Everyone seems to be talking about the customer experience, that business growth will be less about product and more about providing a high level and engaging customer experience that is designed to gain loyalty and create a competitive edge.
During SAP’s 2019 Sapphire event, this theme was heavily articulated. While I still believe that superior products will always matter, we are now living in an experience economy, and have been for quite some time. Recent advances in technology now make it far easier for brands to manage experiences, and for customers to demand it.
According to Alfred Becker, Global Lead for Paper and Packaging at SAP, “Winning and keeping business will be based on providing great experiences across all interactions. “
So, what defines the customer experience? It is the sum of all interactions with the supplier and includes encounters with sales, customer service, marketing, order fulfillment and more. The customer experience must always be positive. This means that customer experience must exceed your customers individual expectations.
According to Forbes “Customer Experience is the New Brand and that today 89% of companies compete primarily on the basis of customer experience.” Nowadays customers care very much about the ease of which they can do business with you. Slow manual processes, from quote to product delivery do not work in today’s world anymore. Building out your customer experience strategy creates a huge opportunity for you to distinguish yourself from your competitors. Not reacting to this growing and stable trend will likely have painful outcomes to your bottom line.
When considering the topic of customer experience, we might be tempted to only analyze the most obvious segments like product, service and customer engagement, forgetting the order management touchpoint. Here, the customer experience depends not only on how quickly but also how accurately an order will be processed and fulfilled. Delays and inaccurate quotes, for example, lead to a negative impact on the overall customer experience. It is mandatory to provide the customer with a constantly optimized and positive customer experience and this often begins with order management, and the quote.
Obviously order entry and quoting are just one touchpoint for larger organizations, like paper and plastic packaging, for example. Outside of order entry multiple touchpoints can exist that will have an impact on the customer experience: quality, manufacturing, logistics, billing, returns, to name a few.
Why the focus on quoting? Because many order entry organizations are short staffed. It is therefore challenging to manage spikes or increases in seasonal demand. Customer services and estimating teams are working under pressure and can create critical errors in an effort to meet customers’ lead time requirements.
Optimizing Customer Experience with Automated Quote-to-Cash Technology
For paper and plastic packaging manufacturers, the estimating and quoting process is loaded with opportunities for errors. Many companies offer their customers thousands of different product configuration options, which adds layers of complexity. With increased complexity, the opportunity for errors increases exponentially. Add to this the fact that most interactions and tasks between estimating, sales and quoting teams are primarily manual and managed in spreadsheets via email, and you have a recipe for a poor customer experience.
How can such challenges as these be met successfully? Automation is of course, the simple answer but will require a thorough understanding of all the people, processes and technologies already in play and how they interact with each other to understand where the gaps are and how to address these.
What benefits can you hope to achieve with Quote-to-Cash automation?
- Shorter quote to contract cycles
- Higher quote to contract acceptance rates
- Better customer response and experience
- Higher sales revenues
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By Christopher Hale
Creative Technologist. Writer. Author. Sales Representative