Our clients and colleagues constantly ask, “What technologies should we consider employing in order to improve our business?” After careful evaluation of our clients, the economy, and various businesses, I have come to a conclusion. Companies who institute the proper mix of technology, and challenge their staff to become knowledgeable in the use and promotion of these tools, not only lead their respective industry in growth but also pioneer a new way of doing better, faster and more efficient business. So what are some of these technologies?
I am not talking about fancy corporate web pages. Instead, I am referring to taking existing technology and core business processes to the web. This allows customers, suppliers and employees to access and interact with the corporate information system in real-time using web browser technology around the clock. Businesses that use these emerging technologies enable themselves to replace traditionally labor and paper intensive functions with faster, cheaper and more direct options. By doing so, they integrate and transform their business while improving the quality of service delivered to customers, suppliers and employees.
2. Business Intelligence (BI)
Customers generally aren’t knowledgeable about the complexity of business and the behind-the-scenes technology infrastructure, nor do they care. Customers simply want answers to their questions and they demand results. Business Intelligence technology helps turn raw corporate data into meaningful information helping to drive the decision making process. According to IBM, 77% of companies use customer data to “a slight extent or some extent” to increase sales, while only 19% are using data to a “great extent.” My findings indicate that companies who invest in BI technology deliver critical business information on demand and can easily answer important questions, which help them gain a competitive advantage. BI technology helps build a complete profile of the customer base to determine what, where, when and why they are buying, and if they are not buying, determine how to adjust the business accordingly.
3. Wireless Fidelity (WiFi)
WiFi is the technology that makes the Internet “always on.” WiFi allows complete compatibility between technology products such as the corporate business system, email and the Internet from anywhere and any time without cables, wires or dialing. The number of WiFi implementations has doubled over the past 12 months and according to a report released by Yankee Group in Boston, more than 1 million WiFi access points are in use by more than 700,000 U.S. enterprises. It looks like WiFi is going to be the next “hottest” invention similar to the Internet when it began about 10 years ago. WiFi technology enables businesses to be more competitive by helping deliver a broader range of access options, and ultimately engage the end user and drive additional transactions.
4. Electronic Forms
In his 1999 book, Business @ The Speed of Thought, Bill Gates estimated that an organization could save over $150 per form transaction. According to Gates, the cost of printing and distributing a paper form was a mere $15, while the cost of the process associated with it was $145. Alternative Electronic Forms eliminate the hard costs associated with pre-printed forms, such as postage and labor costs for handling forms, all the while helping to improve overall efficiency and speed of an organization. Traditional forms such as invoices, quotes, checks, purchase orders, statements and other transactional documents are cumbersome and expensive whereas electronic forms and documents are efficient and cost effective and can automatically be delivered via print, fax, e-mail and web. Having a fully automated document distribution system empowers customer service professionals and creates a more fluid and organized internal work environment.
5. Messaging Communication
Although Email, web and fax can no longer be considered “new” technologies, their integration into the core business system and their use in everyday business processes may ultimately result in a tremendous financial return on investment. According to the Yankee Group in Boston, fewer than 30% of U.S. companies respond to customer queries via e-mail within 48 hours. Messaging and communication integration will enable a business to access and route documents, emails, faxes, and PC files from anywhere at any time or to automatically distribute documents to email and fax lists stored in your business system. I have found, first hand, that quick turnaround time for e-mail response improves overall customer service satisfaction.
6. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
It costs up to 10 times more to sell to a new prospect than to keep an existing customer. In order to focus on the retention of existing customers and to keep them loyal, businesses have adopted a viewpoint that places the customer, rather than the product, at the center. This focus requires a method where demographic customer information is directly linked to customer financial data. Once this system is in place, any query to retrieve customer and product information can be answered instantaneously. Businesses that have chosen to embrace a CRM solution have truly raised the “total customer experience” to the highest possible level.
7. Integrated Business software
Integration is a key challenge facing businesses today. According to IDC, the world’s leading provider of technology intelligence, business technology integration will consume over $71 billion in worldwide funds. With the proper software, information can be as accessible, affordable, and as easy to use as basic utilities such as water, gas, telephone and electricity. Businesses need to incorporate the proper integrated solutions to be able to survive in today’s economy. The right solution will remove the grunt work, take care of the massive clerical transactions and perform revealing analyses.
So today, when a client or a colleague asks me, “What should I consider implementing in order to improve my business?” My response is; implement technologies to improve customer service and experience, gain customer loyalty, implement total systems integration, and lastly, never underestimate the value of your staff. Does it all sound challenging? You bet it does. Moving forward requires true innovations that integrate people, processes, technology and information. The good news is that technologies are available to help you to meet your business demands and reach your business dreams in this fast, ever-changing world.