Stanley Huang is cofounder and CTO at Moxo. Previously, he was a Principal Architect at Cisco and a Senior Manager at WebEx.
Getty Paradoxically, adopting digital transformation solutions meant streamlining workflows can complicate simple business tasks like signing contracts or reviewing proposals. The reason? An overabundance of fragmented, single-use SaaS tools. As companies in high-touch sectors like finance, law, real estate and consulting undergo digital transformations, they often adopt disparate platforms for every administrative function, forcing clients to manage many portals, passwords and emails. This can lead to communication chaos that degrades the overall client experience. Businesses in industries that require constant client collaboration must find ways to preserve the human aspect of digital interactions. And while it may seem counterintuitive, they can use automation to deliver a humanized client experience. The key is not to eliminate human touchpoints with automation (as many digital companies currently do), but to use automation to accentuate personalization in every employee-client interaction.
Automation has played a key role in companies' digital transformation journeys, starting with early SaaS applications that work in isolation to automate backend workflows for tasks like account setup, contract management and billing. But siloed applications offer limited efficiency gains, forcing employees to devise manual workarounds to ensure customer information stays updated across systems that can't talk to each other. Enter the era of integrations and interoperability. Today's generation of SaaS providers uses API integrations or, increasingly, direct information exchanges to ensure customer data automatically flows between applications. This type of automation enhances operational efficiencies on the backend, enabling high-touch businesses to implement even more SaaS applications to speed up internal processes. But while these upgrades streamline workflows and data sharing for internal teams, they don't address client users' fragmented experience. From the client's perspective, the proliferation of interconnected SaaS tools looks like a confusing array of single-use applications that make it difficult to access documents and interact with client service agents. These frustrated clients may resort to using email or SMS to communicate with account managers, circumventing inconvenient and nonintuitive self-service tools in favor of direct human support. Of course, this re-introduces friction to backend processes, leaving companies back at square one—if clients don't give up and jump to a competitor first.
How Automation Can Deliver A Positive Experience For Internal Teams And Clients
It is important to strategize how you can streamline administrative processes without degrading the client experience through impersonal and inefficient communications. The solution is to rethink the way you integrate automation into your workflows by prioritizing the client's experience. Below are some ways to approach this.
- Unify your operations.
Modern high-touch businesses use an ever-growing range of vertical SaaS tools to power their backend operations—CRM systems, project management software, quote system software, billing software, contract management software and so on.
To streamline the client experience, transition to storing digital documents from multiple sources in a central hub. This process begins with a C-level conversation. Involve stakeholders from customer-facing departments and backend/tech teams to determine what type of customer-centric service system is the best choice given your current suite of backend SaaS tools. The ideal solution will enable clients to access information about project status, billing, contracts and more from a single account portal while allowing client service agents to do the same on their end.
- Streamline your communications.
To provide consistent and efficient client service with fewer miscommunications, you need an audit trail that maintains a single source of truth for all client interactions. The same systems that automate routine processes like onboarding, document signing and invoicing should record every interaction between internal teams and clients alongside the relevant documents. Simultaneously, clients should have access to this system to interact with all documents and information for continuity of service.
IT teams can begin implementation as soon as stakeholders have agreed on a system. And the good news is you don't need to wait for all of your SaaS tools to be integrated into the new central hub to begin using it. Work in phases, beginning with the highest priority or most frequently used tools.
- Personalize your client service.
Clients desire a single set of native interaction features that are standard across all document types to chat, share files and annotate. For example, a client who wants to propose a contract edit can use the annotation feature to highlight or note the desired changes and chat with a human client service agent, who can view the live annotations, from the same screen. Systems that automate routine processes should also enable clients to request and receive human assistance within any project or document at any time.
Once you've implemented a client-centric hub system, the final step is to train your backend and client-facing teams on the new processes and begin using the system. Consider testing the new hub system with a select group of clients first so you can spot and eliminate any glitches early.
Too often, digital transformation pits internal efficiency against client experience. But clients' demand for better online service models will only increase in the years ahead. Creating a seamless connection between backend functions and client communications will be vital to maintaining competitiveness and customer satisfaction, and it all starts by adopting a customer-centric operations strategy that ensures your business won't sacrifice personalized service in the name of efficiency.
Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. Do I qualify?