The Customer Experience Challenge

Keeping the focus on customers has always been a priority. For years, business leaders have touted the virtues of a high customer-service orientation as a means to retain customers, grow market share, and ultimately increase revenue. And while it’s never been easy to accomplish – whether you’re a distributor, retailer or a logistics service provider – today it’s even more challenging.

Organizations need new avenues of differentiation — and a better customer experience can be just that.

Here are the key reasons why:

The experience customers have with your organization has been redefined. The customer experience represents the sum of all experiences that a customer has with a company – over the entire course of the relationship. That said, every interaction becomes a potential business opportunity or risk – either boosting or decreasing customer satisfaction.

Today’s tech-savvy customers simply expect more. Customers are making more online purchases in their home. And they’ve come to rely on the self-serve tracking features and fast, accurate order fulfillment delivered by top e-commerce firms. When they later transact business elsewhere, they’re looking to replicate this seemingly “perfect order” experience. Meanwhile, as employees in the workplace, they have become increasingly mobile, leveraging bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies to function anytime, anywhere. This sets the standards high for both service and convenience.

Organizations are collecting more data and applying more sophisticated data analysis. At some 2.2 zettabytes, the sheer volume of data being collected and stored today is staggering. This includes a growing amount of customer and operational information captured as a result of everyday activities. By culling and analyzing this data, companies can gain a more complete picture of their performance and how it’s impacting the customer experience. At the same time, they can potentially uncover trends and position themselves to meet new and emerging customer demands.

As a result, many organizations are launching business-intelligence (BI) efforts to analyze data and exploit it for an ongoing competitive advantage.

The logistics and transportation industry is experiencing dramatic changes. In the face of mounting competitive pressures, many transportation companies and logistics providers have turned to consolidation and specialization as a way to achieve greater efficiencies and long-term staying power. Organizations need new avenues of differentiation – and a better customer experience can be just that.

Given all these dynamics, organizations must be proactive and responsive in order to provide customers with the best possible experience. But if you don’t understand where specific problems are occurring, it’s difficult to gauge their impact – as well as the cost to your business.

A Paper Trail Reveals Cracks in Service Delivery

Paper-based, manual processes are a common source of problems that can degrade the customer experience. Risky and inefficient by nature, they increase the chance for processing and workflow errors. This leads to inaccurate customer orders and related issues with shipping, delivery, and payment. In addition, they prevent real-time data access, which is vital to rapid and effective problem resolution.

For example, customer orders may get lost or delayed. Deliveries that do arrive on time may contain incorrect items or quantities – or even damaged goods, requiring customers to re-order and suppliers to make additional deliveries.

These errors can quickly snowball into billing and payment problems if customer records are not properly updated to reflect changes in order and delivery histories. Customers may receive invoices for the wrong merchandise or amount, or fail to get the order credits due to them for receiving damaged items. As a result, your business feels the squeeze through longer accounts payable cycles that impact cash flow.

Meanwhile, employees struggle to provide an appropriate level of responsiveness to customers and internal stakeholders alike.

Manual Inefficiencies Leave Your Customers Stranded

Using manual processes to capture information creates delays and uncertainty, especially when your customers have no easy way to view this information. Without an online, up-to-date tracking system available to them, customers are unable to access current information to determine if their orders are accurate and will arrive when promised. Likewise, they are unable to reassure their own customers that delivery dates will be met.

This lack of visibility causes dissatisfaction and can erode your reputation as a supplier or distributor. If you can’t reliably fulfill orders, your customers may quickly find a competitor who can. Ordering and billing issues stemming from manual processes can place an additional burden on your customers. With the fast pace of business, they can’t afford to waste time and money trying to resolve problems that originate from inefficient practices.

What Manual Processes Means for Your Business

Problems associated with manual processes put customer loyalty – and your bottom line – in jeopardy. They hit your organization from all angles, resulting in:

A higher cost of doing business: Manual processes are expensive. Besides actual paper costs, you must also calculate the total cost of overhead associated with employees who are managing, scanning, imaging, and storing paper.

Time-intensive problem resolution: Manual processes used to record overages, shortages and damages (OS&D), confirm deliveries, and handle invoicing are a constant source of errors that sidetrack your operations. They contribute to greater overhead costs due to the additional time and resources needed to address them. And they affect profitability by extending days sales outstanding while problems are being resolved.

Little to no visibility into shipping and delivery operations: Data associated with paper-based processes is not immediately available to employees when they need it. This prevents them from providing customers with real-time updates on delivery times, or quickly supplying a clean invoice for a delivery they believe is in error. These delays detract from customer service and the efficiency of related operational activities. All of the above could have an impact on business.

Improving the Customer Experience for Business Gain

If left unchanged, paper-based, manual processes leave you vulnerable to customers seeking service elsewhere, leading to a drop in revenue. Businesses large and small can benefit from electronic proof-of-delivery (ePOD) software. When researching an ePOD solution, look for one that:

Provides your employees with easy-to-use technology that streamlines workflows. When you replace paper and manual steps with a simplified, automated process, you’ll see immediate improvements in accuracy and efficiency.

For example, your drivers may be physically capturing OS&D-related information, as well as customer signatures, at the point of delivery – then later keying (and/or scanning) the same information into supporting business systems. In the process, data entry errors can occur – creating headaches for your back-office employees when they need to invoice customers or answer billing questions. Instead, if you employ a state-of-the art automated approach, your drivers will be able to electronically capture both changes and required signatures – using any mobile device on any network, with all the details becoming instantly available for your employees to reference. This moves you closer to achieving the perfect order, where orders are problem-free, customers get the right inventory at the right time, and proof-of-delivery is easily verified.

Gives you greater visibility into delivery operations through dashboard access. To maintain high customer satisfaction, you need to be able to see what’s happening. Using dashboard tools, you can develop metric-based reports to help you gain greater insight into your point of delivery. This includes leveraging drill-down capabilities to determine precisely where problems may be occurring at distribution centers or along specific delivery routes. Afterwards, you can apply this business intelligence to speed exception handling, further optimize other operations, and prevent new problems from occurring.

Enables quicker access to your customers’ delivery, billing, and payment data for greater responsiveness and more accurate recordkeeping. If your employees are using an effective ePOD solution, the information they need is available at their fingertips – not trapped on paper manifests (or other documents) until it has been manually entered into the related business application. This allows them to more rapidly address customer inquiries. At the same time, instant access to data increases order accuracy, which helps you provide a clean invoice – so you can also decrease billing and payment issues.

Provides integrated delivery alert features to prevent service incidents. Knowing precisely where deliveries are located at any point during the route/day is impossible without continuous monitoring. Equipping your drivers with an ePOD solution that can receive GPS and real-time traffic updates from their handheld-devices – and then recalculate the estimated time of arrival (ETA) – will enable you to proactively supply your customers with real-time arrival notifications. This will help you reduce customer service calls, as well as refused or missed deliveries when customers are not present at the delivery location.

Lets your customers serve themselves by tracking orders in real time. With this feature, your customers will find it easy to keep their own customers better informed. And by doing so, they’ll eliminate any related disconnects that once harmed their companies’ reputations. When you deploy a solution that offers all these capabilities, you’ll position your company to deliver a superior customer experience – and help your customers do the same.