Ideas about what the customer experience involves—and whose responsibility it is to make sure it’s exemplary—haven’t evolved at the same rapid pace as business. Indeed, plenty of companies still equate customer experience only with customer service, believing that it’s sufficient to have savvy marketing and friendly customer service agents to professionally field calls and emails from important clients.
However, the notion that the customer experience is a niche that can be adequately maintained and cultivated by a relatively small group of staffers is increasingly antiquated. It’s a belief that, if maintained, threatens the competitiveness of companies in just about every industry.
Far too many companies have a too narrow definition of customer experience. Instead of limiting the concept to the actual interactions customers and prospects have with either your company or the product or service you provide, forward-thinking companies are embracing an expansive view of what it requires to deliver an exceptional customer experience. The right approach is to analyze every aspect involved with delivering a product to a customer—whether it involves direct communication with that customer or not—to look for ways to improve that experience.
To quote Lisa Callinan, research director at Gartner, “the supply chain is uniquely placed to identify customers’ needs and drive better customer experiences.” This is why sophisticated companies like Amazon, Apple, and Nokia emphasize logistics and the supply chain as a key aspect of the customer experience. It makes a lot of sense. If a customer orders a product and its delivery is delayed for any reason—be it a mistake in recording what was ordered or a lack of visibility in the overall supply chain—that customer’s experience inevitably suffers. And given the increasing importance of the customer experience, so too does the company’s competitive position.
Digital optimization offers a way to simultaneously improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your supply chain while also bolstering the customer experience you can provide. Gartner describes digital optimization as the “process of using digital technology to improve existing operating processes and business models.”
An example of how digital optimization manifests itself in the supply chain is through order management automation. There are many ways automation can be implemented, but, ultimately, it’s about the use of technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) to extract order data automatically and enter it into the ERP workflow. This allows the product to be tracked right up until delivery. Order management automation also allows all of the data collected during this process to be archived and retrieved later—either as a way to respond to a customer request or to be analyzed to improve the supply chain.
It’s hard to over emphasize just how transformative—and beneficial to the customer experience—the embrace of order management automation can be. Processing speed goes a long way toward determining whether a customer’s experience is positive or negative; slow or mistake-riddled order processing results in slower shipping times and unhappy customers. But order management automation basically eliminates the slowdowns and bottlenecks that often occur when order processing is done manually. In fact, about half of all organizations cite human error as the biggest source of data inaccuracies. By contrast, automation has a 99 percent order accuracy rate.
There are other benefits of using order management automation that can proactively prevent problems before they negatively impact customers. For example, harnessing the machine learning that is embedded in order management automation lets companies identify and address pricing and transportation errors long before a customer even notices them.
These improvements are far from abstract. Companies that implement automated order management and are able to decrease late fees. They devote 80% less time on order entry. And they can maintain existing headcount, even as order volumes grow.
Increased automation is also welcomed by the personnel who previously had to spend their time manually recording and entering order information. Instead of devoting their time to highly manual and time-consuming tasks, employees can instead devote their efforts to more valuable work. In fact, order management automation saves customer service managers 65 percent of time spent on order entry. That’s time that can instead be spent anticipating the needs of their customers.
The customer experience is more important than ever. Companies, and especially high-tech companies, should be doing any and everything they can to protect that experience, so why not start with the supply chain? Implementing order management automation can improve the customer experience and make work more enjoyable for your customer service team. What’s not to like?