As the US economy starts to rebound, service companies, such as those focused on retail, manufacturing and information technology expanded in February at the fastest pace in a year. Such growth was helped by an increased demand for new orders and growth in hiring. When we think of service, we think of customer experience. By most accounts, they should go hand in hand, but as we know from the time we’ve spent on poorly designed restaurant websites or trying to contact a support administrator about the new software we’ve downloaded, it isn’t always the case.
Design for Great Service Experiences
This month, as we tackle the customer experience of enterprise information management, the service industry seems to be on both sides of the customer experience coin. On one hand, it’s committed to providing customers with access to goods and experiences. And on the other hand, without good internal workflows, delivering a good customer experience is hard to do. How do you design for great service experiences that accommodate both?
A recent article by Craig LaRosa, principal at Continuum outlined four rules for designing services with purpose, emphasizing a need for flexibility, agility and collaboration. In the article, he describes service design as “choreographing the dynamic interactions between companies and people”.
Like any good theatrical performance, what the audience sees depends significantly on what happens behind the scenes. As companies work to implement LaRosa’s rules into their designs, we thought we’d take a moment to highlight a few technologies that were helping to improve service experiences behind the scenes that affect the customer experience.
A Signature Experience
Adobe EchoSign works with companies to help turn contracts into collaborative documents by reducing time spent closing sales and automating the contract process. A few weeks ago, the company held its first user conference, which is how we learned about some of the innovative ways some of its customers are using its e-signature technology improve employee and customer experiences.
Case study: You can’t get more service oriented than Groupon. Say whatever you will about the impact of daily-deal sites on small business, but the fact is there more than ever before and as their popularity grows, so does the volume of contracts needing to be processed. Groupon UK found that sales reps were spending too much time getting partner contracts negotiated and signed. On average, the reps were spending 20-25% of their time on the road and scanning the document into Salesforce.com, often resulting in contracts that were difficult to read or resulted in customer service issues.
Using EchoSign with AppExtreme’s Conga Merge and salesforce.com, Groupon UK has been able to save sales reps' time by decreasing the average time to sign to under three hours. As well, EchoSign also provides data for their management team, enabling them to make better decisions based on real-time transactions.
Keep on Truckin'
Many service-oriented industries rely on transporting goods. Commercial truck drivers are under pressure to deliver goods on time, regardless of weather or human limitations. While there are a number of checks and balances designed to ensure the safety of both driver and cargo, it’s not always strongly enforced and often relies on manual processes, which can cost time and money and stretch the budgets of local governments.
Case Study: Last month, the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, joined by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and SC Department of Transportation, officially opened a state-of-the art weigh station in Dorchester County. This facility is the first of its kind in the Southeast, and gives officers the technology to detect safety violations on commercial trucks that could lead to deadly collisions on the highways.
Thanks to a new technology, called weigh-in-motion, officers can better regulate truck traffic passing through the area because trucks are weighed and have their credentials screened against federal and state safety standards while they are still moving at speed on the interstate. The new weigh station also has an inspection shed built on site with a pit. This allows officers access underneath the trucks to more thoroughly inspect brakes and other operating systems. Safe and compliant motor carriers will benefit because the technology can alert them to bypass the weigh station, saving time and allowing the state to support more efficient movement of freight.
Flying High & On Time
If any industry has seen a decline in customer experience over the years, it’s the airline industry. It’s become particularly unpleasant that, when an airline offers you food for free or agrees to check our bags for a minimal fee, we’re ecstatic! However, it looks like a Google partnership with a local airline may help to revolutionize the way we fly.
Case Study: Google and Cape Air have announced that they will team to introduce a new reservations and booking system that aims to make it faster for airline agents to make reservations. Ultimately, the new system will let users manage flights with their smartphones while enabling the system to see whether users are running late -- or early -- and rebook flights accordingly. It could even be used to deliver luggage to a traveler’s destination. Having been active less than a week, already the system lets Individual items such as pricing and schedules be adjusted independently.
Supply & Demand for Customer Experience
Most, if not all, companies want to provide extraordinary customer service and experience. However, cumbersome and complicated workflows may complicate the opportunities to do so. These three case studies highlight the ways that companies can integrate technology to provide solutions that not only clean up the back end, but also improve the front-end customer experience immensely.
Customers don’t care that your infrastructure is standing in the way of providing them the goods and services that they seek. They don’t want barriers to stand in their way, and will seek alternative outlets. As the service economy bounces back, customers’ expectations will only continue to grow, making it that much more important for companies of all sizes to deliver reliable customer experiences.