Good Workflow is the Foundation for Customer Experience
One of the most powerful ways of succeeding as an online business is to give your customers a seamless, easy to use service, no matter where in the world they’re located. Whether you’re a small distributor or a global megabrand, a solid workflow system will enable millions of people to easily connect to your company. Industry leaders such as Amazon and Netflix are good examples of websites that remain reliable and predictable, regardless of whether they appear in French, German or Finnish.

Learning From Amazon

Senior executives tend to believe that all it takes to replicate an Amazon-like experience is to design a slick user interface and wait for success. Success, however, doesn’t come just from design. The secret ingredient is to have the right workflow strategies in place before content ever reaches the customer.

If you think about what makes Amazon successful, speed and responsiveness are big parts of the equation. In fact, the company has mastered vertical integration. From the cloud backend that is Amazon Web Services to fulfillment centers for its customers, Amazon owns nearly every step of the buying and delivery process. If you see that in light of workflow, they have a fully integrated, seamless process.

That fluidity is what every company should aim for. It doesn’t come naturally. Think about all of the divergent components of running an online company. You have developers coding and revising your websites, marketing people writing and updating content, your product listings and prices, customer service people helping solve problems, customer communities on third party blogs, forums and social media sites, external vendors controlling your cloud operations … the list goes on. If you’re global, those workloads multiply exponentially because you have to translate content and communications.

If every piece of the workflow exists on a separate platform, one arm of your company doesn't know what the other is doing. Mistakes, delays and inefficiencies are inevitable. Personalizing services to each customer in a global audience becomes nearly inconceivable.

Smoothing the Path to Customer Happiness

It’s worth taking the time and energy to create a streamlined workflow. Here are a few things to think about:

  • Make sure that all of your plug-ins can integrate into your workflow. Visiting a new login screen for each app or social media network is a waste of time, and leads to information overload. Your chosen CMS should be compatible with your most important apps, social media networks, clouds, databases, etc.
  • Content should update automatically. When people manually update content, they tend to create backlogs and fall behind. If you need to translate content, make sure that your translations are automatically integrated and updated as well.
  • Collaboration should be easy. With tight deadlines the norm in most businesses, it’s more important to get everyone collaborating on the same page -- not sending email attachments all the time. Make sure that different stakeholders, from your Brazilian contractor to your CMO, can access, discuss and update content in the same interface.
  • Integrate the outside community. It’s hard to get the pulse of the customer community if it takes you an hour and 10 interfaces to catch up with what they’re saying. Blog posts, forum comments, tweets and other community channels should also be visible or easily accessible in one place.

When you have your workflow nailed down, it becomes easier to create a high quality product or service that customers will love. Expanding your product or service is a matter of shuffling content, rather than reinventing the wheel with every new idea. If you want to customize your product for the preferences of different countries, you can do so within your workflow. It’s equally painless to troubleshoot when something does go wrong.

No wonder companies continue to adopt CMSs, social business software and project management tools at a rapid clip. If there’s one rule of thumb to follow, it’s to look for something that effectively integrates as many pieces -- and plug-ins -- as possible. Your customers will thank you.

Title image by My Life Graphic (Shutterstock)