Somewhere between today’s advanced tech tools and entrenched business practices lies the real world of doing business better. Here are five essential technology areas where companies too often fall down when dealing with their customers and business partners.
1. Online ordering: It’s incredible how many e-commerce sites operate like it’s 1999. Shopping baskets don’t work right, promotion codes don’t register, inventory levels don’t display properly, and cross-channel integration is MIA.
I recently had a pop-up window with a credit card promotion block my payment page at the L.L. Bean Website. Guess what? I couldn’t get the pop-up to disappear. My response? Close the browser tab and ditch the order. I’m sure I’m not alone.
2. Customer analytics: You would think that with all the hoopla about big data and analytics, companies would understand their customers. In reality, most businesses have only half a picture, which may be more dangerous than having no clue. This often results in laughingly off-target promotions and ads.
Organizations must invest in tools, systems and skills to understand customers at a much deeper level. Otherwise, your sales and marketing efforts are nothing more than noise.
3. E-contracts and digital signatures: Organizations are awash in contracts and other legal documents, and managing all this paperwork is a daunting challenge. Despite that, the vast majority of companies have made no effort to embrace modern contract and transaction management techniques and e-signatures, including tools such as Adobe EchoSign and DocuSign. As a result, they continue to sail the business seas like the Santa Maria rather than the Starship Enterprise.
4. Digital payments: Apple Pay has suddenly reignited interest in mobile payments and digital wallets. But, in many cases, B2B and contractor payments that run through enterprise accounts payable systems seem to be stuck in a 1970s time warp.
The process goes something like this: The vendor submits paper or PDF invoice, a staffer logs the invoice in the AP system and the company prints a check weeks later. Not only is this process incredibly slow, inefficient and expensive, it is also prone to errors.
5. Customer loyalty programs: A stack of punch cards is about as backward as backward can be in the digital age. Worse: They’re essentially useless for understanding customers, and they are a genuine pain in the wallet. Even magstripe cards are seriously lacking, and they choke digital marketing efforts.
The solution? Put your loyalty program in a store-branded app, or use something like Apple’s passbook or a third-party app in order to get smart and keep your customers satisfied.