• February, 1 2013
  • By Leonard Klie, Senior News Editor, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmarCustomerService.com.

Case Management Takes a Dynamic Turn

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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 cross-sell 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 Subramaniam, 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.

Real-Time Response

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," Subramaniam 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 Subramaniam.

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, Subramaniam says.

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Buyer's Guide Companies Mentioned
  • eGain Corporation