This week, analyst house Forrester Research published a fantastic report entitled: “How Collaboration Tools Improves Customer Experience”, which highlighted the increasing number of information workers that frequently work with external teams. Now, the fact that teams have to work with people beyond just the colleagues sitting next to them or different departments within their own organization is hardly surprising. However, it’s the scale of intercompany collaboration highlighted by Forrester and the impact this has on overall customer experience that’s interesting.

The analyst house surveyed 4,827 North American and European information workers, which Forrester Research defines as those who use a computer for at least one hour a day. Of those questioned, 57% stated that they regularly communicate or collaborate with customers, colleagues or partners, and only 12% work exclusively with their colleagues. With such a large proportion of people sharing information across the firewall, there are numerous pitfalls and one of the key challenges for organizations today is making sure information flows securely and seamlessly between all parties involved in a project.

Take for example email. We all now it’s a great communication tool, but it can prove to be a nightmare, especially compared to some collaboration tools. In the words of our customer Martin Alexander, Director of Information Services at South Tyneside NHS Trust:

“Email is a poor alternative to collaboration tools when it comes to file management and the biggest problems are version control and security. When you send an email attachment to 20 people, you end up with 20 different versions of the same file stored locally on people’s devices.”

Add FTP, USB drives, intranets, extranets, and personal file sync and share tools – such as Dropbox – to the list of poor alternatives to collaboration tools which act as ways people can share information within and across the firewall and you have fragments of corporate information all over the place. Such fragmentation of data not only results in widespread frustration and confusion for teams, but the wrong information getting into the wrong hands, duplication of effort and ultimately poor customer experience.

And customer experience is at the centre of this report. Although I’m sure many organizations would say customer experience sits at the heart of their business, I wonder how many consider the impact that poor information flow across their enterprise ecosystem has on their customers. It’s all too easy to get frustrated about the amount of time it takes for colleagues to approve or provide feedback on a document. Similarly, how much time have you wasted sifting through your inbox trying to collate comments from everyone and create an up-to-date document? And we all know how frustrating it is when you create a piece of content that one of your colleagues has already spent a significant amount of time doing, but you just didn’t know it existed. These are daily annoyances for office workers worldwide, but the ultimate ripple effect on customer experience is rarely considered.

By throwing the spotlight on the impact poor collaboration tools have on customer experience – and not just office workers – Forrester presents another set of benchmarks against which businesses can measure the success of their collaboration tools. Similar to way in which many CMOs and CIOs now have to work closely together when it comes to deploying and demonstrating the success of innovative technologies, customer experience (CX) professionals must now do the same. CIOs have to constantly prove the value of new technologies they deploy and now CX professionals can work with them to “embed these tools at specific points in the customer journey, specify who can access information, and build success metrics.

The report is an invaluable read and, as seamless and secure external collaboration tools become increasingly important, now is the right time to consider how poor communication and coordination across your business will impact your clients.

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