Collaboration Articles

How Collaboration Apps Shape Each Customer Experience

by Hadley Jones
Published on 8 December 2014

Touchpoint_499x351How many touch points does your company have with its customers? From one end to the other of the customer life cycle, customer contacts include pre-sales and proposals, sales orders and contracts, shipping and Invoicing, service delivery and ongoing support. And if you're selling a service rather than a product, your interaction with your customers may even be 24/7. These are all opportunities to show your customers how smoothly your enterprise runs, with the left hand always knowing what the right hand is doing and vice versa.

Collaboration apps that keep teams aligned and productive can be a big help in sorting out all the behind-the-scenes activities, so that customers see the benefit without the hassle and keep on buying from you. But there's more. In today's super-connected world, enterprises are also looking for ways of leveraging the virtual proximity of the web to bring customers ever closer. Involving customers directly in enterprise projects and activities can give them the chance to steer product and service activities in ways that directly meet their needs.

We've taken a selection of software offering different collaboration possibilities to enhance the customer experience: Clarizen, Confluence from Atlassian, Mavenlink, ProWorkflow and Wrike. Let's take a short trip through the touch points listed above and see how these apps can improve a customer's experience with your company through collaboration.

Pre-Sales and Proposal Stage

Whatever you're selling, you need to know that it meets customers' needs and that it's available for them. Sales people in customer meetings need up to date information on inventory for products and resources for services. As a company grows, service provision in particular can become more complex. ProWorkflow relates the case of a digital-services firm using its app on Smartphones for instant collaboration between account managers at customer offices and the rest of the firm for better business, profitability and resource planning.

For boosting the quality of the customer experience from the start like this, look for the following types of functionality in your collaboration app:

  • Web based for remote company management
  • Directory for finding the right company contact at the right time
  • Messaging and file sharing
  • Mobile (smartphone) versions of the application

Sales Order handling

Now that your customer is convinced of your merits as a supplier, you should get the order! Your internal resources need to be marshalled and synchronized so that the order can be fulfilled according to your customer's expectations. Clarizen offers combined collaboration and 'social project management' app to suit business and technical employees alike. In particular, it offers integration with Salesforce, the most popular cloud application for customer relationship management. When the order is logged in Salesforce, collaboration for fulfillment is triggered in Clarizen.

For internal coordination while still remembering to send those important confirmations of order reception and preparation back for a great customer experience, useful features in a collaboration app include:

  • Integration with CRM or sales management apps
  • Task Management
  • Personal Calendars
  • Collaborative Planning

Shipping and Invoicing

The bigger the order, the more moving parts there are to keep well-oiled and operational. Collaboration and project management are often required in equal doses. In addition, cross-order and inter-project collaboration is also a must to make sure that all customers get their deliverables on time every time. Mavenlink is often chosen by companies that need to manage a complex collection of project, clients and contractors, with wrap-around collaboration and communication.

Shipping and invoicing may be the shortest parts of the whole customer life cycle, but they are crucially important for customer satisfaction and company cash flow. For these and other collaboration needs between employees in a dynamic environment, the following functionality helps:

  • Team collaboration
  • Inter-project task management
  • Project status and work in progress summary reports
  • Integration with invoicing applications

Service Delivery

Wrike's customer Appulate, an insurance technology and portal solution provider, uses Wrike to react fast to customer needs and boost ongoing business performance. Company managers have a global view of the internal processes of the company. Email can be used as the basis of collaboration: Wrike lets users create tasks and project events directly from email exchanges. Learning curves are kept low and collaboration can be quickly improved for managers, teams and employees alike to keep the customer experience on a high.

Collaboration features like these can be a good foundation for continuously streamlined company processes:

  • Real-time activity stream
  • Task-related discussions
  • Email-to-task syncing
  • Workload view and scheduling

Support

As sales, marketing, development, production and accounting all work together to get customer orders right the first time, questions and problems may well arise. Being able to turn to the right resource for answers and help is critical for any project if the quality of the customer experience is to be ensured. Collaboration apps for support can empower this kind of communication and provide or link to helpdesk systems for speedy problem resolution. Confluence from Atlassian is a collaboration app that also suits this kind of usage. Relevant functionality includes:

  • Knowledge Base
  • Task Notifications
  • Integration with helpdesk apps
  • Activity and status dashboards

The Move to Project Workspaces

How about getting the end-customer directly involved as well? The cloud-based model offered by many collaboration apps allows companies to open up the collaboration space to external users including their own customers. With appropriate security and login privileges, customers and their suppliers can:

  • Collaborate in online project workspaces
  • Share information and documents in those workspaces
  • Track project activities and deliveries

The collaboration/project management apps listed above offer different ways of achieving this.

  • Clarizen extends its social collaboration approach to let internal and external users link conversations to tasks, milestones, and deadlines.
  • Confluence allows clients, contractors, or remote workers to log in with pre-defined credentials or as anonymous users.
  • Mavenlink also includes possibilities for client payment in online workspaces
  • ProWorkflow makes access possible for clients, freelancers, and contractors, and allows users to rebrand its logo for a further customer experience advantage
  • Wrike has an internal folder organization that makes it simple to extend access to external users with appropriate security on external users' views of internal contacts and file permissions.

Next Steps

If software can significantly improve the customer experience for your company with good return on the cost of use, it makes sense to investigate further with a trial version of a collaboration app. Find out what it can do for you and your customers today!


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