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PAPERLESS SYSTEMS HELP SERVICE COMPANIES MEET DEMANDS OF MULTICHANNEL SHOPPERS Paperless systems can help service companies accommodate more demanding customers, while still saving money and time. Appeasing customers has never been an easy task, but it has grown incredibly difficult in the age of the online shopper. In fact, a recent survey by Accenture revealed that almost 90 percent of customers want a seamless experience regardless of their method of shopping. Whether they're online, using mobile devices or physically on-site no longer matters - they expect to get what they want in a timely manner. "In many cases we have found a significant gap between consumer expectations and reality, but we believe seamlessness is achievable," said Chris Donnelly, global managing director of Accenture's Retail practice. One Holiday Inn in Grand Rapids, Mich., is attempting to accommodate this desire by transitioning to a largely paperless document management system, WXMI-TV reported. The hotel is moving most of its payment processes online, which officials thinks will satisfy customers. "Many consumers today are used to electronic signature pads," says Heather Emmons, the hotel's director of guest services, according to the news source. "We imagine this change will be quite seamless." But if the hotel's predictions prove to be at all accurate, customers won't be the only ones benefiting. A recent PayStream Advisors study found invoice automation to be the top-rated accounting goal for the near future, garnering 37 percent of the vote. Respondents to the survey listed a number of potential advantages they would glean from electronic invoicing, with decreasing operating costs holding the No. 1 spot. Holiday Inn officials believe that paperless electronic payment methods would save the hotel more than 33,000 sheets of paper annually, which totals approximately four trees. There are plenty of examples of service companies who have achieved similar benefits from their paperless systems. Event planner firm Multi Image Group, for instance, implemented these solutions in 2007 as a means of boosting its vendor approval processes, but the technology has helped in many other ways, according to CFO Jonathan Reitzes. "It's been great," Reitzes said. "My accounts payable person loves it because she's not waiting around for weeks on end to get something approved and there's a trail now."

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Reitzes said that going paperless has made filing and retrieving documents - such as invoices - significantly easier. It also gives employees the option to access the system from any device and location with an Internet connection. If MIG's example is any indication, then Holiday Inn will definitely be cutting down on its paper usage - by a lot. But "even if I didn't save any paper," Reitzes said, "I'm definitely saving time."

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Paperless systems help service companies meet demands of multichannel shoppers