3 Things You Probably Never Knew About Custom Software and How it Increases the Customer Experience

Jan 11, 2020 by Matt Dixon

We are surrounded by software. Software runs our phones, vehicles, televisions, smart thermostats, and even our water heaters.

The software we are talking about is custom software with a very specific purpose. We will discuss three things you probably didn't know about custom software and how it increases the customer experience.

1. Custom software can integrate with existing systems providing more streamlined processes

Much of the employees' work is spent in various systems throughout each workday. Most of those systems are isolated, requiring the employee to do the same thing in each system. One system for CRM (Customer Relationship Management), another system for billing, a third for business processing, and so forth. So many systems, so many steps, so much to remember, so many places where mistakes can happen. 

Enter a custom solution where one system interacts with all the others. This type of solution takes planning, but in the end, it works out to be a massive time saver.

One of our clients had this scenario. Multiple systems that did not know the other ones existed and were not in communication with each other. This was a large undertaking to get these systems in sync and keep them that way. Consolidating all systems into one was not an option. Our solution was to build a new system that would synchronize all the systems. Each system had its purpose, and our goal was to let each system do its job, and maintain consistency for all the data in each system.  While it may sound counter-intuitive to solve the problem of too many systems by adding yet another piece to the puzzle, it was the best solution for our client. Clients always come first.

Adding this system greatly increased the customer experience by providing accurate data to each system. All data was up to do date in near real-time. The system of record for customer data was housed in the CRM. The system of record for business process data was in a legacy proprietary application. Each system required data from the other, but only modified data for which it was the system of record. When a customer called the call center, the customer service representative always had the correct data at their fingertips. Less wait for the customer, less hassle for the employee, less wasted time for the business. The ROI for this project was readily apparent.

2. Custom back-office applications can increase employee efficiency

Back office applications are the life-blood of any business. These applications make employees' lives easier and help the business run more effectively and efficiently. Some businesses can use a commercial off the shelf product for all their business needs. Most businesses find that these solutions with a "one-size-fits-all" approach will not work for them. 

Custom software works exactly how it was envisioned. No extra bloatware to bog things down. It can be lean, efficient, and do exactly what you need. While the initial investment is greater than an off the shelf product, the ROI is typically calculated over one or two years of using the new system. The employee efficiency is increased so dramatically that it pays for itself that quickly.

For our client in the previous section, we also developed a custom back-office application that replaced an aging decades-old application. Keeping the existing system in place was no longer viable due to the high maintenance costs and the sheer age of the system. Developers with this particular skill set were all but impossible to find. With the new system, we worked hard to get it right for our client. Much time was spent sitting with employees from the different departments to see how they did their work on a day to day basis. The system took some time to build due to its complexity, but when it was complete it greatly decreased the time employees spent on each task.

The benefit for the customer was apparent. Employees could process more transactions in a given day, customers were emailed the status of each step automatically, and employees could focus more on delivering a tremendous customer experience instead of worrying about remembering all the manual steps in the process.

3. Customer-facing applications can have the customer experience built-in from the start

A customer-facing application can be a mobile app, website, or a desktop application used by your customer. There are many reasons for developing this type of application. Most customer-facing applications fill very specific needs. Most of the time these applications help the users do things for themselves.

A great example of this type of application is a member portal. We have developed self-service portals for our clients' customers on numerous occasions. The main goal of these applications is to greatly reduce the time employees spend on menial customer-centric tasks. Customer interaction that adds value to the customer is where most organizations want their employees to spend their time. Think about your business processes, and what customers have to either call in or mail a piece of paper in to do something. Yes, this still happens quite a lot. 

Some of these tasks are around the membership renewal process, and other tasks focus on payments. These were the two main objectives for one particular application. In the past, the member would print out a renewal form, fill it out, and mail in a check or (gasp) put their credit card information on the form, then mail it in. From there, an employee would verify the information on the form, and validate against their business rules, then verify the payment amount, and process the payment. If someone forgot one of the business rules, the renewal application could be erroneously approved and submitted. There were so many things employees had to remember, and they did a great job, but we wanted to make their life easier. This new system contained all the business rules around renewals and payment processing. We made it easier for both sides in the renewal process. The employees had their workload greatly reduced, allowing them to do more each day. The members could renew their membership much easier, from any device (computer, tablet, smartphone), and have a much more secure way to pay their membership fees. Accuracy was increased, and payments went directly into the accounting system.

This system was developed from the ground up with the customer experience (CX) in mind. Every aspect of the system focused on the customer. Using responsive design, this web application would work on any type of device. We designed it to be lightweight to account for mobile networks since these customers were almost always on the go. Being able to pay for renewal fees and fines from a mobile device was a great win for the customer, and would allow them to enter in the next event.

Summary

Most businesses have some level of custom software in place to streamline the business processing. From something as simple as Excel Macros to something as large as a multi-site enterprise-level system, custom software is at the core of every business.

This translates into a win for the customer. Your customers will thank you for making their lives easier. Listen to them, and they will tell you what they want.

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