“Business outcomes” is a term often heard in the promotion of service-based technologies. But what does it mean when vendors offer solutions that help you to achieve outcomes and how does the wider business and the customer benefit?
What are they?
Business outcomes are, in essence, the goals set by a company to measure the success or achievement of an internal or external process. These goals can also be labelled “desired outcomes” and are a useful way of helping staff to focus on achieving customer success.
What they are not
Outcomes are not ambiguous or too simplistic, such as “make more money”. Neither are they specific objectives that use numerical targets. For example, stating that you want to grow revenue by £80K in quarter one is not a business outcome, it is a target that is rigid and open to failure. This rigidity does not enable companies to adapt a process to achieve a desired outcome. Seeing outcomes as targets is fine, as long as they are flexible.
A tough market makes achieving outcomes harder
Falling revenue is something that is currently affecting many businesses, including retail organisations, construction firms and professional service suppliers. And when revenue falls, outside investment from private equity firms and venture capitalists becomes even harder to secure, meaning growth opportunities that will help boost income are not possible.
Alongside falling revenue, the cost of sales is increasing. For companies that sell services this is partly down to bid-to-win ratios falling. For other industries, rising costs of materials, coupled with a demand for lower prices, has led to profit margins being squeezed.
Does IT have the answer?
Falling revenues and increased costs mean that it can be hard for many organisations to justify buying new technology. This may, in part, be because those who make decisions about purchasing new technology such as CRM are no longer necessarily the CTOs. A survey by business consultancy firm Bain & Company found that the digitisation of information, content and processes was transforming the technology buying process, with nearly one-third of technology purchasing power moving to executives outside of IT.
This change may have come about because businesses no longer look at technology as just a tool to help in the day-to-day running of the office. Instead, it has become a business driver that can have an enormous impact on decision making and direction within a business. Companies are no longer just purchasing technology but are moving towards buying value, which can be justified and then measured.
It is vital that those who have the purchasing power in the business consider the impact that the technology will have on the business and whether it will effect some real change.
Defining business outcomes
To solve these complex and shifting needs, technology must be able to meet some clearly defined demands. By defining the desired business outcomes that an organisation would like to achieve, it is possible to explain specifically how technology will help.
Organisations considering buying service software will often have more than just “improving customer experience” as their desired business outcome and their list will probably contain examples such as:
- Increase employee productivity by stopping the switching of tasks
- Increase market share through the identification of new sales channels
- Increase employee morale and solve employee attrition
- Acquire new customers and increase spend per customer
- Improve overall operational efficiency by automation of certain functions
- Increase customer engagement in digital channels.
Aligning desired outcomes with service delivery
With the needs of the organisation driving a change in how technology is being considered and procured, along with the need to deliver service to internal and external customers, partners and staff, how can organisations select and keep on top of the right technologies?
Delivering service to customers is no longer the only key focus. Delivering employee service and enabling staff to offer consistent service across all touchpoints and departments is king. This requires that the tools used have both increased functionality and greater flexibility. There is also a need for greater visibility of data and performance for senior and junior roles within the organisation.
Aligning service with your desired outcomes is, therefore, less about the tool itself and more about its ability to enable collaboration and achievement of these goals. The key for all organisations is not to have a laser focus on specifics, but to allow the outcomes to remain agile, flexible and malleable as a part of the whole digital transformation process.
Achieving service excellence – the ultimate business outcome?
It is perhaps no coincidence that the majority of desired outcomes will be achieved through the delivery of better service. This can be said for both those outcomes that relate to customers and also those that are focused on staff moral, performance and retention. CRM, ITSM and CX all play their part in achieving internal and external customer service excellence. The most important thing is to establish what you want to achieve and then to use any technology as a means to an end. Data and analytics from these tools can be interpreted and performance can be measured, before feeding back into the cycle of continuous improvement and adjustment of your outcome goals.