Businesses are transforming faster than ever before, embracing different, more effective ways to capture, manage, share and use information. Our challenge, in the wake of such extraordinary change, is to build and deliver solutions that make customer processes more efficient and lay the groundwork for their success. To do that, we need to get to know our customers better.
Investing in the customer experience starts with connection – prioritizing the intimate business conversations that address the unique goals and reveal the customer-specific challenges that enable us to deliver a highly personalized solution. It’s only through these conversations that we learn what is top of mind for our customers, identify market trends, and cultivate trust in our relationships.
Through these conversations, dealers can evolve their role from being a trusted print provider to being a consultative information management partner as they help customers embrace digitization to lay the groundwork for success. Granted, not all dealers are trusted information management advisors yet – but they can be. And that’s where the opportunity and the excitement lie.
Here are some of the topics we’re talking about with our customers this year.
Acceptance of anytime, anywhere work
Remote and hybrid workplaces are not just on the rise; they’re here to stay. In fact, in many cases, job seekers are demanding the ability to work remotely or in a hybrid environment, applying to jobs solely at companies that offer the flexibility and technology to do so. Organizations need solutions that keep employees productive—and business data secured—in any place, at any time, from any device.
As the attitude toward the physical workspace evolves, it is critical to ensure that remote access in all its forms continues so employees can communicate and collaborate with team members productively. Business continuity, information management and recoverability are therefore key to the success of any operation. Today, it is extremely important to maintain access to data in multiple ways for all employees should there be an issue — from natural disaster to cyberattack.
The management of information, be it print or digital, is an undoubtedly crucial factor in business success, no matter the location. As remote and hybrid workplaces evolve, information is traveling faster and further than ever before, requiring secure and accurate ways to simplify information management efforts.
With this more accepting — even embracing — attitude about anytime, anywhere work comes increased appreciation for workflow automation management. Take direct mail for example. It’s common for remote and hybrid employees to receive invoices and other important mail at an on-premises business location. With minimal human involvement, workflow automation solutions can scan, input, copy, and pay the invoice balance — all virtually between the mailroom and home office. These types of solutions are critical to ensuring that AP and AR processes aren’t disrupted by remote or hybrid work schedules.
A rise in nontraditional focus areas
The number one reason employees stay with an organization is the people. Technologies that enable collaboration and connection among employees while minimizing isolation are absolutely critical. Supporting this human connection is the key to employee retention, and in the era of work from anywhere, it opens a whole new slew of challenges and opportunities for HR management.
The changing dynamics of the physical workplace also impact recruitment and retention, as companies vie to attract, hire and onboard top talent successfully, not to mention collect, manage and share sensitive employee information securely. And, as the way we work changes, HR management is also tasked with offering smart and agile workspaces with advanced digital technologies that support the well-being of onsite employees and visitors.
Another emerging focus area worthy of exploration is supporting the rapidly changing regulations our customers face today. For example, when the vaccine testing mandates were announced in 2021, cloud document management and workflow automation software were leveraged to develop a workflow offering to directly address this urgent customer need. Being poised to embrace these types of unexpected opportunities is imperative.
Amplified focus on security
Effective data management is the key to a successful workflow. If information is managed effectively upstream, downstream results are more likely to be successful. The most successful workflows are uniquely designed for the outcome they are built to support. If the large quantity of data going in isn’t organized effectively, every downstream activity or action may experience errors, delays or potential non-compliance.
These are risks organizations cannot afford given today’s rigorous security and compliance standards. Each customer has specific and nuanced security and compliance needs, and they look to their technology partners for the structured, customized solutions built to support those needs.
This presents an ideal opportunity for dealers to reach out and connect with customers about their right now needs — meaning, those challenges or issues that may not have been a vital part of their discourse even as little as a year ago but have now come to the forefront and require attention today.
In assessing IT security, it’s important to review security around the device and workflow, as well as traditional IT (e.g., access and collaboration tools). In instances where a smaller business doesn’t have a dedicated IT resource, the technology provider becomes that critical asset. And, depending on how robust your operation is, you may consider evaluating the device, workflow and traditional IT as part of a larger health assessment to identify vulnerabilities and opportunities to strengthen your customers’ security, overall.
Racing to digitize the file cabinets
In today’s 24×7 virtual workplace, many businesses look to their technology provider to help them migrate to the cloud. Common questions we hear from customers include: Who should I partner with? How do I move to the cloud? Should I take a phased approach? How do I manage the information once it’s electronic? Who needs access to it? And on and on.
These questions, though specific to the cloud, point directly back to the rise in nontraditional focus areas already discussed. After all, HR management must include strict attention to information access as employees come and go with the company. Otherwise, the organization risks jeopardizing the integrity of its customer data or the business as a whole. And, in terms of IT security, hackers often look to smaller businesses to gain access points to larger companies’ confidential data, making information security in the cloud of the utmost importance to protect not only yourself, but your partners, as well.
As you become a trusted information management partner, now is a great time to offer to help with your customers’ cloud migration or, if they’ve already migrated to the cloud, to work together to evaluate their cloud strategy to identify vulnerabilities and opportunities for improvement.
Heightened regard for remote resiliency
It’s likely no surprise that remote resiliency is also becoming increasingly and critically important as more people work remotely or navigate a hybrid workplace. Remote resiliency is the ability for remote activity to continue regardless of disasters, extended service disruptions or other incidents that threaten to disrupt normal business operations.
An unforeseen disaster can drastically impact business continuity. Unfortunate and often unexpected events — including system failures, disruptive maintenance, and cyberattacks, as well natural catastrophes, terrorism, health crises and human error — can lead to extended and costly downtime or even complete shutdown.
As disaster recovery operations shift to the cloud and organizations focus on ensuring their cloud investments will stand up in a disaster, dealers are uniquely positioned to offer guidance and support to our customers in this key area. And, by helping our customers leverage cloud technology for disaster recovery operations, they will benefit from superior flexibility and specificity to cost-effectively recover even the smallest components of an operating architecture.
Urgency to automate
Organizations will continue to leverage and adopt technology to expedite digital transformation initiatives that help them prepare the future. An important part of this change is ensuring that business processes are automated and brought online in digital format as much as possible.
This automation is also critical to expediting and navigating a recovery methodology that makes disaster recovery planning and solution resiliency as effective as possible.
Today, we’re seeing increased adjacencies around traditional hardware, especially as the need to collaborate and share information among employees increases. All of the information and resources that used to exist in traditional hard copy format must be put into workflows that are customized for the organization using them so that customers can deliver the best possible experience to their end user.
We’re in this together
If there is one thing we’ve learned in recent years, it’s that agility is everything. In today’s business climate, we have to think quickly, help each other, and pivot when necessary. Understanding the nuances and needs of each individual customer is only gleaned through conversations and connections with each individual customer. And, if you can’t offer everything they need, partner up so you can continue to be the provider they turn to time and again.
Remember, you don’t have to be an expert at everything. For example, if the cloud isn’t your area of expertise, solicit help from a partner. Take advantage of their experience, whether you simply need a little guidance in a particular area or larger support with tools, resources or technology.
Through it all, keep the lines of communication with your customers open, honest and fully transparent. Personal connection with the customers you support and investment in their journey is the starting place to delivering true value.
Jennifer Healy, Ricoh USA
Jennifer Healy is Director, Marketing & Campaign Strategy, Ricoh USA,