For years, IT solution providers have been touting how a company can benefit financially from software-as-a-service and other IT software solutions. Industry Week lists twelve advantages that include reducing expenditures, mitigating risk and simplifing upgrades. It’s easy to see how companies can benefit from these IT solutions. However, are these IT solution services just reducing costs to the company or are they truly providing better value to customers?
Yes, making a company run more efficiently can have a positive impact on customer relationships. In an example case study, a Ukrainian bank leveraged a customer relationship management IT solution to better serve customers. Not only did this solution reduce costs, but it also enabled the bank to serve more customers and even maintain better relationships with its existing customers. The bank provides an excellent example of how IT solutions and services can improve customer satisfaction.
Increased Customer Service Capacity
No one enjoys waiting in lines at the bank to withdraw funds. With 6000 branch offices and over a hundred thousand customers, Oschadbank had to be able to serve as many people as quickly as possible. To address these needs, the bank deployed an IT solution that enabled customers to deposit funds through multiple channels. One addition was a call center that could handle up to 200 simultaneous lines. Another was an online portal that allowed customers to deposit their funds. The case study sums up how effective this solution was. “In…the system’s first 24 days, Oschadbank operators served 117 thousand depositors, not including 30 thousand clients who used the self-service feature on the web portal. “
Why should this IT solution make bank customers happy?
- They faced a reduced waiting time at the call center because a large portion of them used the online portal.
- Customers were given the power to conduct their transactions online without the help of a call center representative.
Easier Customer Appointment Scheduling
Inc. reports that many companies are still relying on pen and paper to schedule appointments. This can be time-consuming and prone to error. It’s easy to lose a paper notebook or use the wrong system to take notes. With an IT software solution, scheduling is dramatically improved because it can be integrated with other systems.
IT solutions can alleviate the burdensome task of scheduling by giving call center agents insight into the appointment process. The customer relationship management tool deployed at Oschadbank allowed call center employees to prepare non-conflicting work schedules across 450 branch offices. 1750 tellers were organized and assigned appointments through this system. While non-conflicting schedules may seem like a major benefit to the company, it also benefits customers.
Scheduling appointments can be troublesome for customers as well. They may have to leave work for a noon appointment or get to work late after an early appointment. Waiting at the bank for a scheduled appointment does not make customers happy. They want to be in and out quickly. Non-conflicting scheduling through an IT provider helps enable seamless scheduling. This IT solution also helped customers remember their appointments through personalized SMS and email messaging.
In short, the IT software helped customers by:
- Making sure that a teller would be ready to serve them at the appointed time.
- Sending reminders about the appointment so that the customer wouldn’t forget it during a busy day.
Improved Customer Relationships
When a customer calls about a recurring issue, IT solutions and services can help call center reps to resolve it faster. In the Oschadbank deployment, the customer’s information was automatically called up for the call center rep by matching the phone number with the customer’s information. Any customer issues would be immediately displayed so the rep could take action to resolve them. Manual searches for customer information, which take time, are no longer required.
Customers benefit from IT solutions through faster response times to issues. Call center reps have immediate access to their information, so customers don’t have to wait while they “look it up.” Some IT solution deployments also offer integration of different methods of resolving issues. For example, a customer can ask about an issue through a web portal or the company’s Facebook page. The IT software routes these inquiries to the right rep and provides the information they need to resolve the issue. Customers are more likely to get their needs addressed quickly with appropriate IT software in place.
Upgrades for Better Service
While the benefits of IT solutions are already numerous, the software is still getting better. One of the main advantages of software solutions is that they are always improving. Regular updates are typically rolled out for free or at a reduced cost to the company. These updates often improve the customer experience. For example, pizza IT software that allows customers to order pizza online may upgrade from checkboxes for ingredients to allowing customers to create pizzas that have different ingredients on each half. Paper solutions rarely have this level of flexibility and adaptability. In contrast, IT solutions are constantly adapting to customers’ needs.
Choosing an IT Solution Provider
IT solutions range from custom-coded specialized software to packages that can be purchased online with a credit card. The right one depends on the company’s needs. The major types of IT solution services can be broken down into three categories: off-the-shelf, integrated, and custom.
Off-the-Shelf IT Software
Some companies can utilize a generic software solution. These IT solutions are typically provided for common business activities, like selling products or completing accounting. An example would be Kennel Connection, which is a program designed to run dog boarding businesses. This one solution, purchased as a package, checks in animals, tracks billing and documents the dog’s recent inoculations. These needs are common to every dog boarding business, so an off-the-shelf IT solution can work. These solutions are often cheaper than the other alternatives, but it is harder to run a unique type of business with this software. A dog walker could not use the Kennel Connection software at all. For companies that still want a cheaper solution but more ability to adapt it to their needs, integrated solutions may present good middle ground.
Despite the low price of these software packages, customers often like them because they are familiar with them through using them with multiple other companies.
As more software solutions migrate to the Cloud, it becomes easier for off-the-shelf solutions to work together. With integrated solutions, companies can choose from multiple options that perform the same task. For example, a company using Salesforce, a customer relationship management system, can choose to integrate it with MailChimp or Campaign Monitor. The ability to choose what programs are included in a company’s IT solution makes the system more flexible and able to adapt to unusual business types. However, since the programs are not bundled as a package, companies are likely to pay a bit more per month for these services.
Like off-the-shelf solutions, customers often like integrated solution interfaces because they are familiar. The amount of time it takes to learn how to use a company’s system is minimal when the customer has seen it before. This saves the customer’s time.
Some companies have business models too unusual or with special security needs, and they cannot use a cobbled-together solution. To meet such customer’s needs, a custom solution is often necessary. Programmed by professional consulting companies or an in-house team, custom solutions can meet any need. However, the cost for custom solutions is substantially higher. As such, they are primarily used by larger companies with bigger budgets.
Customers may initially struggle with custom solutions because the interface is unfamiliar, but they are likely to be more satisfied when fully trained on the system. The custom solution will have only what the customer needs without any fluff or extraneous features. A well-designed custom solution should be seamless for customers to adopt and use.
The Right Solution for Companies and Customers
To determine the right one for a company’s needs, decision-makers should keep in mind these questions:
- Does the IT solution integrate with the other software the company already uses and prefers?
- Can the IT service be scaled as the business grows?
- How easy is it to train staff on the new IT software?
- Does the IT solution increase the company’s efficiency in a way that will benefit customers?
- Will customers embrace IT solution?
In the end, customer satisfaction is always an important goal. Oschadbank could have moved to an all-online model with the self-service portal. They could have shut down the call center to save money. It would arguably have been more efficient and cost-effective to direct everyone through the portal. However, most customers still chose to use the call center. Oschadbank was careful to include customer needs in the deployment of its IT solution. Customer needs should define many of the features in an IT solution.
Although IT solutions provide company benefits like reduced costs, they also add value for customers. Increased efficiency means that customers have shorter wait times for their needs to be addressed. Non-conflicting scheduling lets them know that a person will be ready for them at the appointed time. Automated information retrieval means that call center reps have all the information that they need to address customer needs immediately. With the explosion of software-as-a-service (SaaS), it’s easy to find a scalable and appropriate IT solution for every company’s needs.
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