation fits into a customer service environment, the answer appears to be a resounding “Yes.”

Chronic stress & customer service

Although stress can be a positive and motivating force in small doses, the long-term activation of the body’s stress-response system opens the door to some pretty serious health issues: It can alter mood, memory and sleeping patterns; it can contribute to headaches, heart disease, and musculoskeletal disorders; and, it can even affect how a person’s genes express themselves!

Unfortunately for many CSRs, prolonged exposure to stress is all in a day’s work. When they’re not fielding calls from needy customers, CSRs can be found performing the mind-numbing task of hand-entering order data into their department’s ERP system or hunting down a lost document. And, when a mistake is made and the arrows of blame start to fly, you can bet that the biggest targets hang on the backs of CSRs.

These types of stressors are so prevalent in environments that rely on manual and paper-based processes that they’re often just accepted as “part of the deal.” Thankfully, more businesses are waking up to the fact that this is not a sound strategy.

A stressed-out CSR team ultimately leads to larger issues. The big two being:

  1. Higher turnover rates. Included in this is the cost of:
    • Hiring and onboarding a new person
    • Lost productivity in getting new person up to speed
    • Training over a period of 1-3 years, typically
    • Cultural impacts due to constant staff “cycling”
  2. Lower customer satisfaction. Included in this is the cost of:
    • Increasing resources to quell customer contentions
    • Poor customer experience scores; potential loss of existing customers
    • Damaged reputation preventing new business opportunities

Now, I know what you may be thinking: How can automation — something that’s often feared by CSRs as a job replacer — be the key to reducing their tension and avoiding the subsequent fallout? It’s all about equipping them with the right tools to succeed …

4 stress-busting benefits of order processing automation

Too many managers make life harder for their CSRs by setting them up for failure. If a banana was the only tool a team of carpenters had to pound nails with, it’s fair to say that frustration and cynicism would soon follow. The right tools can make all the difference.

Below are the four biggest stress-busting benefits automation offers CSRs:

  1. It reduces repetitive and emotional encounters with customers.
    All of us can picture a helpless CSR being berated by an angry customer over the phone. As stressful as that is, having to manage routine, repeated requests also plays a big role in CSR burnout. It’s key to remember why these interactions are happening in the first place — a customer’s expectations were not met, or, the customer had no other means of performing the desired action. Automated solutions defuse these potentially combustible situations by allowing companies to offer their customers a self-service portal to place orders, track orders and even log disputes. Should a customer want to clarify an issue or ask a question directly, a built-in chat tool enables real-time communication with a CSR. Bottom line: Customers are far less likely to reach for the phone when they’re afforded transparency and control into their orders. That’s a recipe for happier CSRs, happier customers and a healthier bottom line.
  2. It relieves CSRs of unnecessary blame.
    Whether it’s their manager or a customer doing the finger-pointing, being a magnet for blame is huge stressor for CSRs. But humans make mistakes. If manual data entry is part of processing a customer order, at some point, errors are going to occur. It’s the process — not the person — that’s broken. Once again, automation provides a simple and intuitive fix. Machine learning technology embedded in the solution ensures that all the relevant data on an incoming order is extracted and analyzed, regardless of how the order arrived (e.g., EDI, fax, email, etc.). The data is then automatically processed or presented to the CSR for validation and uploaded in the ERP system. Bottom line: Automation eliminates manual data entry — the main source of order processing errors. This relieves CSRs of their burden of blame while avoiding the inevitable downstream costs of righting any wrongs.
  3. It helps CSRs be more organized and proactive.
    Most CSRs would love to get ahead of potential issues and showcase initiative. However, with no centralized system to view and manage all of the orders coming into and out their company on any given day, their hands are often tied. If order volumes spike unexpectedly or a priority customer’s document needs to be retrieved ASAP, the CSR is left scrambling. Here’s the beauty of automated order processing: Best-in-class solutions are equipped with customizable dashboards that display live, visual analytics to help CSRs strategize their day. Whether it’s seeing how many priority orders to validate or even managing open customer issues, CSRs can finally say goodbye to the endless cycle of backlogs and boondoggles. Bottom line: Dashboards empower CSRs, and empowered CSRs are a very low-stress and high-reward investment for any company.
  4. It creates an environment of purpose, fulfillment and upward mobility.
    Career uncertainty is also a major stressor for CSRs, as they can often feel trapped in the daily minutia of performing thankless, low-value tasks. With no clear path for professional growth in sight, their performance inevitably suffers, as does the overall customer experience. Order processing automation addresses this by relieving CSRs from traditional administrative duties so they can perform tasks that are more critical to the business and have greater potential for career-pathing. What’s more, managers can track KPIs in the dashboard to reward those CSRs who are going above and beyond. Bottom line: CSRs who receive recognition and serve a strategic purpose almost always perform better at their jobs and have a lower rate of turnover.

Workplace stress is a serious health issue that we’ve all experienced in varying degrees. And while measures like exercise, meditation and self-affirmation techniques can be employed at an individual level, in specific cases (i.e., CSRs), a more holistic solution is needed. What sets order processing automation apart is its ability to go beyond simply treating the symptoms of CSR stress and actually address the underlying root causes.

So, to all the businesses stressing out over how to solve their customer service problems, relax. Take a deep breath. It’s nothing a little automation can’t solve.