Category Archives: Customer Issue Management

Beyond Order Entry: How Customer Service Reps Can Reclaim Their Identity with the Help of AI-Driven Automation

 

 

 

 

 

A strong sense of identity is essential to all of us. It’s the thing that makes you, you — personally, professionally and perhaps even spiritually.

But as empowering as identity is, it can be equally restricting due to the boundaries we (and others) so often construct around ourselves, either consciously or unconsciously.

Think about it like this: While it’s true that a stick is just a stick, its real identity is far more boundless than some narrow label. As children are so apt to teach us unimaginative adults, sticks can actually be a large spectrum of things: snowman’s arm, magic wand, makeshift fishing pole, something for a dog to fetch … you get the idea.

The point is, it never hurts to reexamine and reconstruct the concept of identity. Too often, we trick ourselves into limiting what something can or cannot be.

Data entry or customer service?

There’s a similar identity crisis happening in the world of customer service right now. In many organizations, Customer Service Reps (CSRs) — often the voice and face of the company as far as the customer is concerned — are relied on more as order processors and data enterers than what they actually could or should be doing.

This isn’t always the case depending on the company and industry but it’s safe to assume that if your order management practices are inefficient, your CSRs are not fulfilling their potential. Global research and advisory firm, Gartner, recently found in a 2018 study that: “the majority of companies touch between 30% to 60% of orders, but there are some companies that touch 90% to 100% of orders.”1

While systems like ERP, CRM and EDI are effective in their own way, they fail to relieve customer service reps of the repetitive tasks that sap so much of their time (e.g., manually keying in data, identifying and correcting exceptions, etc.). These touch points offer little to no value to the customer experience or the company’s bottom line and can also open the door to:

  • Costly errors that affect downstream efficiency and timely order fulfillment
  • An aloof CSR staff with little to no opportunities for career-pathing
  • Customers feeling undervalued and underappreciated
  • Lost business and fewer opportunities

A sales force hidden in plain sight

Automated solutions driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI) offer a rather elegant solution to this problem. Acting as a centralized platform for all orders that come into an organization, these solutions use AI technology like machine learning to automatically extract data from incoming orders and disseminate it to the appropriate downstream teams and systems — eliminating the need for manual order entry. This, along with tools like dashboards and portals for tracking metrics, prioritizing urgent orders, and facilitating issue management all free up CSRs to do what they do best: serve customers.

But it’s more than that.

As the front-line people who personify the company brand, customers place a lot of trust in CSRs. A good CSR makes a customer feel like they’re being taken care of — not sold to. In other words, the more time CSRs have to play the role of “relationship builder,” the more opportunities they have to add another wrinkle to their identity: revenue generator.

The identity of customer service reps is far more robust than many businesses, and possibly some CSRs themselves, realize. From my vantage point, it’s a combination of relationship builder, revenue generator and all around problem solver — anything but paper pusher or data enterer. However you define it, with solutions like AI-driven automation available to businesses of all sizes, there’s no debating that the future of customer service will be infinitely more fulfilling and valuable to everyone it touches.

Learn more

If you care to learn more about Esker’s AI-driven order management solution and its impact on CSR teams, check out our recent whitepaper with APQC: Transform Customer Service and Operations Through Order Automation. It’s highly interesting and totally free. Enjoy!

Customer Service is Key

I recently went out for a meal with my family. We arrived at the restaurant, and were greeted and seated immediately by our smiling host, at the table of our choice.

Whilst looking at the menu, our host came over and took our drinks order, and also took the time to give us recommendations of dishes, explaining about ingredients and suitable accompaniments.

The food arrived fairly swiftly and was delicious – the recommendations were correct and accurate, and our attentive host returned on occasion to check we were happy and that we had full glasses.

Our table was cleared, and then, the best part – dessert. Being a fairly indecisive bunch, our willing host again took the time to answer any questions about the dishes and made recommendations. A couple of members of my family enquired about one particular dessert. We asked for a few more minutes to decide. Our host then re-appeared at the table, not yet to take our order, but with a sample of the dessert that we were enquiring about, to aid our decision.

What fantastic service we received. This was the thing that really made our visit special. It certainly made me want to return.

These days, it is all about customer service, or the customer experience. It can make or break an experience or transaction. There is so much riding on it. In fact, today, excellent customer service is expected and demanded as standard. It’s what makes the best stand out from the rest.

A fantastic experience with any service or transaction is always preferable, but things don’t always go to plan, mistakes are made, and then need to be dealt with, and again it’s here that excellent customer service shines through and makes companies stand out from the rest, and makes customers loyal and return time and time again.

Did you know that Esker’s customer issue management solution can help with this? It gives CSRs have the ability to log, track and manage every claim, which improves efficiency by completely automating issue management workflows. On top of this, Esker’s dashboards provide clear and up-to-date information on the number of complaints awaiting resolution, and consolidated reports enable managers to accurately analyse, detect and quickly fix any problem areas. Getting customer issue management right is so important. After all, it directly impacts financial performance and customer retention.

Written by Amy Rees – Esker Marketing Administrator

Life Science Industry Customer Service Representative | Esker Order Processing

Meet Susan – Life Science Industry Customer Service Representative | Esker Order Processing

 

Source: http://blog.esker.com.au/how-the-life-science-industry-is-changing/

 

 

Automation Frees CSRs for Customer Care

There are multiple points throughout the supply chain where a company reaches a customer – for example, taking an order, sending out an invoice, confirming an order, receiving payment or settling a dispute – and each point represents an opportunity to create a positive, easy and impactful experience for the customer. In a constantly-changing, highly competitive market like semiconductors, which is undergoing consolidation and facing emerging trends like the Internet of Things (IoT) and digitization, such experiences are important to ensure the customer remains a customer and doesn’t go somewhere else.

Companies are focusing on customer service, and for good reason. Customers are the lifeline of any business. In a recent survey, 75% of companies said their top objective was improving the customer experience, and another study found that by 2020, customer experience will overtake pricing and products as a company’s key differentiator. In addition, there is a $3 return on every $1 invested in the customer experience, and a top cause of customer frustration is feeling undervalued.

Organizations have spent millions over the years on technology to improve their business operations, from Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and CRM, to cloud-based applications like Salesforce.com. However, for many, the business document processes – such as accounts payable, invoicing and sales order processing – have remained a heavily manual operation. That has caused more than its share of challenges. It’s slow, the risk of missed or backlogged orders increases, it’s more error-prone, and orders and product returns are more difficult to track. In such a fast-moving market, these issues can mean lost business.

None of that helps an organization’s relationship with their customers, but the impact goes further. Customer service representatives (CSRs) are the frontline people, the company’s face when dealing with customers and supply chain partners, but in a manual document processing environment, too much of their time is spent with data entry and similar tasks, and when an issue with a customer arises, they don’t always have the information they need to properly address it. This can make a customer feel undervalued and underappreciated.

Automating the business document processes can change all of those inefficiencies, enabling CSRs to do their primary jobs: taking care of the customer. There are numerous direct benefits to using software to automate the document-heavy workloads that are pervasive in business, including lowering the overall cost of order processing, improving order data accuracy, accelerating the process and reducing the number of people needed to get the myriad tasks done.

There also are a slew of indirect benefits, many of which will be felt by the customer. Key among those is enabling CSRs to spend more time on impactful activities like proactively interacting with customers, tracking orders, spotting problems, and cross-selling and upselling, and less time doing data entry and fielding calls about incorrect orders or other problems. Automation software also gives customers more ways to communicate with a CSR, including through a chat tool on an online customer portal that also helps reduce the number of requests coming into the customer service department.

CSRs are more professionally fulfilled and incentivized. The tools available in the in the automation software, such as a dashboard interface that enables them to track orders and address issues before they become problems and gives them the control they need to take care of customers. In addition, managers can more easily push resources to where they are needed most, and key performance indicators (KPIs) allow managers see where credit is due.

CSRs are a crucial yet often underappreciated part of a company’s overall operations. They are often in direct contact with customers and can make or break the experience for those customers. The more time they have to spend on mundane manual tasks like data entry, the less they have to be proactively working with customers, tracking orders, solving problems and upselling. Automating the business document processes can let these people do the job of taking care of customers, which can only benefit the company.

The Benefits of Document Processing Automation in the Food Industry

The exchange of documents is essential to how daily business activities are conducted, especially in manufacturing and distribution. In fact, how well an organisation optimises document processes directly impacts profitability. This is especially true in the food and beverage industry, where FDA regulations and product shelf life make efficiency and accuracy particularly important. It is also true then that the promised gains from automation are often amplified in this space.

The Pitfalls of Manual Processes

Each and every day, warehouse distributors and manufacturers handle faxes, emails and other paper-based supply chain management documents that cause problems such as:

  • Data entry errors associated with the manual rekeying of data, resulting in delayed/incorrect shipments
  • Inefficiency in getting fax/email data into a back-office system, resulting in production delays and overstocks
  • Concerns about the cost for increasing staff and infrastructure to handle high volumes and peak periods

Management Concerns

The struggles associated with manual processing affect a business at multiple levels —, particularly at the managerial level. When document entry cycle times are long, managers cannot grow the business without adding staff. Additionally, there is no easy way to prioritise and monitor document entry, meaning high-priority and time-sensitive processing can be delayed. Document processing errors are also a common problem that causes a domino effect of issues for managers. Errors can lead to delays in fulfillment and cash collection, additional shipping costs, waste (especially with perishables) and repetition. Furthermore, processing errors can cause returns, which a business must pay off in credit notes, restocking or write-offs. Finally, archiving poses a major concern for management. The cost of printing and the space to store documents, combined with the time it takes to file and retrieve records, can hold a company back. Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are often unable to find documents to answer customer questions, and information is not readily accessible for auditing purposes.

The Promise of Document Management Automation

The more efficient a company’s billing and cash collection methods are, the faster documents are handled, processed and tracked, which accelerates the flow of business cycles. There are then four main expected outcomes from replacing traditional, paper-based processes with document management automation:

  • Cost-effective integration of incoming documents into business processes so they get to the right places/people as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  • Removal of human intervention and manual paper handling from document processes, increasing efficiency and reducing errors from manual touch points.
  • Increase in the efficiency of back-office operations frees staff to focus on higher value, strategic activities.
  • Improvement of supplier and customer relationships by creating a superior, more efficient experience receiving payment or products.

Success Story: Sales Order Processing and Bel Group

If a manufacturer or distributor in any industry makes a mistake with an order, it incurs costs associated with bringing the product back to the warehouse, repackaging it and redistributing it. There are the shipping costs, the time wasted on duplicate processes and the incurred risk to reputation to think of. But when it comes to the food and beverage industry, order processing takes on an even greater importance because in many cases, product cannot simply be reshipped in case of error. Perishable product must be disposed of, which can lead to a total loss of revenue on inventory. That’s a cost no company wants to pay.

The Bel Group is a worldwide leader in branded cheeses with operations in 36 countries and more than 12,000 employees. Its Spanish operations were hamstrung by inefficient, manual processing of customer orders and invoices. Prior to implementation of an automated order processing system, two-thirds of the approximately 25,000 customer orders the division received annually came in via fax, email, and telephone. Processing those orders manually was slow, labor-intensive and much more susceptible to error.

Like many companies with traditional systems and long-standing customer relationships, Bel Spain worried that their customers would balk at submitting orders electronically. Since solution implementation, Bel has taken an active role in helping customers change the way they send documents, moving from telephone and paper to electronic format (fax or email). Within a year, two-thirds of Bel’s orders were being received electronically. Thirty percent of those were processed using optical character recognition (OCR) technology, drastically reducing the number of manual touch points—and opportunities for error—associated with their traditional system. Today, 100 percent of Bel Spain’s document exchange with customers using non-electronic formats is automated and seamlessly integrated with SAP. Orders are now more accurate, and the company has seen significant improvements in the quality of managing order-to-cash and procure-to-pay cycles.

Sales Order Processing Benefits:

  • Achieved significant financial savings by eliminating the costs involved with printing and mailing invoices and manual reception and processing of customer orders.
  • Decreased order and invoice processing time.
  • Eliminated processing errors associated with manual handling.
  • Streamlined relationships with vendors and customers by making communication with both more reliable, resulting in faster sales cycles and increased customer loyalty.
  • Eliminated physical archiving by using 115 fewer filing cabinets every year, resulting in an estimated savings of €4,500 per year based on the average price per square meter.

Bel Spain also automated the sending and archiving of electronic customer invoices. Invoices are now received quicker and easier, and never get lost. Duplicate copies can easily be printed if needed, there is greater invoice traceability and Bel Spain benefits from decreased days sales outstanding (DSO).

Accounts Receivable Benefits:

  • Invoices with electronic signatures are automatically generated from SAP.
  • Signed PDF invoices are automatically sent by email via Lotus Notes.
  • Electronic invoices are archived online, freeing-up physical space and decreasing associated costs.

Success Story: Accounts Payable and Farmland Foods

Increasing industry pressures have many food and beverage companies looking for ways to lower operational costs and gain leverage with suppliers. The expense and inefficiency of keying in, verifying and approving vendor invoices manually make accounts payable automation a popular way to modernise AP processing, reduce costs and improve vendor relations.

International pork processing company Farmland Foods processes about 30,000 invoices every month. That’s an awful lot of paper to push via outdated manual processes. AP operations were frustratingly slow, and the accuracy rate wasn’t where it should have been for a company of Farmland’s standing. Invoices were stored in paper files in an inconvenient storage room, and employees were wasting too many hours printing invoices and manually re-entering them into SAP.

In 2014, the company decided to implement an automated AP system that integrates with SAP. As a result, the Farmland experienced tangible cost-savings.

Benefits:

  • Improved visibility. Managers now have access to key metrics, such as number of invoices to process, how far out they are, payment terms for discounts, etc.
  • Easier access to invoices. Instead of tracking down invoices in a file room, Esker allows users to access them via document numbers to easily email/print a copy online.
  • Faster freight processing. Esker helped Farmland reduce its “out period” for freight invoices from a deadline-pushing 14 days to just two days.
  • Cost savings. Fewer manual processing tasks allowed Farmland to save on costs equal to three FTEs, and reallocate current staff to projects offering greater value.
  • Faster invoice entry time. Where the invoice entry goal for Farmland’s AP staff used to be 150-200 invoices per day, they are now achieving over 400 invoices per day.
  • Fewer outstanding accruals. Faster invoice entry times have enabled Farmland to reduce the number of outstanding AP accruals by $8 million.
  • Increased discounts. When comparing the last six months to the six months prior to automation, Farmland estimates it has gained an additional $29,815 in discounts.

 

EMBRACING DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

The global marketplace across industries is rapidly becoming more and more complex. Technology is enabling swift momentum in the economy and, like it or not, it’s here to stay. Contrary to the viewpoint of many legacy organisations, technology is intended to make people’s lives easier and more efficient. With so many apps and programs, many organisations find the hardest step is knowing where to start.

Put the customer first.

Companies have seen the most rapid and immediate financial gains by putting customer experience at the forefront of their digital transformation strategy. Design your strategy to give the customer what they want. This often includes:

  • A user-friendly, straightforward interface personalised for their needs
  • Self-service options for quick and easy access to information
  • 24/7 availability and mobile flexibility
  • Proactive engagement from vendors

Why does it matter?

Change can be hard — no one said kicking-off a customer experience initiative that centers on digital transformation would be easy. But here are cold-hard facts to give that extra push:

  • $84 billion is lost annually by American businesses due to mismanaged customer interactions
  • 67% of customer churn is preventable if the customer issue is resolved at the first engagement
  • By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator

How do you get there?

Successful digital transformations happen with transparent collaboration, thoughtful planning, and diverse stakeholder input. We’ve compiled our ideas on this topic in the white paper: Aligning People, Process & Technology: An Action Plan for Customer Service Excellence.

Be sure to share your thoughts below in the comments section!

  1. 2011 Global Customer Service Barometer: Market Comparison of Findings, (2011). Echo Research.
  2. ThinkJar annual survey and associated ThinkJar research, 2016
  3. Walker Information

Center of Gravity

Recently, I came across an excellent blog from one of our partners, Intelestream. The post was about  Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software and some things to consider when implementing a CRM solution. Something that really jumped out to me was what Intelestream referred to as the “Center of Gravity.” By this, they mean that in every business environment the workflow will revolve around two or three key pieces of software that have a huge impact on the business.

Where this can become a problem for a company is if the software being used is the wrong tool for the job. What can make it worse is that the longer employees have been using any software, the more resistant they are trying something new. This is true even if the new software solution is specifically designed for their business process and has obvious advantages. Changing the Center of Gravity within a department is not easy but it is an important consideration when looking to implement any new software application and ultimately improve how a department does business.

Here is an example. Many companies use Outlook for their email. This is a very effective tool for communicating, however, it is not always the right tool for the job. I have seen a number of companies that use a shared inbox to receive and manage orders that their customers send to them via email. Outlook is great but it was never designed to be a queue for processing incoming orders. There are limitations when you have the wrong tool as your department’s center of gravity. In this example, the critical information is on an attachment. It is not easy to search of a specific attachment or priorities orders. You may see hundreds of emails but how many are orders? How many customers asking for express shipping? Besides the limitations with any tool that is not designed for this specific business process, you also have limitations and the communication with other applications or interoperability. To learn more, check out the blog: 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Manage Your Business Process via Email.

If you are looking to improve operations within your company ask a department what is their Center of Gravity. Then ask yourself is that the right tool for the job? Consider what this department could accomplish if they had the proper tools for the job.

Are You Losing the Potential Energy From Your Customer Orders?

A strategy of continuous improvement in the supply chain is necessary in order to maintain competitiveness in the world of med-device and hi-tech manufacturing. These specialized industries have highly experienced and educated customer service and inside sales staff that, often times, spend too much time trying to manage customer orders. What if, instead of expending energy on managing these orders, you could collect the order data and let that energy work for your organization?

Most of the organizations I work with are receiving some combination of orders via EDI, fax, central orders email box and phone. And then there are the orders coming from e-commerce sites, customer portals, and EDI transactions that are rejected by their ERPs. Sales guy Bob struggles with control issues, so his customers send their orders directly to his email box, not the general order box. All of a sudden, the omni-channel customer ordering experience becomes less of a way to help your customers and more of a risk for orders to be misplaced, accidentally deleted, and slow to enter the supply chain.

Med-device and high-tech manufacturers have the added complexity of an increasing number of mergers and acquisitions. Say a site in Pennsylvania is running SAP, that one in Washington is running Oracle, and the site in Houston is running AS400. Not only are orders coming in through multiple channels, they are routed to different ERPs. With order information spread out across an organization, it is extremely difficult for operations, treasury, supply chain, and executive leadership to have access to accurate organizational reporting. Manual reporting is rarely accurate reporting, and the results of demand planning based on it can be disastrous.

Forward-thinking organizations are investing in a singular platform for all orders, regardless of the way their customers find it easiest to send orders and to which ERP those orders are heading. With advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and computing power, Esker is helping those organizations mine data from orders and provide visibility into orders as soon as they arrive. No more mishandled orders, inaccurate reporting, or surprise trends. Bonus kicker? The reporting power is in the hands of the users. No more submitting an IT ticket requesting someone else to magically dig information out of your ERP on their timeline.

With the omni-channel growing in complexity, it is important to have control and visibility into all customer orders to balance and accelerate the customer-centric supply chain cycle. Automating processes is the goal for many med-device and hi-tech manufacturers, but to what end? You can build a business case based on efficiency gains, but a complete order management platform touches so many other aspects of the supply chain. The ability to handle demand spikes and sudden rises in order volume, increased employee morale (leading to a better customer experience), a reduction in order-entry errors entering the supply chain, and a significant improvement in the cost to serve are just a handful of the realizations organizations experience when truly harnessing the power of their inbound orders.

How Listening to Bob Dylan Might Just Make Your Business More Agile

As you may have heard, Bob Dylan recently received a Nobel Prize in Literature for, as the Nobel Committee put it, “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

He is the first musician to ever receive the prestigious honor.

Predictably, the news ignited a firestorm of response. Dylan enthusiasts, who have long maintained that his lyrics have transcendent artistic value, were tickled by the recognition. Many literary purists, on the other hand, were borderline outraged that a songwriter had infringed on the hallowed territory of poets and novelists.

As a diehard Dylan-ite since my early 20s, I have my own thoughts on the matter … but that’s a discussion for another time.

What the announcement of the Nobel Prize really got me thinking about was the enduring nature of Dylan the artist; specifically, something he once said about being successful, and how, in my opinion, a lot of today’s businesses would be better off if they took the old troubadour’s advice.

Embracing a “State of Becoming”

Those who get Dylan never really give him up. I can personally attest to this. And one of the biggest reasons he has such a devoted fan base is his seemingly endless capacity to recreate himself. From protest singer and electric bard to Nashville crooner and ethereal love lyricist — every version of Dylan is the same yet, somehow, entirely original.

And so it goes with Bob … always one step ahead, demanding that his audiences catch up with him and not the other way around. It’s no wonder he’s still going strong — gravelly voice and all — after all these years.

This brings me back to the quote I mentioned previously. In the 2005 Martin Scorsese-directed documentary No Direction Home, Dylan laid out the philosophy behind his elusive nature (emphasis mine):

“An artist has to be careful never to really arrive at a place where he thinks he’s at somewhere. You always have to realize that you’re constantly in a state of becoming, and as long as you’re in that realm, you’ll sort of be alright.”

It could be argued he said essentially the same thing 40 years earlier, albeit more succinctly and inauspiciously, in his song “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” when he sang, “He not busy being born is busy dying.”

Ok, so maybe success in the business world isn’t quite equitable to success as an artist. Still, it raises an important question: How many of today’s businesses, because of their past or present successes, feel as though they arrived somewhere — to a kind of real or imagined destination that they merely work to sustain rather push beyond?

It’s the Way We’ve Always Done Things

In Esker’s realm of document process automation, over and over again we encounter businesses that are reluctant to adopt new technology because they see their current processes — despite their obvious flaws — as being somehow tied to their identity. It’s the way we’ve always done things.

That’s not to say resistance to change is necessarily a bad thing. Changing solely for the sake of change is not in anyone’s best interest, and there are certainly legitimate variables that prevent change from occurring (e.g., bad timing, limited budget, etc.).

But where Dylan’s advice can really work its magic is within components of document processes that normally are considered inconsequential or too essential to a company’s identity to change in any way.

For example, a lot of companies take great pride in the personal touch of their customer service. A recent TermSync study found that over 80 percent of distributors believed their quality of customer service differentiated them from the competition; yet, only 30% of them offer their customers a self-service online portal (something 3 in 4 customers actually prefer).

Just think of all the value and opportunities within customer service that companies have lost due to not embracing a “state of becoming.”

Another example of this is in order processing, where many companies have EDI systems as part of their infrastructure. The problem is, exceptions — which can affect up to 35% of incoming EDI orders — can cause a lot of serious workflow issues. Still, a lot of business professionals feel as though EDI is the end-all-be-all and wind up missing out on the benefits that automation can bring, such as reducing EDI processing time by an average of four days versus when manual intervention exists in an EDI environment.

Fostering an efficient, agile business has never been more important than it is today. Yes, change can be a scary thing, but it’s always better to be proactive than reactive. As Dylan once sang, “May you have a strong foundation when the winds of changes shift.” Indeed, Bob.

Document process automation has been that foundation for thousands of companies — not only as a solution to address short-term problems, but as a driving force behind long-term business improvement strategies.

How the Life Science Industry is Changing

 

I was recently reading up on President Trumps proposed taxpayer budget, wondering “What will it mean for patients, hospitals and numerous other life science customers that Esker serves?” Regardless of one’s political leaning, most supply chain leaders tend to agree that healthcare costs continue to rise.

After a recent conversation with analyst firm Gartner, I took away that hospitals are facing increased demand, higher costs and there is a definite expectation that Medicare funding will be reduced. There is a new culture where hospitals must consistently improve patient outcomes, their education of doctors, and lower overall hospital costs.

Life science providers can anticipate more demand for their products as medical professionals become more comfortable with medical devices and joint replacements. A good friend of mine who is a retired airline captain, tennis player and ski instructor jokes about a hip replacement procedure being required at one point in the future as it means he will be able to maintain a lifestyle close to what he has enjoyed so far. Who doesn’t want to play tennis or coach their grandkids to play ball? I recall an HBR publication that highlighted many babies born today have an excellent chance of becoming centenarians assuming a healthy lifestyle and access to best in class care and life science applications later on.

The life science providers are combining processes and technology that allow them to lower production costs, improve overall quality and get products to the hospital faster. These manufacturers are likely to be doing more business with the hospitals via direct channels in the future. To meet the increased demand and price pressures they will have to be able to handle a significantly greater scale of customers placing orders directly.

Supply chain leaders are aware that customer experience will dominate purchase decisions within the next three years. For that reason, we find ourselves talking with supply chain leaders as they look to embrace machine learning that will help cut out errors, boost staff productivity and enhance the overall supply chain experience as the supply chain tends to have more touchpoints with customers than the sales team.

There is an incorrect perception that these efficiency goals can only be achieved if every order flows through without any touches. Life science leaders including Alere and Biomerieux focused on reducing the number of touches needed by combining people, process and technology to great effect. Bayer lowered order management time from 7 mins to 58 seconds. Alere cut nearly four minutes and lowered the number of touches from 17 to 2.4.

Regardless of who is in charge in Washington D.C,  the population will rely more on life science. Those providers are going to be busier and, for most, technology is going to allow them to keep up.