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Nothing is free. And nothing happens by tomorrow. At least, that’s the mantra business owners have chanted to themselves for centuries.
Business is driven by value, and value is something that takes time to build...and it should be paid for accordingly. Unfortunately, those simple truths are often turned into excuses for excessive fees, slow deliveries, and other disappointments. For the most part, consumers have continued to put up with these issues.
Today’s businesses do not exist in that world anymore. Logistics giants like Amazon have leveraged everything from local warehouses to massive economies of scale to reset expectations. Other businesses are now feeling the impact of Amazon’s service: Customers have become accustomed to low prices, free shipping, next day delivery, and a host of other logistics miracles.
Fortunately, there is a powerful tool that businesses--even those much smaller than Amazon--can use to keep up with these growing consumer expectations: Real time data. By controlling how data is collected and “pushed” to the appropriate users, smart systems can achieve efficiencies without radically altering operations (no open-heart surgery, so to speak) or necessitating huge labor and technology costs.
How does having data in real time affect customer service? When a product is ordered, you need to have it in stock and ready to process. If it is not in stock, or the item is damaged or otherwise unavailable, you risk getting into a backorder situation. With so many merchant options just a click away, customers are all too willing to cancel their orders and go with a different vendor if their purchases cannot be delivered on time.
For example, take a customer who orders a lighting fixture for a newly renovated bathroom. The customer needs the product within a certain time frame so it is ready to install when the electrician is available. Imagine what would happen when, the day the fixture is scheduled to be delivered, the customer gets an email saying that the item is backordered. Or worse, that it has been recalled. The customer is now stuck paying the electrician for a visit, but does not have the product ordered—or any idea when it will be available.
In this situation, there are many points in the process at which having accurate data could have prevented this from happening. For example:
At each step of the order process, having real time data anticipates problems and allows open and honest communication with the customer. The end result is a seamless experience for the customer, who is constantly updated with relevant purchase information.
From this example, we can extract five tips for using real time data to enhance the customer experience in your organization:
Of course, customer service is just one area of commerce that is improved by having real time data. In our next two posts, we will expand on the need for real time data by looking at other areas ripe for improvement: Labor management and product delivery.
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