Category Archives: Customer Issue Management

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.

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.

 

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.