In the age of Amazon, our expectations as consumers have gone beyond minimizing costs to maximizing convenience. Frictionless purchasing and fulfillment, from same day or next day delivery to one click (or no click voice command) purchasing, have raised our expectations as consumers.
And the expectations we have as consumers translate into the same sorts of expectations we now have in the B2B world.
And that’s putting pressure on all of us to do more faster, better and cheaper. Over and over again.
And by all of us, I mean companies of all sizes, in all industries. According to a recent IDC survey, over half (55%) of midsized companies will change their business models to be more customer-centric by 2024, with a focus on improvements to customer experience (as opposed to a focus on more company-centric metrics like cost savings, internal efficiencies, etc).
That said, instant gratification can only take competitive companies so far. At some point, delivering an Amazon level of service will become table stakes for doing business. The next level of evolution with be translating that service into customer trust and loyalty.
How do we achieve that kind of trust and loyalty — not only with customers, but with vendors and the other stakeholders in our business ecosystems?
One way is through transparency. Another is through strict adherence to compliance.
Both of these can be achieved through the sames tools, technologies and mechanisms that help companies achieve the levels of efficiency and responsiveness they need to address the “Amazon Effect” of consumer-level expectations.
Those tools, technologies and mechanisms all have one thing in common — they are intelligent, flexible and adaptable. They target routine, manual wasteful tasks, unburdening human workers so they can focus on higher-level skills.
Take accounts payable automation as an example — a routine, less-than-sexy process common to all companies. How can automating AP in an intelligent way help to achieve Amazon-level efficiency while also building trust?
Imagine that your AP team is no longer buried in handling invoices, routing them for approval and keying in data manually. Consider how they can spend less time (25% according to industry benchmarks for manual AP operations) dealing with errors, exceptions and delays that put a stress on vendor relations. Imagine that they can focus more on planning and forecasting, coordinating with our finance team members, to tighten up cycle times that can extend from vendor to customer.
Then look at the other side of the coin — what about accounts receivable and sales order processing? Eliminating routine manual processes can translate into shorter days sales outstanding and faster order fulfillment. Your team can achieve more timely access to detailed customer order data and achieve better insights into sales trends and order data to more effectively forecast and anticipate demand.
All because you eliminated the tasks that are consuming the time and attention of your team members, in a way that allowed them to focus more on the WHY of their jobs than the HOW.
If we dig one layer deeper, we can see how intelligent process automation helps to drive organizations towards a more customer-centric approach.
1. Eliminating siloed data
Intelligent process automation, properly applied to any business process, delivers flexible, sustainable integration across business systems and streams timely, accurate data across the enterprise. It does so by automating one of the worst bottlenecks in today’s business processes — manual data entry and document handling. The combination of flexible, intelligent system integration and flexible, intelligent data capture deliver a one-two punch to the age-old enemy of business efficiency — siloed data.
2. Making processes more transparent
Eliminating siloes and sharing data also means that more stakeholders can monitor, manage and improve the processes that depend on that data — and can extend visibility to vendors, partners and customers in a way that boosts predictability and delivers an optimal experience.
With visibility and access to the process from end-to-end, virtually everyone and anyone in your organization has the power to improve processes and deliver even more impressive results.
3. Reliable data, timely decisions
Access to timely data and visibility to processes allow your staff to focus their time and attention on analysis, planning and prediction. While timely data and informed decision making is usually pitched as the domain of business leaders and executives, putting the tools and giving the time to departmental managers and process owners means that everyone is empowered to make better business decisions in the interests of the customer and optimizing their experience.