By: Christina Robbins, Director of Strategic Communications, Digitech Systems, LLC
It’s been about a year since the COVID-19 pandemic changed our work and home lives almost overnight, but the effects are likely to linger for years to come.
Managing your company’s business records can be a complex and time-consuming process. Whether managing contracts, paying bills, or tracking client and customer records, efficiency matters, especially for employees inundated with a wide variety of tasks.
When COVID-19 hit, managing these records became more complex than ever before with the need to move many employees to a remote work environment. The pandemic shifted your customers’ preferences and concerns, and your business needs to shift to remain relevant in the future.
The Pandemic Shifted How We Do Business
Though they argue over which changes will be temporary and which represent a fundamental shift for humanity, mental health experts virtually all agree that this pandemic will have far-reaching consequences. Psychologists warn that the emotional effects of the pandemic may linger for years to come, resulting in a general reluctance to engage in face-to-face encounters when digital options are available.
After months of masks, sanitizers, social distancing, and relative isolation, we now prefer to maintain some distance between ourselves and others whenever possible – especially when doing business. Between the pandemic, lifestyle habits and the ability for consumers to “shop” for almost anything online, there’s more pressure on businesses to provide customers with digital experiences.
What does a digital customer experience mean today? That definition has changed from a mere year and a half ago. Ask yourself the following questions to assess your readiness to switch to electronic processes and automation:
- Can your customers and vendors review contracts online?
- Do you still email documents back and forth or use online file sharing applications (i.e. Google Drive, Dropbox) to exchange sensitive financial information and contracts with stakeholders?
- Are you able to set up new clients quickly and without requiring a face-to-face meeting?
- Can your office staff find any document within seconds, rather than spending minutes or hours searching through filing cabinets?
- Can your customers securely complete forms online without requiring documents to be emailed back and forth?
- Are your clients able to sign documents digitally?
- Are you being automatically notified when a new document is received or a contract is completed?
Digitization and Automation Don’t Have to be Hard
You may have been scared away from digitization in the past because it seemed complex, tough to get started, or you worried about the need to engage multiple technology providers to build a digital business. If you’ve struggled to complete business tasks during the pandemic, you should know that the digital climate will continue.
Your business must shift in order to stay relevant in the years to come. Here are some guidelines and definitions to help you understand what technologies and features you need to create a digital experience for your customers.
You can’t automate paper documents
If you’re still managing business information in paper files and filing cabinets, you already know how tough it is to keep this information secure and to locate what you need when you need it. These records must be converted to digital formats in order to be securely protected, readily available, and to move through processes automatically. Look for: scanning/imaging applications that work with scanners or multi-function devices (MFDs) you already own. The best systems will categorize the documents by type and extract important data automatically, so you don’t waste time sorting or typing.
Secure, compliant storage is critical
Different types of documents have different security concerns and should be stored for different lengths of time. Work with an information management system, often called Enterprise Content Management (ECM), that lets you customize who can access information, maintains records in a structure you understand and feel comfortable with, and that helps you manage record retention timeframes automatically. These systems are available in the cloud or as on-premises software, so you can choose what best suits your business.
Finally, ensure the option you select allows you to create custom online forms (eforms) that maintain tight security but give your clients the flexibility of completing paperwork online rather than in your offices.
Integrated process automation streamlines everything
Many of these ECM systems include process automation, also called workflow, so it is easy to begin to move information automatically through your business processes. Workflow applications can be configured to ensure a file is complete or an action finished before moving on to the next step, to enable secure digital review and approval of documents, and to accept digital signatures to complete files.
Over the last year, we’ve become so comfortable with our remote work arrangements that experts predict more than 40 percent of the workforce will never return to fulltime on-site employment. In addition, the pandemic has permanently shifted customer demand toward a preference for digital interactions whenever possible.
A digital records system can give your clients or customers what they want while also giving your employees the resources they need to be more efficient. Converting to a digital business doesn’t have to be complex or hard if you have the right plan in place. Best of all, you’ll grow your customer base and revenues along the way.
**Christina Robbins is Director of Strategic Communications at Digitech Systems LLC with more than 20 years of information management marketing leadership experience. Digitech Systems enables businesses to effectively and securely manage, retrieve, and store information using either PaperVision Enterprise content management (ECM) software, or the world’s most trusted cloud-based ECM service, ImageSilo