Will Customer Experience be the Tipping Point for Case Management?

“A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.” 

Alvy Singer – Annie Hall

Sometimes I feel this way about case management. Has it failed to move forward? Have we got a dead shark on our hands?  We’ve navel gazed for too long over dynamic and adaptive, unstructured v structured, knowledge workers and case workers. From a marketing point of view it’s all been a bit of a disaster. So what needs to be done to drive more interest case management? Is customer experience management a potential opportunity?

A 2011 Bloomberg Business week survey revealed that “delivering a great customer experience” has become the new imperative: 80% of the companies polled rated customer experience as a top strategic objective. Like case management, customer experience management has also suffered from over analysis.

The potential for case management in a customer service context has been understood for a while. CRM vendors have realized that it’s impossible to predict every customer scenario and have integrated case management applications with their CRM applications to improve how organizations handle unpredictable customer service processes. Customer experience management represents the next step and potentially a tipping point for case management.

In my opinion no other business application has the potential to transform customer experience in the same way that case management can. In a previous post on customer experience I said that customer experience requires just 2 things; fix processes and empower employees. This is the precisely the sweet spot for case management.

The time has come for case management to move forward, to step out from the shadows and hitch a lift on the customer experience bandwagon. Then, to use another movie quote, no one will put case management in the corner.

Next Week: Gamification – “Badges? We ain’t got no badges!We don’t need no badges! I don’t have to show you any stinking badges!”

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Case Management and Customer Loyalty

What do customers hate most about bad customer service? Well according to this survey by ClickFox a few common things get customer’s blood boiling. The top three were:

  1. 42% hate having to speak with multiple agents and start over every time
  2. 17% hate being kept on hold or not getting what I need on the first try
  3. 14% dislike rude or inexperienced representatives

Let’s address each of these issues in turn, understand why they occur and how the issues could be addressed.

  1. Multiple Agents and having to start every time. In the perfect scenario the customer would only have to speak to one agent who would be able to completely understand their problem and resolve it at the first point of contact. In reality this isn’t possible. For example in many larger organizations with multiple product lines or services the first line of service exist to triage the problem or to resolve the most common problems. Resolution at the first point of contact  in many organizations would not be possible without a great deal of training. Whether we like it or not the issue of multiple agents is here to stay. The big opportunity for service providers is to better manage the frustration of the hand off and eliminate the customer having to start afresh with each new agent. What if we could deploy a customer service solution that could manage the end to end process, orchestrate multiple employees and integrate with multiple line of business applications and eliminate having to restart the process with every new service agent?
  2. On hold. Ok everyone hates being put on hold. In reality when put on hold the agent is probably frantically switching between poorly connected business applications to retrieve the customer information. What if the customer service representative had a 360 degree view of their customer?  What if the customer  service agent had rapid access, via their desktop web portal to customer information where ever it resides in the organization?
  3. Rude or inexperienced representatives. I found it interesting that rudeness and inexperience were tied together in this response. I’m of a firm belief that customer service rudeness and inexperience are closely related. In many occasions what the customer feels is rude service is in reality an employee tied by his or her employer to inflexible business processes. The employee has no authority or empowerment to use their initiative to resolve the customer issue. This lack of empowerment leads to high staff dissatisfaction, high employee turnover and ultimately inexperienced representatives.  What if the agent was able to go off script, to modify their process if necessary in flight or choose alternative paths or approaches to resolve the customer problem? Would this empowerment higher employee satisfaction, lower staff turnover and eliminate the perception of rudeness and inexperience.

The three customer problems outlined above are all classic reasons for deploying a Case Management solution. The objective of case management applications include the integration of multiple line of business applications, the delivery of a 360 degree customer view and employee empowerment. Management of many customer service interactions is done today using CRM applications that quickly run out of steam when asked to manage anything more than a simple workflow and don’t adequately address the top three issues above. When we integrate CRM with a Case Management business application however we have the opportunity to address these customer problems and begin to transform how customer service is delivered.

Is the 360 Degree Customer View Still Valid?

In a nutshell the 360 degree customer view is the ability to provide your service agents with all of the information they need to make a decision. At a basic level this means presenting the agent with all of the data relevant to the case on which they are working, as well as historical data on the customer e.g. previous incidents, other account information, purchase history. Multiple business applications and customer databases mean that even today for many organizations a basic 360 degree customer view, showing current and historical customer data, has been difficult to achieve.

In order to make the best decision on behalf of the customer and their organization agents need more than just historical and current customer information they also need future projections for the customer for example their estimated lifetime value and their potential to churn. Agents also need to be aware of current organization business targets as well as real time competitive information to for example validate customer claims about a competitive offer. Thus the 360 degree customer view is evolving extending beyond current and historical customer data to encompass future customer predictions, an organization perspective as well as competitive information.

As Data Analytics, CRM, BPM and Case Management applications begin to coalesce we will see new attempts to deliver the 360 customer view. CRM applications will continue to be used to manage the customer data and are today being be extended using BPM applications to automate and remove the mundane customer processes from the agent workload and Case Management applications to allow agents to handle complex customer cases and integrate with multiple data repositories. Add analytics tools that deliver predictions about future customer behaviour and real time data on your competitors and we begin to see how the service desk of the future will look.

The 360 degree customer view remains a valid if poorly executed concept.  With CRM, BPM, Case Management and Data Analytics we might however be on the verge of reaching the holy grail.

The Ideal Customer Service Agent

If You Build It They Won’t Come – Enterprise Social Networking

Following my earlier post “Broken Social Scene – Social BPM and Social CRM” two bits of “social” news caught my eye this week. First of all this post by Tammy Erikson in the Harvard Business Review discusses the difficulties business leaders are having realizing the benefits of adopting social technologies within their organizations.

The second is the news that a number of retailers are shutting their storefronts on Facebook due to a lack of interest.

The social media stampede is on but it appears many organisations are getting trampled because of a failure to understand what social really is. So what is social?

  1. Social is about conversations, taken to a hyper level. The vast majority of social conversations are public and on a one to many level. Most organizations don’t have the critical mass to support a vibrant internal social network.
  2. Social isn’t about the applications. Social is a human trait. It’s the human need to converse and engage with one another on topics of common interest. Social Media applications merely amplify or extend the reach of these conversations. No matter how many social applications you deploy within the organization they’ll wither unless there is something of common interest to discuss.
  3. Social networks grow organically. You aren’t mandated to join Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. As an individual you make the personal decision to engage with others. This presents a problem for organisations deploying enterprise social applications or adding social to CRM or BPM suites. You can’t tell your employees to “become social”.
  4. Social engagement is peer to peer. This contrasts with the hierarchical structure within organisations which again presents problems for enterprise social or CRM and BPM applications.  How social can you become if you know your boss is monitoring you?

In common with process improvement activities successful enterprise social solutions will require cultural change and a willingness at the organization level to do things differently. Without cultural change if you build it they won’t come.

3 Reasons Why CRM Needs Case Management

1. CRM is Business Focused

The customer relationship has three stakeholders, the Customer,  the Organization  and the Employee.  CRM however has an business centric view of the customer relationship delivering tactical benefits to the organization in the form of better management of sales processes and customer information. CRM views customers in an abstract way identifying customers as a lead, a deal or an incident (link) but not as an individual.   When combined with CRM, Case Management applications allow organisations to meet the needs of all three stakeholders; the employee through increased empowerment, the business through reduced costs in handling both predictable and unpredictable processes and the customer through and improved case handling by service representatives and better personal data integration.

2. Customers Are Unpredictable

CRM applications assume that customers are predictable and that customer centric business processes are linear and can be delivered using straight through processing (STP). Customers are unpredictable (thankfully). When it comes to customer processes CRM attempts to shoehorn customers into a fixed script driven processes that are inadequate when an unpredictable customer request is received.  Customer processes must be able to handle exceptions and unpredictable requests. CRM is fine for handling low to medium volume, predictable customer requests but unlike Case Management CRM doesn’t handle the unpredictable.

3. Employees Must Be Empowered

Successful customer service organizations empower their employees. Customer service organisations can empower representatives by providing them with a 360 view of their customer e.g. purchase history, account/issue status, preferences, lifetime value, upsell opportunities etc. in order to make the right decision on behalf of the customer and the organization. Empowerment also means allowing employees to choose alternative paths towards handling customer issues maximizing the opportunity for resolving customer enquiries at the first point of contact. Case Management empowers employees, allowing them to choose alternate process steps for resolving customer issues and supports their decision making by integrating multiple data sources (CRM, ECM, ERP etc.) and presenting data context at the right place and at the right time in the process.

BPM and Case Management Cloud Integration

As well as introducing (to me anyway) yet another Gartner addition to the cloud taxonomy in the form of “integration platform as a service (iPaaS)” this article by Ross Mason “Will loud hit the wall without good integration?” poses some interesting questions for BPM and Case Management.

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Gaming or Shaming? Questioning the benefit of Gamification in Business

First of all I’m in agreement with many in the gaming community with my dislike of the term “Gamification”. Gamers have criticised the term gamification because in many cases business only adopt the incidental features of games e.g.  Leader boards, points, badges and levels ignore the real reasons people are passionate about gaming e.g.  scenarios, role play, collaboration, strategy etc.

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