Though solving everyday office challenges are a goal across most departments and companies, the ways that inefficient processes and technologies impact them vary widely. Recently, the AppExchange launched The Exchange, a new quarterly magazine, focusing on learning from Trailblazers to inspire collaboration and innovation. In a nutshell, the magazine brings the Salesforce community even closer together than we already are.
Andrew Gothelf, Senior Manager of AppExchange Marketing, wrote one of my favorite pieces of the magazine. About halfway through the magazine, you’ll find a story called, “How Apps Can Streamline Your Work.” In this piece, Andrew interviewed executives from AppExchange partners, including Conga, JustOn, and Vonage, to understand common pain points experienced by businesses, and the technology that could address these challenges.
Interesting fact: What customers often experience as pain points in their organizations, are the same challenges that these partners face in their own companies. Read on to see if you relate to these as well, and if you feel these experts provide helpful technology-focused solutions (in other words, help you safely exit the struggle bus).
Marko Fliege is the Founder and CEO of JustOn. He cites complexity as a major issue for many customers. “Our customers have software subscriptions to sell, professional services to invoice, and hardware to sell. Building an invoice from one system is hard for them if that system only deals with subscriptions or professional services.”
The partner experts recommend addressing this challenge by keeping it simple with clear key performance indicators (that’s KIS for KPIs, got it?). To start, according to these partner experts, track KPIs that get to the core of problems stemming from inefficiency, which in turn can provide a roadmap for improvement and a tangible goal to measure success.
Bryan Stokes, Senior Director of Product Management at Vonage, recommends tracking these KPIs. “All of these [KPIs] can boil down to increased revenue and improved profitability:”
Productivity gains from the efficient use of Salesforce
Improved customer satisfaction scores across teams based on their access to technology
Average call time per customer measured against time-to-close rates
Number of calls handled per day
At Conga, Will Spendlove, VP of Product Marketing, asks questions that cut to core metrics. In this example, let’s say you sell unicorn hugs:
How many people today are embracing unicorn hugs?
How long does it take for you to receive a unicorn hug?
How much time does it take to work with unicorns now compared to the time you could save with your company’s unicorns?
In full disclosure: Spendlove did not cite unicorn hugs in his example; however, I’m sure he would be fine with it, because, who doesn’t love unicorn hugs?
Back to Spendlove, the Conga VP cited lack of automation as a common pain point. “Oftentimes when someone sends a customer a contract, they traditionally create it in Word and then turn it into a PDF, or pull it out of Salesforce into some other format. This takes up a lot of time and additional overhead.”
Can AI help with this office challenge? The relationship of artificial intelligence to the workplace is a much-discussed topic. Does it bring a beneficial, automated experience to the workplace, or will robots replace workers, thereby making many jobs obsolete? Andrew asked our AppExchange partners, and all were optimistic.
For instance, Stokes mentioned the rise of the chatbot as an AI technology with large potential as it evolves. “Humans like to interact with other humans. Except we’re finding that AI is fueling the rise of human-like virtual assistants and chatbots that use natural language to understand nuance and context to build upon the traditional agent-to-customer experience.” This automates many sales and service processes, giving time back to employees and enabling them to focus on bigger tasks.
“It will make us more efficient and give us more free time…society has to find answers and discuss these things — like how do we work together, or how do we hold our society together when we all have more time?” says Fliege of JustOn.
Bryan Stokes at Vonage feels that customers want to enhance productivity for their employees, and boost how businesses communicate. “Many businesses face challenges in tracking and controlling losses in productivity. This stems from inefficient communication, the absence of integrated collaboration tools, and the inability to share data across all customer and employee touch points,” he said.
Andrew noted an interesting misconception at this point in the article. “Going into these interviews, [I expected that efficiency] was an end goal for businesses. I learned instead that efficiency is just one piece of the puzzle that ultimately leads to increased productivity and revenue.” Therefore, how businesses choose to leverage efficiency helps determine the benefit.
To explain further, Stokes pointed to the automated collection of call data. “Automatically opening a new or existing ticket creates efficiency. This could be used to reduce the time a customer agent spends on the phone with a customer, or it could be spent up-selling different products. All of these take advantage of the improved efficiency, but each delivers a different benefit in the end.”
Fliege summed up one of the prevailing ideas around the benefits of increased efficiency in the workplace. “Efficiency can increase productivity. If you use this time to do more work in the same amount of time, it increases productivity. But if you use the gained time to look up your Facebook account, it's obviously not productive.”
An inspiring takeaway from this article is the AppExchange partners’ constant drive to innovate. They do this in an effort to improve workplace efficiency, and the lives of employees across departments and industries. Perhaps much like the wheel created by the Mesopotamians over 5,000 years ago, the printing press, or, as a more recent example, AI and self-driving cars, there’s an opportunity to be at the forefront of innovation that not only tinkers with the world around us, but also changes it. Get your paws on The Exchange today (that’s an Appy pun).