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The Technology Blizzard

Greater than 60,000 undergraduate students from over 400 universities nationwide choose Chicago as one of the top cities in which to work. Chicago has major employers and the city offers a variety of solid career choices. Chicago has a large and diversified economy which equates to 4.3 million employees and a GRP of over 480 billion. 400 corporations make their headquarters in Chicago including 28 fortune 500 companies. Chicago’s airport is a central hub, the city has 6 class one railroad systems, and 6 major interstates. Last month the over 250,000 businesses in Chicago came to a standstill with “The Blizzard of 2011” – or did they?

Well, it’s true that 2200 of the 2900 daily flight departures had been cancelled. It is also true that no company expected employees to report for work. However, for a lot of companies business was anything but at a standstill. Our support group took every support call and documented every instance in the Service Order System. Emails were flowing and sales were being made. Everything that was needed was available and communication between employees was strong. Yet, everyone was at their house.  The same process was taking place across the entire city. In my house alone there were three individuals working remotely. There was no panic and confusion. Work got done.

Businesses were able to function because today all of the technology is available and most companies are taking full advantage of it. However, things like this do not simply happen. First, the infrastructure has to be in place to do this. Whether or not you use “cloud computing” on a daily basis is not the issue. It’s how you use technology cloud or not. People can all be at the office on the same system yet information is still not shared and the situation worsens when all or some people are physically out of the office. It is as if everyone is stalled with a blizzard every day. Technology is only convenient when it contributes to the overall flow of communication throughout the company. This translates into better products and services for customers.

Everyone is familiar with the term “CRM” but what exactly is it? It translates to “Customer Relationship Management” but what does that mean in terms of a software solution? The true meaning of this is the coordination of all of the dialogue and actions of front and back office operations. To truly be using “CRM” the front and back office efforts must be merged into a single entity that also includes the customer. The customer participates with a customer portal whereas “clients” and “employees” can interface. The goal is to provide excellent service to the customer in order to address their needs.

How does this harmonious partnership between different entities happen? First, the operational framework must be defined. When software is implemented more than simple training needs to be addressed. Training usually involves how to use the various features of the software. It will not define how the software should be used within your organization. In order for software to be used effectively, users must be trained on the features but they also need guidance on how the system is to be used internally. This means that an operational handbook is necessary so that users can embrace the operational flow within the organization. Users need to be trained on how the system is to be used for the company.

First, management needs to “plan it out”. Organize thoughts on how the company needs to interconnect. What communication will best serve the customer and bring more revenue and cost reduction to the company? Then throw the customer into the communication mix. In staffing, that would be the client and the employees. That’s really what a software solution is about. A solution is only significant if it impacts how the company does business. That means that software needs to become an integral part of the organization if it is to be effective.

For example, notes entered by credit and collections could benefit the front office when making decisions on who to service. Servicing clients that do not pay is not going to add revenue to the company. So why not have the collection people input their notes into front office? Why not make customer invoices and account balances available to front office operations? If a customer has a question on an invoice or would like a copy emailed, that need could be satisfied quickly and easily by the front office group. This eliminates the need to send the customer back to accounting and add layers of complexity to a simple question.

An efficient software solution represents opportunities to serve customers better. This translates into more business as customers provide repeat business. Internally, actions and efforts are intertwined for a more solid organization. Getting data in for management of customer business exponentially adds more profitability and will champion business expansion.

For example, with the correct data and software, one can punch out a 500 piece mailing or email in a matter of minutes. What will that do for sales and marketing? Business owners and managers can retrieve information on all of the activities for the day with a press of a button. This power provides companies with the ability to make good business decisions and that leads to success. Without the numbers you are operating based upon presumptions. This is never good. Presumptions cause one to think people are doing a good job when they are not; that customers are happy when in fact they are defecting and that the business is profitable when in fact it is not.

There’s more like social media interaction, employee and customer portals and other tools in order to make the business more profitable. When a major city gets hit with a blizzard yet can effectively operate its businesses, there is something to be said about technology. But the flipside is that those businesses must be prepared and that starts with embracing the tools with or without a blizzard.

This article made an appearance in the March 2011 issue of staffdigest Magazine. www.staffdigest.com

Terri Roeslmeier is President of Automated Business Designs, Inc., software developer of Ultra-Staff software for the staffing and direct hire industry.  Ultra-Staff is a staffing software business solution with components for front office, back office and the web.  Terri’s email address is TAR@abd.net or for more information on Ultra-Staff go to www.abd.net

 

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