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Using SPAs to reach customer goals

This article appears in the issue October 2014, [Vol 23 Issue 9]
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We all know that traditionally the success of a business hinges on having happy customers and positive feedback. But the arrival of social media has changed the goal posts somewhat. Customers now have a say in the brands they like. They can influence a campaign by sending their thoughts around the globe at the click of a mouse. This has forced companies to look carefully at their customer service strategy to ensure they know what is being said about them 24/7 and that they can react quickly.

AIIM’s latest Industry Watch, Case Management and Smart Process Applications (SPAs), puts case management under the microscope and examines the role it has to play in enhancing customer experience management (CEM), as well as what key benchmarks organizations should look at to choose a case management system.

The rise of SPAs

Smart process applications, intelligent business processes, adaptive business process management (BPM): They are all terms applied to a new generation of applications that use computer intelligence to distill context-relevant data from the content linked with a business process, and use it to select, modify or redirect the next moves in the workflow. One of its primary applications is in case management. Here the term “case” is used broadly to refer to any process or project that has a defined beginning and end, where the process steps and outcome may change during the course of the process, and where linked content needs are grouped and managed as a case file or project file. Applications can range from payment management, through contract bids, claims handling and loan origination, to traditional healthcare, crime or legal cases.

Historically, case management systems and, in fact, BPM systems have been somewhat inflexible in their workflows, unable to reroute as the case progresses. However, a completely free-to-change process definition could mean inadequacies in compliance and may be below par in terms of productivity. By changing the process definition as the case progresses and doing so based on the content and context of documents incoming to the case, the process can be handled flexibly, but compliance is still strictly adhered to.

Here we see the growing impact that case management is having on an organization’s customer experience management goals that are driving improvements to be made quickly.

Process variations

Case management has always been a rigorous test for BPM or workflow systems. Those systems function best when they have a clear route through the process, albeit via alternative routes and qualifiers that are established, such as order value, loan amount or approved level. Case management, however, frequently involves variations to the process that don’t always pop up until the case moves forward. To work effectively, they require a high degree of flexibility integrated into the workflow rules. But 51 percent of organizations we surveyed said that half or more of their key business processes do not follow straightforward step-by-step workflows.

Beyond the 35 percent who either don’t manage cases as a process or where case processing is entirely manual, 28 percent use customizations, workarounds and add-ons to handle case management within their existing systems. Surprisingly, only 35 percent have what they would describe as a case-capable system using standard functionality.

The picture we are seeing is that within the same organization there may be a number of different systems deployed, handling different case applications—all with varying degrees of success.

Harvesting rewards

From those we surveyed who have some experience with smart processes, 41 percent have already achieved their initial objectives, while a further 52 percent are getting promising results. Only 7 percent were discontented with the results. Those surveyed listed a host of application areas for their smart process applications, from contract management, claims disputes and loan approvals to engineering requests, litigation and FOIA (Freedom of Information Applications).

At the top of the system benefits list was faster, more efficient customer response, which is essential with today’s social media environment driving customer response. Cutting the end-to-end process time will also enhance customer service, and could lead to cost savings overall.

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