Growth requires customers. Continuous growth requires advocates. Customer advocates are your biggest marketing asset; people trust them. They bring in more revenue, and they are more willing to forgive mistakes.
So to get more customers and build the relationships to make those customers into advocates, your growing small-to-medium business (SMB) needs more customer-facing (i.e., front-office) employees, including sales, customer/field service, and marketing talent. What can stop growth in its tracks is a lack of integrated cloud applications these employees use to support a top-notch customer experience and create the much-needed customer advocates.
Integration is the key but not just integration between front-office applications (for example, sales, service, commerce, social). There needs to be seamless data connectivity between your front-office and back-office systems (i.e. enterprise resource planning [ERP]).
Integration is the glue that allows every employee to be on the same page. Cobbled together point solutions only serve to create data silos, destroy trust in the data, and provide little value to anyone.
1. Acquiring the much-sought-after 360-degree view. Your ERP Cloud solution does not hold details about your relationship with customers. That information is found (and rightly so) in the CRM (customer relationship management) cloud solution. It is only through complete, seamless integration that a full three-dimensional view (ERP, SCM, CX) becomes possible, helping you build lasting customer relationships (which is the first step toward gaining an advocate) and determine where there is potential for future growth.
2. Real-time access to needed information. When your front-office and back-office systems are fully integrated, your employees can access needed information (such as order status, inventory levels, shipments, customer financials/credit, order history, return status, payments, and pricing) in real time. They will know that the information is current, and they will not have to toggle back and forth between multiple systems or hunt down other employees. This provides better customer experiences, and excellent customer experiences create advocates.
3. Recognition based on more than tenure. Customer service reps (CSR) can see more than just orders and can provide a level of service that is appropriate. For example, if a CSR has access to a customer’s billing status and notes that that customer has always made payments on time, she can be recognized. Recognition is the basis of any worthwhile advocacy program.
4. Self-service becomes a reality. Many back-office processes can be pushed out to the customer as self-service features. Some examples include updating customer records, making payments, submitting applications, searching a knowledge base, or requesting/ downloading information. Providing customers with the communication channels of their choice (including self-service) can turn a customer into an advocate.
5. Streamline e-commerce. Integration allows customers to select and modify shipping methods, check inventory levels, and securely handle all credit card transactions (yet, again…more self-service). This ease of use creates a “wow” shopping experience and makes customers take notice.
6. Viable Order configurations. When systems are integrated, operations, finance, procurement, and other back-office employees will receive properly configured and priced orders from sales reps who (in turn) will be able to build orders in the field, with the customer. Reps can see accurate pricing and availability of materials. Promotional or discount pricing will be available via their CRM software as well. Accurate orders that arrive quicker build customer advocates.
7. Renewals and repeat orders. As mentioned above, your ERP system does not hold information about your relationships with your customers. It is almost entirely focused on the facts around “done deals” – customer addresses, placed orders, signed contracts, etc. In contrast, the sales force automation (SFA) solution holds information about (hopefully) future transactions―prospects, potential orders, pipeline, etc.
So if your growing SMB is large enough for financials software (which I am entirely sure it is), it is large enough to need more than just basic integration with your front-office solutions (namely SFA). The output from your front-office is an input for your order management systems, invoicing systems, procurement systems, transportation management systems, etc. In addition, front-office employees need read-only access to shipments, promise dates, invoices, outstanding balances and other information that customers reach out about.