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Uncovering Opportunities to Automate Your Business

By Richard Huff

Ensuring the success of your customer communications strategy requires constant vigilance and willingness to make improvements. By starting with small, measurable steps and working toward implementing your organization’s overall CCM goals, improved processes can enrich the overall customer experience.

A great way to start is by creating customer journey maps that outline the many ways in which a customer interacts with departments within the organization. This exercise will reveal bottlenecks and disconnects in the process, typically between departments or communication channels, defining areas where improvements can be made.

Forms automation

An area that represents one of the most common challenges in a customer journey is business forms. Forms collect data so the information can be relayed in an organized fashion. However, organizations create forms to cover a number of situations and customers frequently need to skip sections or repeatedly enter the same data to navigate a business process. If multiple forms need to be completed, the process becomes quite time consuming and frustrating for both customers and employees.

Finding a way to automate the forms process can be done in different ways, from screen scraping data, which is collecting data from one application to then repurpose it to another, to full digital forms applications; however, successful automation requires more than just data collection. The goal should be to simplify the entire workflow to avoid situations where customers need to re-start a process due to missing information. Multiple software solutions exist that provide true forms process automation.

A fully automated forms process makes for a better customer experience by auto-filling fields from corporate data sources, skipping fields or entire sections based on the data and answers provided during the process, and intelligently routing the completed form through multiple individuals involved in the workflow. These features accelerate the end-to-end process and take advantage of the investment in existing systems. A simplified process can also reduce customer service call volumes by better addressing customer expectations.

Document and process reengineering

As we look to improve processes and identify areas that need improvement, another opportunity can be found in how we produce our documents. Organizations that have made a significant investment in CCM systems resist migration to new solutions due to the time required to bring a new CCM system online. Many of these solutions are complex document composition systems capable of generating hundreds of thousands of unique invoices, statements and policies. While these systems are capable of handling letters and other smaller documents, they are often not the priority.

Line of business and IT resource limitations force organizations to first target the largest and most complex applications or those that have the most impact on business. Low-volume documents do not seem worth the effort to re-create in a new CCM solution.

There are many well-established CCM toolkits on the market capable of quickly reengineering archaic documents by adding color and marketing messages or by replacing older corporate logos to provide customers with a consistent look and feel. These solutions work in parallel with the primary CCM solution utilizing the same content resources.

In the same vein, smaller process automation solutions can be implemented to address the needs of smaller departments and applications. These solutions can be implemented quickly while still being in line with the organization’s overall CCM strategy. In some cases, these solutions can be installed remotely, further reducing the burden on IT resources. Smaller process automation systems operate independently or feed documents into a centralized production facility. The solutions come with established connectors for common business platforms, such as Salesforce, which enable quick integration. It is important to collect the tracking data from the independent systems and feed that information into a central repository to provide an enterprise-wide view of processes. Detailed tracking and data collection enables the organization to make informed decisions regarding the success of the project.

By leveraging several smaller solutions in parallel with core CCM applications, organizations can roll out automation over time with less investment and less risk. Organizations can also resolve process bottlenecks in a timelier fashion than waiting for core CCM resources to become available.

Of course, all automation efforts should be made with the overall CCM strategy in mind. In putting a focus on smaller solutions that feed into the bigger picture, it is important to measure their value to your business and to your customers. Finding ways to automate processes through small, measurable steps will result in a faster, more efficient workflow overall. Forms automation and process reengineering projects will have a significant impact on the customer experience and enable organizations to see improvements without the heavy lifting associated with a full CCM solution implementation.

Over the past two decades, Madison Advisors' industry-neutral expertise enables enterprise organizations, service providers and technology providers to achieve their strategic objectives around today’s evolving customer communications management (CCM) requirements.
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