I met with a customer last week that was a  medical services provider, and this client uses a lot of forms. The have at least 3 individual businesses under their umbrella and each business unit has different operating procedures plus a whole different set of regulations they need to follow. And guess what, these guys are organized and operate what is as close to a “paperless business” as could be achieved in their industry today, and they still use lots of forms & documentation. Anyway, they have 1 person managing all their documents & purchases and that person also has a lot of other responsibilities. The challenge for us as a team (client + Oregon) is to figure out how to give our customer a simple way to order their products, see the cost as they order (and the cost needs to be as low as possible), and spend as little time as possible with this task.

We have put a lot of their printing into a online catalog over the last 6 months and it has made ordering certain items a lot easier, but it hit me last night how much more we need to do. We need to develop this online catalog into an inventory management system for them. For them, no more binders full of all the latest versions of their forms. What ever is online is the latest form, and you can pull it up, look at it and proof it in real time, see the cost at any given quantity, see your order history, and be able to navigate through the system quickly and easily.

This is a great solution, but the more catalogs we build, the more it continues raises certain questions with me. One of the first questions is the trust this customer put in us. What happens if there is a falling out between us, they need to feel comfortable that if we go away, they won’t loose their whole document library. Plus there are a lot of vendors out there (or at least the perception of) making promises for “complete solutions” or this vendor is the “expert” in document management. Then they either don’t have he technology they promised or they move on to the next sale and you’re left with a huge lack of customer service, or poor tech support and its not quite as convenient as it once sounded. If I was in the customers shoes, I’d be asking these questions.

So looking inward, I’ve got to ask myself some of these same questions….what if the customer does leave, how will I make their whole document library available to them. In 6 months (while we are working on our next project), how will I make sure we are still offering the level of customer service needed to keep this customer from spending excess time managing documents. I believe questions like these are important to make sure both of us are on the same page for the long run, so I think it’s important to make this part of the conversation we have with our customers

We are now in the process of developing a master catalog of all of this customer’s forms, categorized by business unit, type of document (medical form, billing form, envelope, or whatever other category fits), and I think it’s a very elegant solution for them. They’ll see their order history, they’ll be able to personalize certain documents with variable data and a lot of other cool online benefits. And we’ll be able to give them our lowest cost possible because it’s an unbelievably streamlined process.

We’ve got the technical muscle to build the system that makes all this work. Its those human elements of trust, follow through and a commitment of both client & vendor to act as a team that will be the next challenge for all of us.