In Nimbus Ninety’s Digital Trends Report, improving customer experience was the top driver of digital initiatives in the next 6 months. However, businesses face a multitude of complications. The challenge of minimising the costs and man-hours spent on tedious data-input processes is exasperated by the need to maximise ROI on digitising processes. Nonetheless, in 2021, digitising and automating processes topped the list of initiatives considered most effective to enhance the customer experience. So how can sales order automation revolutionise process efficiency, and in turn, supercharge customer experience?
Conexiom sat down with CX, operations and digital transformation leaders to discuss how sales order automation can help organisations develop a competitive advantage by providing exceptional customer service.
HOW DO YOU EXCEL IN THE EFFICIENCY ERA?
Dominic Aelberry, EMEA Vice President of Conexiom, kicked off the discussion by analysing how the pandemic accelerated the necessity for the digitisation of processes for the sake of customer experience. He acknowledged that “in just a few months, the COVID-19 crisis has brought about years of change”. Companies have accelerated the digitisation of their customer and supply chain interactions and of their internal operations by three to four years. In addition, the share of digital or digitally enabled products in their portfolios has accelerated by seven years. When Conexiom asked executives across industry about the impact of the crisis on a range of measures, they said that funding for digital initiatives, such as intelligent document processing, has increased more than anything else.
However, there has been surprisingly little digital process automation, despite accelerations in digitisation during the pandemic. This is despite the fact that repetitive and mundane tasks are taking up on average 48% of customer service representatives’ (CSR) time each day. Speaking to our current customers, we note that that can increase to as high as 80% of a CSR’s day. The opportunity cost of this is around 1,000 working hours per representative per year which is the equivalent of 10,000 prospect calls (if those hours were repurposed for value-add tasks). The result is not only the financial loss of up to £7.2 trillion spent per year on manual input data processes, but these inefficient processes also result in unhappy customers. When survey respondents were asked to rank the more important factors to differentiate themselves from competitors, customer service was number one. Therefore, tackling inefficient processes is a key challenge for organisations.
So what can be done? Dominic states the crux of the solution is the data: “control the data, control the systems.” Getting the data right is critical for workflow automation, reporting and artificial intelligence. He outlines the best practices of data automation systems to successfully do this:
- Do not impact your end customer: Organisations should make sure they meet their clients where they are and meet customer motivations, not organisations own.
- Do impact your customer experience: Prioritise speed and ease by choosing partners wisely that focus on business outcomes.
- Do focus on business outcomes: Go for a quick win that delivers, but don’t be fooled by false promises. To excel in the efficiency era, true automation builds resilience through capturing tribal knowledge.
THE JOURNEY TO EXCEPTIONAL CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
Steven Taylor, Information Systems Project Manager at Brammer Buck & Hickman, showed us how digitising the data process more efficiently carves out the journey to exceptional customer experience. Brammer’s digital strategy prioritised implementing solutions that add value to customers while ensuring the company did not lose the “human touch”. In other words, prioritising customer experience while simultaneously managing the sheer volume of sales orders for the business. Digitising data processes are not always suitable for organisations. Many solutions are costly to implement, complex to use (requiring specialist technical capability), time and resource-intensive. And often, they just do not adequately fit an organisation’s needs. So how could Brammer make its data input processes more efficient with ease and speed?
The crux of the problem for Brammer was that the company was receiving thousands of purchase orders that are manually keyed into the ERP by customer service teams. This method was inefficient for many reasons. Orders were open to human error and processed with a heavy time lag. This system not only negatively impacted customer service capabilities but was focused more on data entry than the customer so added little value to the customer journey. Therefore, a digitised data input process system was necessary that allowed for easy, fast, cost-effective and flexible order processing.
Brammer implemented automation to transform their sales order processes, integrating them into their existing ERP without the need for manual intervention. Consequently, the company reduced order errors and saved time processing the orders. But more importantly, Brammer was able to redirect their CSRs towards value-driven initiatives to improve customer and service experience.
BARRIERS AND OPPORTUNITIES ON THE PATH TO EXCEPTIONAL CUSTOMER SERVICE.
The group then split into cross-industry discussion rooms. Key themes that emerged were:
- The biggest barrier to providing exceptional customer experience is internal and external communication issues. Remote working and work interruptions caused by the pandemic have made internal communication difficult. Customer experience provision often relies on co-creation and collaboration which was significantly hampered last year. Furthermore, external direct-to-consumer communication has faced challenges. Companies now need to access customers differently through marketing channels. This extends to improvements in customer experience mechanisms. It raises the question of, once you have transformed your customer experience, how do you let customers know?
- Another key challenge was an interruption to new system processes. Accelerating digitisation transformation has been interrupted by the pandemic with important pipelines facing setbacks. However, it has simultaneously highlighted the importance of these transformations so they are now a top priority for companies. An example given was the priority of beginning to experiment with AR and RPA systems, such as intelligent robotics and avatars. The pandemic has also helped to break down the barrier between digital and human interactions. Consumers are now becoming more receptive to these digital mechanisms as they become the new vehicles of the customer experience journey.
- The focus on the end-to-end customer journey is now more important than ever. Organisations are now prioritising the need to “get to value quickly”, when it comes to customer experience. This requires re-evaluating and segmenting customers. One participant stated that organisations need to “start from the ground up” when it comes to understanding customer needs in order to be ahead of the curve. Complete digital transformation includes “re-imagining the digital front door” with organisations emphasising the importance for digital processes to integrate with front-end development.
- Due to the pandemic, there has been a demand for the modernisation and transformation of customer experience. Digital changes are being welcomed by customers who want their experience to be made as easy and as simple as possible. The demand for changes in digitisation and automation mechanisms to have a direct impact on customer experience has now made this advancement a priority.
- Although digital transformation is a priority for organisations, resource efficiency is at the forefront of customer experience leaders’ minds. The pandemic has been tough on company budgets, so although automation and digitisation is a priority, adequate ROI is also important to organisations when human and financial resources are under strain. A recurring question was “what can we do to drive efficiencies with the current resources that we have?”
THE INEVITABILITY OF AUTOMATION
At the second How to Excel in the Efficiency Era event, the discussion focused on end-to-end efficiency to ensure improved customer and employee experience in all aspects of everyday practice. This includes sales and data input methods, human resource efficiency, internal and external process efficiency, and user-facing automated processes. When selecting an automated solution, the impact of internal efficiency on external viewers needs to be considered with a view of improving the entire supply chain from end-to-end. It was emphasised that internal processes are improved by empowering employees through automation rather than replacing them with it, therefore, improving both the employee and customer experience is the simultaneous purpose of a business to automate their end-to-end processes.
Similar to previous discussion groups, members agreed that automation is inevitable and primarily benefits the customer experience if done correctly. Although “chatbots” often get a bad rep, there is an opportunity to create an improved customer experience with user-facing automation processes. Using the pandemic as an excuse for delays in service delivery or unhelpful chatbots is no longer sufficient. It is important that employees and agents are given the authority, power, and training to improve these user-facing processes and unpick legacy working practices to improve poor customer experience. Although automating both internal and external processes was considered “inevitable”, the choice of what to automate first was considered dependent on the individual needs and circumstances of the business. Considering the speed of implementation, how customisable the software was for different customer experience needs e.g. different customer languages, and a cost-benefit analysis of the software to the business, employees and customers were all considered to be key determining factors.
This event was in partnership with Conexiom, a sales order automation vendor.