An ERP solution is often considered to be something that benefits internal operations exclusively. This is true to an extent -- it gives you the comprehensive insight you need to plan production and delivery, for example, and it is deployed internally, with no customer access whatsoever. But is it right to say that an ERP can only benefit you and your personnel?
No, not by a long shot. In last month's post on RESTful (REST) APIs and their relationship with your ERP platform, we touched on how application programming interfaces expand the capability of your ERP. With these APIs in place, you can provide direct and indirect benefits to your customers, enhancing the experience they receive from your business and positioning your company ahead of your competitors.
Let's take a look at the nuts and bolts of how this is done, examining three external data sources you should connect to your ERP via API technology.
Customer transactions are the lifeblood of any business, providing the revenue stream that organisations need to grow and develop. In today's digital environment, most of these transactions are taking place online, which makes payment services a key part of your digital infrastructure.
The trouble is, these payment services are likely to be offered by third-party providers. You simply send your customer an invoice, provide them with the link to a payment gateway, such as BPay, and ask them to complete the transaction that way. However, this can be problematic in some instances. You are adding unnecessary links to the chain and increasing the complexity of the task at the customer's end.
With an API, you can achieve a secure, encrypted connection between your systems and your payment provider. You do not need to send your customers elsewhere to complete a payment, and you can provide instant confirmation once the transaction is complete. Data integration also makes it far simpler and more straightforward to resolve transaction issues should they arise.
This is what API connectivity is all about -- leveraging a simple building block to form connections between internal and external systems, achieving sophisticated results for you and your customers without adding extra complexity to the process.
Courier Service Providers
Sending products to your customers is something else that will almost always involve engaging the services of a third-party provider, and in this case, a courier. This means releasing the product into the hands of the courier for delivery and providing customer delivery and contact information to make this happen. The information can be submitted directly via the API, saving time and effort for you and your team.
Your business prides itself on the communication it offers to its customers. However, when you release a product to a courier, there is a potential breakdown in communication -- you don't necessarily have tracking information and other details to hand. So you may not be able to provide the customer with the insight they need when they need it.
Except, with an API in place, you do have access to this information. The API draws upon data from the courier's systems -- those of Australia Post, for instance -- and then relays this directly to the ERP in real-time. This, in turn, gives you the capability you need to provide tracking information to the customer -- either directly when the customer contacts you for an update or via a hosting service on your website, accessible via a customer log-in.
This is a great opportunity to add value to what you offer to customers. Customers are understandably a little sceptical about businesses with whom they have not yet formed a relationship. If a business is taking cash for a transaction, releasing a parcel to the courier, and then asking the customer to go and deal with the courier company themselves in the event of an issue, this does not help to ease the feeling of scepticism.
If instead, your business is providing delivery information and related support up-front, you are adding serious value to the transaction and demonstrating your commitment to a great experience. This is key to building a business that is ready to compete in the market.
Email marketing is a huge asset when it comes to connecting with customers and selling your products and services. With an API, you can make email marketing much easier for your teams by connecting your ERP platform to a provider's systems, such as MailChimp. This way, you do not need to input email information manually and can just export your lead data directly to the eMarketing solution.
This is undoubtedly useful for making work easier and more straightforward for your teams, but what about providing value to your customers? The API succeeds in this endeavour too, by feeding back data directly from the external eMarketing solution so that you can hone the communications you offer to your clients.
For example, if a marketing email receives a positive response from one section of your customer base, but is left unopened -- or is not acted upon -- by another, this is a signal that some fine-tuning is required. Data from the email marketing tech can be relayed via the API to your internal systems, where it can be used to refine customer segments and provide more relevant communications to leads and customers themselves.
A Positive Approach to Data Integration and Comprehensive Insight
Utilising a REST API to achieve connectivity between internal and third-party digital structures is critical as we look to an increasingly digitised future. Your teams need solutions that free them from mundane, manual tasks; your business needs digital capabilities that minimise human error and boost productivity; and, of course, your customers need real-time updates and immediate communication.
At Key Business Solutions (KBS), we are committed to providing this. Reach out to our team to learn more about the power of integration for your business, and about leveraging the very best from API connectivity.