Customer expectations have never been higher – and while smaller companies have the benefit of both agility and innovation, delivering the same level of consistency and service offered by larger competitors can be a challenge. Mike Cockfield, Managing Director at Khaos Control outlines the five steps to automating a top quality customer experience.
The barriers to entry for retailers have never been lower. From selling direct online to the popular marketplace sites such as eBay, even low-cost pop-up bricks and mortar stores, retailers of any size have fast, low cost access to a global customer base. The downside, of course, is that the customer base is massively demanding – and expects the same level of experience and service irrespective of the retailer’s size. So how can a UK SME match enterprise sized competition?
1. Invoice Email Automation: In a competitive environment, efficiency is essential – to both drive up customer service and minimise costs. The use of automated emails to update customers regarding invoices, for example, not only improves the customer experience but also significantly reduces inbound calls to the accounts team, cutting the admin overhead.
2. Purchase Email Automation: Extending the automation to include the provision of Purchases Order emails to suppliers again reduces the admin overhead but also minimises mistakes that could affect the overall supply chain and hence have a knock-on customer impact.
3. CRM Integration: Every company is striving to deliver a seamless customer experience, but for those SMEs juggling online sales, telesales, even a direct sales force, there is always a risk of customers falling through the cracks. Ensuring all customer facing staff have access to the CRM is key to ensuring consistency – and automatically updating any notes made by the sales people within the system will ensure that everyone can build on the existing customer relationship.
4. Cross Channel Consistency: Customers now place orders across multiple channels, from marketplaces to telesales, and it is essential that every aspect of that experience is the same. With each channel integrated into the core ERP system, the entire process, from stock allocation to automated email order confirmation, can be seamlessly and consistently managed.
5. Automated Back-Order Management: Setting customer expectations is a fundamental component of successful retailing – and that means accurately predicting stock availability and confirming delivery date. While many firms have managed to streamline processing of goods in stock, managing back orders can be a manual overhead. The ability to streamline the allocation of back-ordered items quickly and effectively to the right customers is an essential aspect of effective retailing. Automatically allocating stock based on delivery date, for example, enables a retailer to eradicate the errors associated with a manual process for allocating back orders. But it is still important to retain flexibility – companies can also opt to manually allocate certain orders to prioritise high value customers or enable multiple smaller orders to be fulfilled before one much larger order.
The fundamental goal of automation is to enable that big company experience alongside the benefits of small company agility innovation and service. It enables efficiency and cost reduction whilst also supporting essential consistency of experience. But, critically, this is not about automation at all costs or handing over complete control to an IT system. From opting to manually oversee stock assignment to address specific customer needs to picking up the phone to speak to a high value customer, companies still need the chance to manage priority customers and priority events. It is by streamlining processes that companies have the chance, the time and the resources to optimise the complete customer experience.