Empowered Customers need Empowered Employees

It’s now generally accepted that customers are more empowered than ever. What isn’t accepted is how we deal with this.

Customers have always had power. Power to take their business elsewhere. The perfect storm of web, social media and mobile technologies however has made it not only much easier to switch supplier but to also rapidly communicate your dissatisfaction with a product or service to the masses.

Trying to handle empowered customers through technology alone is a non-starter. It’s like trying to round up cats. Customers are unpredictable. Customers are engaging with companies via multiple channels, virtually and physically and trying to handle the multichannel customer by technology alone is impossible.

Many businesses are in a technology arms race with the customer always one step ahead. For example adding social capabilities to your business application stack may help you to sense problems better but it won’t make the customer experience any better. When one of your customer channels is direct face to face customer engagement it’s impossible to expect technology on its own to deliver a consistent multi-channel customer experience.

Empowered customers need empowered employees. Customer management is a dynamic, unpredictable, ever changing environment. Businesses need to empower their employees so they can roll with the punches.

So how do we empower employees?

  • Devolve decision making authority

Move decision making from the centre of the organization to your customer facing employees. Give employees the authority to choose alternative approaches to resolving a customer problems. Give employees the authority to resolve a complaint or an issue at the first point of contact. For example do senior managers really need to approve all refunds or give the authority to match a competitive offer?

  • Don’t tie employees to processes

Use business applications like case management that gives them options and allow employees to adapt or chose alternative process paths.

  • Support employee decision making

Use business tools that provide employees with a 360 degree view of their customer (customer purchase history, current contract status, projected lifetime value) and help them make better decisions.

Be realistic in your technology choices. Trying to handle customer processes by technology alone is impossible. Use empowered employees to fill the gaps where technology can’t go.

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BPM and CRM – Inside the Social Train or Outside?

There’s a little known business proverb, actually it’s little known because I’ve just made it up. It says that in business it’s easier to urinate out of the window of a moving train than it is to urinate in. This is why businesses acquire or partner with other businesses rather than start up new lines of business or try and catch up themselves.

Social networks are throwing the rule book, of how businesses engage with customers and with themselves, out the window. BPM and CRM applications are right in the middle of this change with their responsibility for both customer and business processes. As a result many BPM and CRM applications are starting to add social capabilities, rebranding themselves as social BPM or social CRM platforms. But is adding social capabilities to CRM and BPM applications a sensible approach? Is this approach the business equivalent of trying to urinate into a speeding train?

In a previous post I suggested that successful enterprise social solutions will require a cultural change within an organisation. Successful social adoption must be enterprise led rather than by individual departments. Businesses must have a strategy for social adoption rather than acquire social capabilities via the back door through their BPM and CRM suites.

Not all employees will have access to the BPM or CRM application. Where is the value in a social BPM or social CRM application only accessible by a fraction of the organisation? If an enterprise social network is to be successful it needs to have enterprise wide reach, it must reach everyone the process can reach.

BPM and CRM applications should integrate with social applications rather than embed or mimic or social capabilities within their suites. BPM applications already orchestrate ECM, CRM and legacy applications so why would social applications be treated differently?  Why not integrate with the best of breed enterprise and public social networks instead of developing in house?

The social train has left the station, the best BPM and CRM applications can do is try and get on at the next station. Choo! Choo!

BPM Marketing – A Failure to Connect?

As we embark on another round of BPM navel gazing, otherwise known as the BPM conference season, I’m wondering whether the BPM Marketing community are failing to connect with our target audiences.

A couple of recent blog articles brought this to mind. This first article by Ian Gotts “Why does nobody care” highlighted the declining audiences at BPM conferences compared to huge audiences for CRM events.

This second post by Connie Moore highlights the failure of BPM to engage with the C suite, the majority of whom she says don’t really care about process and methodologies and are turned on by business outcomes, profit, market share, growth.

The role of marketing is to create connections. This is done by clearly defining the problem you are trying to solve and showing your prospect how your product or service does this (preferably with case studies to reassure the client). The two blog articles indicate that BPM is failing to connect.

Customers don’t buy BPM suites they buy solutions for business problems. BPM customers don’t wake up in the morning and say to themselves, you know I really need some complex rules, predictive analytics or social bpm. Instead they enter the office with problems they need to solve; transform customer support, drive increased revenue, lower service delivery costs or utilize their staff more efficiently.

Which brings me back to this year’s BPM conference season. How can we light a fire of interest in BPM and connect with our audience? I’ve an idea. BPM conferences regularly have solution provider sessions. These solution sessions however tend to be around the edges of the event, separate from the main conference tracks focusing on BPM technology and related topics like organizational change.

Conference organisers should flip this model on it’s head. Focus the event not on BPM technologies but on BPM Solutions, with solution tracks for Finance, Government, Telco, Retail etc. and push the BPM technology and theory sessions to the edge of the event. Let delegates see best practice elsewhere and learn from it, let them see what is possible with BPM rather than the potential of BPM. Then we’ll begin to connect.