Tag Archives: document process automation

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.

Amerock Hardware Cuts Processing Time with Esker’s Cloud-Based Order Processing Solution

Sydney, Australia — September 13, 2017 — Esker, a worldwide leader in document process automation solutions and pioneer in cloud computing, today announced it is working with Amerock® Hardware, a supplier of decorative and functional hardware solutions, to automate. 

Of the roughly 15,000 customer orders Amerock receives each month, about 6,000 were previously non-automated and required manual intervention. With staff spending 70-75 percent of their day on data entry, the company sought to drive revenue and greater efficiency through an automation solution. Esker’s Order Processing solution was chosen for its ability to help Amerock segment its customer base, improve processing speed, engage in proactive customer service and reduce errors.

Today, 66 percent of Amerock’s non-automated orders are processed through Esker. This has allowed the company to shift its customer service department from a transactional role to a relational one. Processing via Esker has also brought the company greater peace of mind with the ability to track documents at every step of the workflow.

“We’ve been thrilled with the results that Esker has delivered,” said Kathy Wigginton, director of customer service at Amerock. “Instead of focusing on data entry, our staff is able to work on tasks like proactive outbound calling to ensure a positive customer experience and increase revenue.”

Benefits achieved through automation

Since Esker’s seamless integration with Amerock’s SAP® system, the company has experienced significant benefits, including:

  • Reduction in processing time; from nine minutes to less than two and a half minutes
  • Headcount stability even after losing three staff members due to natural attrition
  • Increased staff productivity; more time to spend on value-added activities
  • Improved customer experience; staff is more available to answer customer calls and inquiries
  • Heightened visibility; customisable dashboards display how many orders are coming in, their formats, etc.

In regards to Amerock’s future plans with Esker, Kathy Wigginton added: “We are even considering expanding our use of the Order Processing solution, as well as branching out to other departments like purchasing and accounts receivable.”

About Amerock

Since 1929, Amerock Hardware has set out to offer decorative hardware solutions that inspire, coordinate and help express personal style throughout the home. Today, Amerock is a part of The Piedmont Hardware Group and is headquartered in Mooresville, North Carolina. Their brand focus is to continue to offer outstanding quality, exceptional customer service and innovative design solutions. Amerock offers a complete line of decorative and functional cabinet hardware, bath hardware, hook and rail, and wall plates.

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 doublewhat 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.

4 Reasons Businesses Must Transform Accounts Payable with Digital Technologies

No matter what future you see ahead for your accounts payable (AP) organisation, one thing is sure: If your organisation is going to succeed in the emerging digital trade and commerce environment, it will need to process transactions more efficiently than ever, have faster access to AP information, and be able to act upon information and identify opportunities more quickly. This will require AP organisations to transform their processes with digital technologies. Accounts payable departments that delay

Accounts payable departments that delay their digital transformation initiatives risk falling behind their peers and putting
their business at a competitive disadvantage in the global business
landscape. This white paper details the growth of digital technologies, the dangers of relying on manual and semi-automated AP payable processes, the benefits of using digital technologies in AP, and how effective change management ensures the success of digital transformation efforts.

Digital Transformation

To compete in the emerging global economy, businesses must transform their corporate strategies to embrace digital. Indeed, digital transformation is a high priority in the boardroom. Eighty-five percent of businesses have an established digital transformation function as a focus for innovation, per Ernst & Young. Eighty-seven percent of businesses surveyed by Ernst & Young are explicitly considering digital transformation in their capital
allocation planning for the next two to three years.
Best-in-class organisations are already digitising their business processes.

The number one digital transformation strategy is to promote collaboration across the organization, as well as between multiple technologies, in support of business processes, Aberdeen Group reports. Organisations also are striving for greater flexibility in their business processes, more intelligent workflows, simplified and more efficient business processes, faster cycle times, and fewer paper-based business processes.

Some of the technologies organisations are using as part of their
transformation initiatives include:

• Automation
• Mobile and cloud computing
• Artificial intelligence
• Robotic process automation
• The Internet of Things

This transformation is evolving financial systems and processes.

Forty-eight percent of senior finance executives believe that digital
technologies will fundamentally change everything that finance does, a recent study from Accenture Strategy reported. CFOs are increasingly relying on digital technologies for security threat intelligence, blockchain, and artificial
intelligence. Buoyed by greater-than-expected returns from these digital investments, CFOs also are incorporating digital into their organisations at large to drive transformational change, Accenture Strategy reports.

Digital transformation is also on the AP department’s agenda. Most
payables departments are investing in process standardisation and
automation, per a recent IOFM study.

The Dangers of Manual Processing

Accounts payable earned a dubious trifecta in IOFM’s recent survey ofcontrollers: Payables topped the lists as the most time-consuming, laborious, and paper-intensive finance and administration function, ahead of activities such as accounts receivable (AR), payroll, tax, and audit and reporting.

In fact, AP received nearly twice as many votes from controllers as the most time- and labor-intensive finance and administration function than the next highest-ranked function.
Efforts to improve AP processes have historically been undermined by the double-whammy of high paper volumes and a lack of automation to facilitate timely payments and working capital optimisation. Most departments have been forced to rely on sub-optimal manual processes, reinforcing the longheld perception that AP is a tactical, back-office function.

Manually processing paper invoices results in:

• Costly and error-prone keying of invoice information
• Lost or misplaced invoices
• Long approval and exception resolution cycles (which result in late
fees and missed discounts)
• Compliance and security risks
• High paper storage and retrieval costs
• Delays uploading data on approved invoices to downstream systems
• Time-consuming supplier inquiries regarding invoice and
payment status
• Difficulty implementing operational best practices

The results of IOFM’s 2016 AP Key Performance Indicators Study illustrate the inefficiencies of manual invoice processing. Of the 69 full-time equivalents (FTEs) employed in AP departments (on average across all locations), all but one FTE performs invoice data-entry.

Manual processes also increase the chance of payment errors. Thirty nine percent of businesses report that duplicate payments and overpayments represent more than 1 percent of their payments. Worse, duplicate payments and over-payments account for 2 percent or more of all payments at 14 percent of the businesses surveyed for IOFM’s 2016 AP Key Performance Indicators Study. A rule of thumb is that a duplicate
payment rate over 0.5 percent indicates weak controls, or that the master vendor file needs a good weeding out, IOFM noted in its AP Department Benchmark and Analysis study.

Additionally, paper processes limit visibility into invoice information — a
top AP concern of 7 percent of businesses surveyed by IOFM. In a paper based environment, critical information is not captured, data is poorly organised, information is not timely, systems are not well-integrated, and decision-makers cannot access key variables. Moreover, it is hard for staff to track the status of invoices and other documents in a paper-based environment and to ensure that the appropriate individuals have approved documents in a timely manner. Paper invoices can sit for days on an individual’s desk, get stuck in inter-office mail awaiting approval, or become lost or misfiled.

Manual processes take significantly longer than their digital counterparts. Thirty-seven percent of organizations surveyed by Aberdeen Group point to the time it takes to complete financial processes, along with the demands they place on internal resources, as a leading pressure they face.

Look What You Make Organizations Do, Automation

On Friday, Taylor Swift dropped a music video for her newest song “Look What You Made Me Do.” Whether or not you like her or the song, you can’t deny its current success — it’s broken records for the most viewed YouTube video in the first 24 hours, racking up more than 40 million views.

The song seems to hit back at less-than-friendly media coverage she’s experienced recently, talking about how she was forced to get smarter and “harder”. She’s had to adapt, just like companies in competitive landscapes where they must evolve to survive.

One way businesses evolve is by implementing robotic process automation solution. When utilizing a best-in-class solution, it requires them to evaluate and improve their processes. It makes them better.

Look what you did, automation

“Esker has made everything much more efficient. We don’t have any of the problems we were having before.” – Piedmont Behavioral Healthcare

“Now, all we have to do is snap our fingers to find an archived invoice. Esker’s mobile invoice application has made approvals so much easier for our managers. No one at CARSO will ever go back to how it used to be!” – CARSO Group

“You can always tell you’ve made a good decision when it becomes integral to your daily operation.” – NationsBank

What automation helps companies do

Organizations leveraging an automation solution find themselves becoming:

  • Faster
    From quicker processing with electronic documentation to speedy customer follow-up, everything moves faster when you have the right solution in place.
  • Accurate
    Machine learning and other intelligent technologies help ensure that data is accurately extracted from documents every time.
  • Customer focused
    When staff is bogged down by manual tasks, the customer experience suffers. An automation solution frees them up to focus on more important things, like your customers.
  • Less wasteful
    Rather than printing documents and relying on paper and related materials (like toner), an electronic solution cuts the crap — minimizing waste as well as soft and hard costs.
  • Compliant
    With the transfer of business documents now highly regulated, automation allows companies to meet compliance requirements whether they’re doing business in the U.S. or overseas.
  • Integrated
    Rather than using multiple systems that can’t communicate, the right solution will integrate with existing infrastructure and unify process workflow rather than fragmenting it.

Whether it’s evaluating their process, making a plan for improvement, or creating a more effective process, automation makes organizations do a lot of [good] things. What has it helped your company do?

Are You Sabotaging Your Company’s Customer Service?

 

 

If there’s one business aspect that most organizations understand the importance of but don’t spend enough time improving, it’s customer service.

Since my first home-buying experience last year, I have experienced more poor customer service than I could have ever predicted. From smaller instances of companies not responding to requests for information to extremely frustrating occurrences of workers simply not showing when scheduled. Every time left me wondering “do they really not need the business?”

Many companies seem to believe that a single bad customer experience only impacts business with that company or person. Nothing could be further from the truth. The impact of poor customer service is like an iceberg in that it is far greater than what you see at first. Not only do unhappy customers end up going elsewhere with their business, but most report their mishaps to other potential customers — causing companies greater loss of potential revenue.

Biggest Customer Service Blunders

Taking a pro-active approach to customer service is the best way to ensure customer happiness and business prosperity. If your customer service department displays any of the following behaviors, it’s time to rethink the way you do business and the people you hire to communicate with customers.

  • Failure to follow up
    When a customer is waiting to hear back from you, don’t make them wait or contact you again to get the information they are looking for. Follow up early and often to remain in good standing with customers. They’ll appreciate the effort you are making to communicate with them.
  • Lack of flexibility
    You expect your customers to be understanding and flexible when something adverse happens on your side of business dealings, so you should be the same in your dealings with them. That’s not to say you should cater to outlandish needs, but being flexible shows that you value their business — an important component to great customer service.
  • Unfriendly communications
    One of the worst things a company can do when dealing with customers is to not be friendly. In a time where customer service experiences (both good and bad) quickly go viral, companies should know that the best thing they can do to improve customer service is to treat customers with kindness. There are a lot of other businesses they can choose to go to, so don’t think for a second that they won’t go elsewhere after even one poor experience.
  • “Don’t care” demeanor
    Going hand-in-hand with non-friendly communications is the “don’t care” demeanor. It’s human nature to want to feel accepted and valued — make sure your customers feel that way when working with them. Businesses like Zappos have this concept down-pat and, for that reason, receive huge amounts of one of the most trusted types of marketing: word of mouth. After all, in the words of Peter Shankman, “customer service isn’t about telling people how awesome you are, it’s about creating stories that do the talking for you.”

Don’t let poor customer service sink your company. Begin evaluating your customer service efforts and building a plan for improvement. And remember: “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning” (Bill Gates).

Using a Mobile App to Maximize Accessibility & Boost Efficiency in Accounts Payable

If there’s one thing that all accounts payable (AP) departments stand to benefit from, its greater accessibility to invoices and purchase requisitions. We can all agree that work isn’t confined to the office, so why should your AP processes be?

As the integration of business processes and technology grows and strengthens, so do customer expectations when it comes to speed and accuracy. One way AP departments can meet and exceed those expectations is by way of a mobile application. With one, managers are provided on-the-go, always-on access to: invoices, purchase requisitions, invoice approval or hold, document lists, key data, line items, original documents, and the sending of documents back to the AP department or previous approver.

The best part of using a mobile app for purchase requisition and invoice approval? The benefits of one span the entire P2P cycle.

Advantages of a Mobile Requisition & Invoice Approval App

  • 24/7/365 availability
    A mobile app allows managers to access invoices and purchase requisitions at any time and any place. Whether it’s a holiday or during travel, invoice and purchase requisition approval is always just a click away.
  • Work while on the go
    Managers have on-the-go accessibility to invoices and purchase requisitions with a mobile app, enabling continuity and speed in AP processes. During travel, there’s no need to wait for managers to be back in the office for approval — they can approve on their time, from wherever they are.
  • Easy approval
    Approving invoices and purchase requisitions is as simple as hitting a button thanks to mobile applications like Esker Anywhere™, available for both Apple® and Android™ devices.
  • Quickly resolve exceptions
    Rapidly resolve any exceptions and move forward with approvals from a single app. Doing so fosters positive relationships with suppliers and speeds up the invoicing process.
  • Increase efficiency
    With fewer bottlenecks along the way and less effort needed for approval, efficiency in the P2P process is improved.

Learn more about how a mobile requisition and invoice approval app can help your business by watching the video below!

Picking the Winning Bracket (and Automation Solution)!

basketball floor

It’s bracket time! Millions of people fill out brackets every year with the hopes of getting it right and winning big. Whether it’s for your local office or a national pool, the chance to win big money is too enticing to pass up. As I have been filling out brackets since the age of 6 years old,  I thought I would share the three factors that help me decide on who has the best chance of winning it all — and how to do the same when it comes to picking a winning automation solution for your business.

To start, here’s a little history. The first NCAA tournament was in 1939 and the Oregon Ducks ended up winning the championship. In those days, only eight teams made the big dance. Today, that number has ballooned to over 72 teams in 2017. That’s a lot of unknown factors to account for, leaving the chance of you perfectly predicting the bracket as 1 in 9.2 quintillions. Yup, that’s a real number.

So what factors do I follow to increase my chance of winning (and that companies can follow in their hunt for an automation solution)?

  1. The Point Guard: The most important position come tournament time. Why? Because point guards are the extension of your coach on the floor. They communicate what offense to run, control game tempo and are usually responsible for defended the other team’s point guard.Think of your customer service representatives (CSRs) as your organizational point people. Not only are they responsible for entering orders, CSRs answer customer questions, handle disputes and make sure customers are taken care of. They are an extension of your company’s values, philosophies, and strategies. According to Forrester Research, great work by CSRs (aka point guard play) can translate to over $80 million in additional revenue.
  1. The Coach: One of the most underrated aspects of picking a potential candidate for winning March Madness. Look for a coach with a history of creating a culture of winning. That kind of coach excels at recruiting talent and utilizing that talent to maximize the potential of not only each individual player but of the team as a whole.Organizations that are constantly looking at ways to improve business processes are creating a culture of winning — always improving and never content with last year’s successes. In order to achieve success, they must be willing to invest in their talent by giving them the coaching and tools to meet customer needs in a timely matter.
  1. Defense, Defense and More Defense. In today’s data-driven world, you can look at statistical splits (+/-) to try and predict how far they will go. Field goal percentages at the rim and the three-point line can all be used to forecast a team’s performance come tourney time. Taking a peek at advanced statistics can also reveal underlying issues that wouldn’t otherwise be noticeable.Visibility into how efficiently your company is processing orders and invoices allows organizations to take advantage of things like early payment discounts, and help the supply chain with demand planning and inventory thanks to the ability to monitor orders before they even hit the ERP system!

Having a winning bracket usually isn’t based on luck … I mean, there are some folks who guess correctly based on uniform color, mascot, or even who sponsors their shoes. Luck isn’t sustainable,  but your organization’s success is — especially once you’ve carefully evaluated your people, process, and technology. Esker can help your organization optimize its business functions with automation, just give us a shout here.

When People, Process & Technology Align

Businessman holding in hand a global connection,communications concept

 

Customer service is the heart of any organization; happy customers mean brand loyalty, a healthy bottom line and a wide horizon for growth. Outstanding customer service requires successful alignment of three key components: people, process and technology (PPT).  The next three paragraphs describe each of these components, with some of the common challenges associated with each, and some suggestions about developing a comprehensive customer service program without breaking the budget.

People. Customer service is the ultimate people business. You need smart, articulate, flexible, creative people on your team, with a broad range of conflict resolution and problem-solving skills.  Unfortunately, many aspects of customer service are repetitive, time-consuming and boring. Without ways to utilize their most important talents, skilled customer service representatives (CSRs) often burn out and move on. Minimizing the amount of time spent doing routine tasks and maximizing the time spent helping customers will help you retain your best CSRs and attract the kind of new hires you need. In addition, you can learn a lot from your best CSRs about how to improve their job satisfaction.  Treating them as the experts in their field–which they are–can open new insights into streamlining their workflows and making the best use of their talents.

Process.  If it’s hard to keep your top CSRs because of the high number of routine, repetitive tasks, it’s time to look at your customer service process.  How do your CSRs document their calls? How do they identify problems, take orders, troubleshoot product malfunctions and resolve disputes? Are these procedures fast, efficient and easy to remember? Could they be automated to save time and reduce errors? Are CSRs involved in designing and implementing new procedures? If CSRs are the actors in your customer service theater, the process is the play they’re performing. It needs to highlight their talents, shore up their weaknesses and bring out the best they have to offer.  Pairing top-notch CSRs with effective, service-focused processes will make your customers applaud!

Technology.  Technology, from the pencil to the tablet computer, is the bedrock of your customer service toolkit.  In the theater analogy, technology is the stage, supporting both the actors and the script. You want it to be simple, intuitive and reliable. Your CSRs want it to be efficient and accurate so they can spend their time helping customers instead of struggling with technical glitches.  Your customers want it to be tailored to their needs so that their calls go quickly and smoothly. As technology advances, new tools are available to support every aspect of customer service, from language translation to order entry to quality reporting. With the right array of tools, your CSRs will feel empowered to do what they do best–make your customers happy,

Customer service teams are often underfunded, which makes it difficult to implement large-scale improvements. By breaking down your operation into the three components of PPT, however, you can identify changes that are moderate in cost but have a big impact on your team’s performance.  A third-party vendor may be able to help you prioritize your needs and help you visualize the solutions you need.  Manual processes that your CSRs find tedious or vulnerable to error may be streamlined into automated, paperless versions that in turn yield detailed reports. Decreased time spent in documentation will free up your CSRs to focus on your customers–and significantly reduce your call wait times.

If you are looking for ways to improve your customer service performance, download this detailed white paper to see how a comprehensive PPT approach may fit your needs.