Sunday, 30 October 2011

Part 1: How has enterprise software evolved to manage complex customer service environments? (ie, phone, telepresence, social media etc)

One of the biggest challenges Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems face today is keeping up-to-date with the multitude of communication channels used by consumers.  Social media is especially topical at present as businesses rush to utilise the mediums word-of-mouth capabilities.

Over 10 years ago, Business to Business (B2B) deals began to dominate the world of ERPs.  During this phase it became apparent B2B transfer between different ERPs would become the typical model.  Efficiency and cost saving was the name of the game and multiple stakeholders got involved and created ERP software allowing this to happen.  

As the use of the internet became more widespread, a more direct Business to Consumer  (B2C) approach became the norm in ERP’s.  As consumers started doing their banking, ordering groceries and purchasing services online, the need to integrate these elements into an ERP system became important.  The ability to manage the flow of products, deliveries and billing – direct from the consumer – caused a secondary shift.

Today, a new change is occurring.  Over the past four years, the use of social media as a communication tool for business has grown exponentially.   Which - you guessed it - has created a new avenue for ERPs to discover and explore.   

Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and others are specialised, targeted communication mediums which are a direct, visible channel to speak with consumers.   

Consumers currently have the ability to interact with ERP systems.   However, social media provides a greater level of interaction.  ERP systems will need to integrate social media into their framework to continue to be competitive.

Integration can come in the form of:

  • Data collected from consumers through their social media accounts
  • Data going out to consumers through our social media accounts
  • The level at which social media will be utilised within the ERP system  

In simple terms, social media is bringing interaction with the consumer to all parts of the decision making process and at a much faster rate than previously seen.

Consumers want results now.  They expect a company will answer their questions/concerns in the next 24 minutes, not 24 hours. 

Products will be evaluated and reviewed in hours instead of days or weeks.
If a product does not deliver, disgruntled customers can quickly and easily let their negative word of mouth spread.  This is where companies need to be on the ball, effective management of unhappy customers can actually build a better relationship than if nothing bad had happened at all.

An example of ERP integration could be as follows.  A consumer inquires about a product on a social media site.  This could be picked up by the ERP as a potential request/work order/purchase order etc.  A company representative then jumps on and responds to the inquiry, which in turn is viewed by other potential consumers.  And before you know it the effect of social media multiplies the simple management through the ERP system.

This is the next generation ERP system, it is a system that can track and monitor consumer enquiries, raise work and purchase orders, give feedback and join conversations.  It is a system that has evolved to meet consumers’ needs in the past, and will continue to do so in the future.

As you can see, the changes to ERPs will be significant, the use of the ERP is now going to utilise a two way street of input and interaction, directly with the end user. 

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