When I think about what Smarter Commerce can mean to a customer, I think of all the reasons I love shopping on Main Street. I don’t do a lot of shopping in person, but when I do, I have pretty high expectations. The places I go to – and return to – all share some common characteristics:
- They know me. I can tell because when I walk in the door, someone smiles at me like a friend!
- They remember me. At my café, I don’t need to ask each time for skim milk in my coffee.
- They take care of me. When I have a question about my bill, they look over my shoulder at it and we go line-by-line to sort out the issue.
These days most of my shopping is actually done online. It’s a very different experience from shopping in a store. When I go into an online shop nobody smiles at me. They rarely remember much about me. And when I have a question about the bill… ouch! The out-of-touch call center can’t really take care of me and rarely can even look at the same bill I’m looking at. There is very little that is “smart” about this commerce.
Sure, eCommerce has changed the way I shop and my expectations on the speed of transactions, but I still miss the human touch from the era of Main Street shopping. It’s harder than ever to satisfy me as a consumer, because now I want the best of eCommerce married to the best of Main Street. I want truly smarter commerce!
- To get instant – and accurate – feedback on my transactions based on my input
- To have a personalized experience where “the system” knows me and remembers my preferences, “anticipating” my next move
- And when I speak to someone on the phone – I really expect them to take care of me as a valuable customer!
Organizations are full of systems that don’t speak to each other
To meet these high expectations requires a concerted (some may say monumental) effort to break down the barriers between systems. If I’m calling Customer Service, I don’t want to explain what products I have purchased from the company. If I am disputing a charge on a bill that I have in my hand, I expect the person on the other end of the phone to be able to see exactly the same bill I am looking at.
Being able to meet my Main Street expectations in the eCommerce world is where smarter commerce started at IBM twenty years ago, long before the term “Smarter Commerce” was coined. A product now called Content Manager On Demand (CMOD) made it easy to efficiently store images of bills being printed before they were sent to customers. So when I call the company to sort out a billing issue, the customer service rep can easily pull up my bill and see exactly what I am seeing. That’s a good place to start to deliver excellent customer service.
ECM bridges the gap between siloed systems
ECM is good at this because it represents a set of technologies that often are used to span otherwise rigidly siloed systems within an organization. Document imaging often does exactly that – making documents that originate in one area of the business, say orders, available in other areas, such as Customer Service. This is important when customer service wants to see, for example, a customer’s original purchase order.
Case Management – another ECM technology – is great at managing customer interactions in Support or Customer Service. It excels because it avoids using rigid process management. Instead, case management offers the ability to deal with the ‘randomness’ of customers who don’t always fit into pre-defined patterns of interaction. Turns out that when your customers are people they tend to behave like people!! And people don’t tend to follow pre-defined patterns of interaction.
Paper documents continue to challenge organizations that have otherwise committed to electronic commerce. They have paper order forms that won’t go away and paper invoices. Document capture technologies – like OCR and ICR – turn paper into an electronic, “p2e,” compliment to eCommerce. And these ECM staples are at their best when they dovetail with an organization’s existing electronic systems.
ECM: Turning eCommerce into Smarter Commerce
Commerce gets smarter, a step at a time, by using technologies that help hide “systems” and instead present a personal face to our customers, our suppliers, and even our employees. I see IBM ECM as a good place to start transforming your eCommerce into something as pleasurable as Main Street shopping – that’s when commerce really gets smarter!