CASE MANAGEMENT TAKES A DYNAMIC TURN [Customer Relationship Management]
(Customer Relationship Management Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) PROGRESSIVE CONTACT CENTERS CAN INCORPORATE ADAPTABILITY, CROSS-SELL AND UPSELL CAPABILITIES, SOCIAL MEDIA INTEGRATION, GAMIFICATION, AND MULTIPLE CHANNELS
Case management used to be simple. A customer had a question regarding his bill, he called the contact center, an agent answered the call, accessed his account information, explained the charge, and both parties hung up satisfied. Case closed.
Today things are much more complicated. Case management involves many more moving parts. Many of the customer cases today that start off in a self-service channel and end up with an agent are complex and unpredictable. They come in via many different channels, covering an ever-growing list of issues and concerns, and require much more information and interdepartmental collaboration for agents to bring them to a resolution.
Fortunately, new developments in analytics, social media, integration, dynamic case management, and gamification enable today's customer care professionals to get a lot more out of case management than ever before.
A CASE FOR INTEGRATION
TMA Resources, a provider of software to help professional societies, trade associations, labor unions, and other organizations communicate with their members, took a phased-in approach when it implemented a case management solution. The Vienna, Va.-based firm took almost a year to fully deploy a solution from Parature across its entire organization back in February 2005.
The company started with trouble tickets submitted internally before bringing the case management application to customer- facing parts of its operation. Today, about 80 percent of all employees across TMA Resources' customer service, professional services, IT, quality assurance, product development, human resources, finance, marketing, and partner development departments use the application for case management. Everyone in the company has a user ID for the system, which logs about 1,600 cases per month, says Anne-Marie Bitman, vice president of customer service and hosting.
The ability to go across departmental lines wasn't the only requirement the company had. "For it to be a successful launch, we had to wait for integration with all our internal systems," Bitman recalls. "We had so many business processes to incorporate across all our departments."
But the wait paid off. "If you look at the long-term benefits, you will see real productivity gains," Bitman says.
Among those gains, Bitman notes that within the first year, TMA Resources reduced administrative costs by 25 percent, mostly because account specialists were not cutting and pasting data into multiple case and account records. The company also saw the number of open tickets drop by 25 percent, while customer satisfaction levels increased fourfold and the number of dissatisfied customers was cut in half.
But the real benefit is the data that the system provides. When a case is closed, managers can see, for example, how long it took to resolve the issue, which steps were taken during the process, and which agent handled the case. The system can also provide trending data so Bitman and other managers can see what led the customer to contact the company in the first place. With that information, company leaders can take steps to minimize future cases around that same issue.
ANALYTICS IS ALL THE RAGE
That's why case management supported by business and transactional analytics is a must today, according to experts.
Analytics applied to case management can identify the key words and phrases used during interactions and the issues raised, provide timelines of all the actions taken related to the case, and bring in outcome-based modeling, in-process reviews, insights into bottlenecks, and root-cause analysis - all of which work together to pinpoint statistically significant correlations that can lead to improvements in service delivery performance and operational efficiency.
Analytics could help in other ways as well. Douglas Kim, global head of product marketing at Pegasystems, says it can, for example, drive crosssell and upsell opportunities, as illustrated in the following scenario:
A customer calls her bank with a change of address. Using analytics to get more information about the customer, the agent taking the call can be notified that the customer recently got married and is buying her first home. The agent can acknowledge that fact and offer her a home equity line of credit for any improvements that need to be made prior to moving in.
Parature founder and chairman Duke Chung points to another example: With analytics to determine caller sentiment, the agent can identify the callers in the queue who are extremely angry versus those who are mildly miffed, which could determine which cases need to be handled more quickly or more delicately.
Obviously, if a customer is really mad, you want to handle that first and move him ahead of the queue," suggests Richard White, founder and CEO of UserVoice, a customer help desk solutions provider.
"If you have a high-value customer in an aroused state, you'll want to send him to your best agent," adds Anand Subramanian, vice president of worldwide marketing at CRM solutions provider eGain. "Your system should be able to do that for you."
But that comes with one major caveat. Lior Arussy, president of Strativity Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm, says "the biggest crisis in case management is that we are educating customers that they have to scream the loudest to get their issues heard."
Analytics also enables contact centers to adapt quickly to ongoing developments, capitalizing on positive sentiment around a product launch or doing damage control around negative events.
And while John Ragsdale, vice president of technology research at the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA), sees analytics as a key element of case management going forward, he says adoption has been very limited at this point because such solutions are quite expensive. He expects an uptick, though, in the coming months, as companies start to loosen their purse strings, especially for projects aimed at improving customer service outcomes.
When looking for a case management solution today, it's also important to consider one with a dynamic or adaptive element to it, experts advise. Dynamic case management is not a new concept, but it has only started garnering attention in the past year or so.
The concept is simple: Customer conversations don't follow predetermined sequences, and neither should agents' responses to them. With dynamic case management, "you don't script the transaction; it's dependent on the customer's need," explains Kate Leggett, principal analyst at Forrester Research. "It's much more human-centric, because the agent can make decisions and take the steps needed to resolve the issue. It's about letting the agent, as she's interacting with the customer, decide which end-to -end processes to take."
That doesn't mean that there are no scripts or preset workflows. In fact, one of the key elements of dynamic case management is an innate ability to adapt to changing scenarios and provide the agent with the next-best question to ask or step to take, and, if needed, even suggest an escalation.
Dynamic case management reverses trends of the past, in which companies took a cookie-cutter approach to closing cases quickly, even providing incentives for agents to close cases on the first contact. Companies can't afford to adhere to that same one-and-done approach as they risk not being able to identify more serious problems or ongoing issues that could extend to many other customers.
An added benefit of dynamic case management is that the agent taking the call can instantly see if the customer has another case pending and who has been assigned to it. "If another agent is already handling something else for the customer, why not give him this one, too, so the customer only has to deal with one person " White asks.
A central goal of dynamic case management is to have all the information needed to fill a customer request at the agent's fingertips, eliminating the need for the agent to navigate multiple screens, exit the desktop, or - even worse - put the customer on hold and conduct some research offline.
"The system should do all the heavy lifting for the agent," Subramanian says, "and find all the answers for her related to the case and present it to her in one unified screen."
To reach that level of sophistication, companies will need to integrate their case management systems with existing knowledge bases and other CRM systems, according to Subramanian.
Today, that will likely also need to include social media sites, online forums, social communities, message boards, and other digital platforms where customers can exchange ideas and discuss issues related to companies and their products. It might also mean expanding the solution's capabilities to pull in data from other geographies and languages.
Incorporating social media, though, presents the greatest challenge. "In social, how do you determine what's a case when there's so much activity and so many people involved Is a snotty comment in Twitter an incident " Ragsdale asks.
A dynamic case management solution will also have the workflow capabilities to not only route cases and enable collaboration among agents and departments, but also to alert managers when conversations go so far off track that the agent will have a hard time meeting expected service levels, Subramanian says.
Companies can lessen the workload on agents by investing in case management applications that allow customers to create their own trouble tickets or case folders and track them throughout the process.
And then, "the customer should be able to come back and amend [the case file] as needed," Chung says. "The customer should be able to add things - like photos - to the case file as necessary, and if the issue is resolved, the customer should be able to close the case on his own."
Similarly, customers should be allowed to check the status of cases on their own without having to call the contact center. "Having that kind of visibility online is tremendously helpful to the customer and does not take time away from the agent to report a simple status update," Chung says. "Let the agents work toward a resolution rather than delivering updates to customers."
This would, of course, require the company to create some kind of secure customer login process for its cases, but the rewards of doing so could be compelling. "That self-service experience of managing your own case empowers [customers]," Chung explains. "Customers sometimes feel that their service requests go into a black hole and nobody knows where they wind up."
That's not the case (pun intended) at TMA Resources, where customers can submit their own trouble tickets, get case status updates, and close cases once a resolution is reached, all via an interactive Web portal.
"Wizards simplify the entire process for them," Bitman says. "They pick the scenario and then we have the rules in place so the system knows where to route the case."
She estimates that in 90 percent of her company's cases, customers engage in some level of self-service. That has freed up the agents, who previously spent about 25 percent of their time on administrative duties related to their cases, to concentrate on more important customer service issues.
And though not in place at TMA Resources yet, a growing number of case management solutions are allowing the customer to provide feedback after the case is closed. With UserVoice's solution, for example, customers can reward support staff for providing good customer service with a "kudos" feature. Using a touch of gamification to acknowledge the good work of contact center agents, UserVoice's Full-Service application enables support staff to bask in the glory and watch the success of their colleagues via a group dashboard.
"It gives the agent a sense of accomplishment," White says. "It's been a very valuable tool."
Arussy agrees that this is an important feature. "You really need a customer feedback portal today," he says.
And then, it's vitally important that the contact center is able to share all information and feedback contained in the case file with other departments that could benefit from the information. "You want to take it all the way to sharing it with the rest of the company to avoid similar problems the next time around," Arussy says. "This helps to address problems proactively before they hit the contact center."
He adds, "That should be the key goal of any case management app: Do we have the ability to become smarter for the next time around "
Pegasystems' Kim says it's even more basic than that. "Don't confuse case management with the simple act of routing documents or work," he says. "You need to implement [case management] with the notion of managing to specific business and customer outcomes."
MAKE IT MULTICHANNEL
But where customers are concerned, there are so many reasons for calling, and so many possible sired outcomes. That's why, when selecting a case management app, it's important to choose one "that is sized right for the company and the types of interactions it gets," Leggett says. "Then try to understand what the customer wants to do and what customers are calling about."
Next, she suggests that companies look at the channels that their customers use to interact with them and seek solutions that support those channels. Applications should be channel-aware and capable of moving seamlessly between channels, the experts agree.
Having a case management application that can cut across channels is key to a successful deployment, but Ragsdale and others say it's easier said than done. The idea, "conceptually, is very straightforward, but, of course, all but impossible, since everyone implemented channels one at a time, from different vendors, with nothing integrated," Ragsdale says.
Leggett agrees, noting that transactional and customer data is neither consistent nor regularly available across channels. But, she adds, it should be.
More than that, when customers move from one channel to the next, the case management app should make it possible for all of their information to travel with them.
The company should be able to respond to the customer on the same channels where the case originated, but that is rare as well, Leggett points out. "If your case starts in email, it's usually stuck in email because the agent does not have access to what you did in any of the other channels," she says.
Part of the reason for that, according to Subramanian, is that companies are still trying to figure out how and when to respond to customer issues. With each channel, there are certain service levels that are expected, he says, noting that customers who reach out via social media want an immediate response, while a company can wait up to a day to respond to an email.
Admittedly, though, many companies might not be ready to deploy a case management solution across all channels, but that shouldn't prevent them from moving forward. "Many companies can start with the phone and email. They can always add more later," Chung says.
'WE ARE EDUCATING CONSUMERS THAT THEY HAVE TO SCREAM THE LOUDEST TO GET THEIR ISSUES HEARD.
"THE SYSTEM SHOULD DO ALL THE HEAVY LIFTING FOR THE AGENT."
DON'T CONFUSE CASE MANAGEMENT WITH THE SIMPLE ACT OF ROUTING DOCUMENTS OR WORK.
News Editor Leonard Klie can be reached at email@example.com.
(c) 2013 Information Today, Inc.
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