In the old days, as in pre-smartphones, customer retention was driven by brand loyalty, a smiling face behind a counter or in a branch, or a friendly voice on a phone. Waiting a few days or even weeks for feedback was expected and acceptable.
In today’s app-driven economy, customers demand instant gratification. The words ‘brand loyalty’ has been removed from everyday vocabulary. Why would you put up with average service when you can shop around online, anywhere, anytime for a different service provider.
I am sure you can all relate to the last minute online search for a new insurance provider, medical provider, real estate agent, or even airline. I recently changed my vehicle insurance provider after being with them for 3 years, not because of bad service but simply because they had not taken the time to analyze my needs and re-value my vehicles. They sent me an over-inflated bill, based on aging data and expected me to pay it. A quick online search solved the problem and I switched.
If the organization in question had preemptively used their data and their processes to their advantage they could have retained me as a customer.
With the above story in mind I would like to challenge you to think about what happens in your organization when your customers or employees perform the following actions:
- Click the ‘pay’ button on your app
- Fill out a form on your website
- Call your customer call center with a billing query
- Report a fault and request a technician. (I have another sad story about my oven repair)
- Submit a claim
- Send an email
- Send a fax. (Yes, fax machines still exist)
- Request a document or contract to be reviewed.
Typical answers include:
- An email is sent to a team for action.
- A PDF document is generated and then an email is added to a queue
- The call center agent makes a note and sends an email to the finance department
- We cannot tell you what time when the technician will be there, just wait all-day
- The document is sent to a mailing group for review. Who knows when we will get a response
Can you relate to the above answers? The reality is that process happens in every organization, every day whether we manage it or not. If there are no systems then the process is driven by Excel, paper, email, and humans. Bad processes lead to bad customer service.
“Almost every part of a successful business transaction relies on having the right information available to the right person at the right time, whether that person is an employee or a customer.”
Information flow is often hindered by paper, siloed information, and lack of visibility.
Low-code business process applications offer the best combination of electronic forms, workflow, data, and reporting that are customized to meet the unique business needs of each department and process delivered using the best of breed low code platforms.
Business process applications provide the business with the ability to design and implement preemptive business strategies and processes to guarantee customer retention.
Anatomy of a business process application
Let’s take a closer look at a business process application and highlight a few topics to consider to drive customer and employee adoption.
Most of you would have taken care of your customer-facing forms and employed a User Experience specialist to create modern apps and web-based interfaces, but what happens after this. Do you revert to PDF, email, and Excel to manage the workflow and tasks?
To improve the end to end customer experience, consider how transforming your backend tools from paper and email to electronic forms driven solutions with workflow can help eliminate the bottleneck and provide the data needed to drive effective processes and improved customer experience.
Electronic forms in combination with workflow can help with decision support, master data management, and visual dashboards to track and collate data.
Empowered employees will result in happy customers. Here are four items to consider about forms:
- As humans, we are naturally self-centered and will always take the easiest route to satisfy our needs. User Adoption is the key to your success. The forms should be more compelling to use than paper.
- Focus on functionality first and look second.
- The forms should be intelligent, preemptive, and designed to drive the result with as few clicks as possible. Features such as pre-loading of data, displaying only the necessary fields, pattern matching, data validation, data-driven rules, cross-browser support, cross-device support are critical to your success.
Data is a critical element to delivering a successful Business Process Application and driving the customer experience.
Here are a few items to consider about data:
- Clean and accurate data in combination with forms and workflow ensures that managers and employees can make informed decisions quickly.
- The forms require data to make them intelligent and compelling to use and vice versa, the forms ensure that clean and accurate data is delivered to the correct systems to ensure data integrity.
- Data is used to drive the logic within workflow processes.
- Consider how creating connected and integrated forms could improve the customer experience but be warned, do not try and boil the ocean on your first project as the complexity of too much integration and employee change management will sink your project.
Placing employees first results in happy customers according to Richard Branson of Virgin. He is famous for the quote below.
“It should go without saying, if the person who works at your company is 100 percent proud of the brand and you give them the tools to do a good job and they are treated well, they’re going to be happy,” Richard Branson
Are business process applications the “tools” that will make a difference in your business?
An electronic form without a workflow process behind it is as useless as a piece of paper stacked on a desk. Workflow is required to deliver the right work to the right individual at the right time.
However, not all workflow tools are created equal and workflow gets complex quickly.
Here are a few items to consider about workflow:
- Ensure that you have a workflow platform to support long-term architecture.
- Workflows solutions embedded within business platforms such as CRM, ERP, or document management platforms will be designed to work within these solutions. Trying to extend these workflow capabilities for cross-platform solutions will often result in headaches for the IT team.
- Consider a decoupled approach. i.e. choose a Workflow / BPM platform that is designed to work across platforms.
Features to help drive the customer experience include:
- Real-time notifications via email and text to keep the customer and employees informed.
- Complex task assignment and worklist capability.
- Document workflow.
- Management Worklist, out of the office and redirect functions.
- Data-driven rules.
- Direct integration of forms.
- Track and trace reporting.
- Event and data triggers to support pre-emptive processes.
- Integration with digital signature platforms.
- Integration with document assembly solutions.
Reports and dashboards
Reports provide insight into process data to help identify bottlenecks and optimize processes over time.
Consider how to process data and business data can be combined to provided business insights.
Business Intelligence platforms can provide data visualization to help analyze your business.
Ask your BI team for help. You will be blown away by the possibilities.
Dealing the undefined
Most organizations have processes in place (albeit human-driven) to handle the critical business aspects, e.g. the sales process, new orders, etc.
When it comes to customer service, dealing with the unexpected or undefined is where companies often drop the ball.
Let’s look at an example:
- Your customer sends an email or fax to the wrong department and it gets lost or is never dealt with.
- A customer calls the technical support center with a billing query.
- It’s hard to put processes in place to deal with these scenarios. This is where ad-hoc workflow and tasking can play a role.
Imagine the following catch-all scenario:
- An email address is monitored for incoming email. e.g. ContactUs@Mycompany.com
- When a new email arrives a workflow process automatically starts.
- Microsoft Azure sentiment analysis is used to determine if the email has a negative or positive sentiment. Negative emails are directed to an accelerated action workflow path.
- If the email address matches customer records in a system, business rules kick in to automatically route the task to the correct manager, department.
- Machine learning can be used to detect keywords to drive business rules.
- Attachments are automatically extracted and stored in a document repository for reference.
- The customer receives auto emails and text alerts letting him know that his query is being handled, delayed, completed.
- Internal staff can route the task to anyone with full tracking and history logs.
- Internal staff can collaborate with the customer via email, share documents, request documents with full tracking and history logs.
- Email responses from the customers are automatically associated with the original request.
The result is great customer service happy customers and new customer retention statistics.
Where do we start
Keep it simple to start with. The process gets complex quickly and can have a big change management impact as you are trying to fundamentally change the way people work.
- Start by digitizing and applying workflow to the simplest form in your business.
- Go for the quick wins first to achieve results quickly and then set up a program of continuous improvement.
- Interview your employees and customers. They will quickly tell you what needs improving.
- Start the discussion at your next meeting.
A great experience
After a quick search for a new insurance provider, I found one that offered me a better best price so I signed up by completing the online form. My application was accepted and processed quickly and efficiently. I received text messages notifying me of my successful application. This is all standard and would be expected as a minimum level of service.
However, there was one more hurdle. I needed to supply proof of my no-claim status. Normally this is the painful part of the process, however, in this case, technology and process came to the rescue.
I received a text message with a link to an online form. I was then able to take a photo of my proof of status, attach it to the form, and hit submit. My document was automatically attached to my policy in the backend system and I received a follow-up text notifying me that the process was complete.
Hallelujah, that was a fantastic experience. Well done my new Insurance company.