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Is poor case management harming customer experience ambitions?

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5th Oct 2014
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AIIM’s latest Industry Watch, Case Management and Smart Process Applications, looks at the importance of case management in supporting modern customer experience management (CEM) for the information age, as well as what organisations should be looking for when selecting a modern case management system.

Smart process applications (SPAs), intelligent business processes or adaptive BPM (business process management) are all terms being applied to an emerging wave of applications that use computer power to extract context-relevant information from the content associated with a business process and use it to select, modify or re-direct successive workflow stages. What characterises case management as a smart process application is the complexity of the process, the number of internal and external agencies involved, connecting multi-channel inbound content to one managed process, parallel storage of data in multiple systems, and managing multiple device connectivity.

There are many examples of why organisations needs case management: applications can range from payment management, through contract bids, claims handling and loan origination, to traditional healthcare, crime or legal cases.

It is the increasing impact that case management is having on an organisation’s CEM ambitions that mark it out as worthy of attention now. Increasing customer expectations for speed of response is the biggest business pain point for those surveyed (44%), while dealing with unstructured inputs and connecting to key business systems was the next biggest issue (42%).

Why do we need case management?

Case management has always been a challenge for most BPM or workflow systems. They work best where there is a predictable path through the process, albeit with branches and alternative routes that can be made conditional on qualifiers, such as order value, loan amount or approval level.

But by its nature, case management frequently involves variations to such processes that may only become apparent as the case progresses and which require a high degree of adaptability and flexibility in the workflow rules in order to be handled efficiently.

For 51% of the organisations who responded to our survey, half (or more) of their main line-of-business processes are identified as not following the kind of straightforward, step-by-step workflows a BPM platform likes. Drilling down a bit further, 37% say they have a case-capable support system, whereas 28% have to fall back on extensive customisations, workarounds and add-ons to handle case scenarios. Meanwhile, 18% use an entirely manual process and 17% don’t really manage cases as processes. What’s really striking: 32% feel that better technology would improve productivity and 22% feel that the successful outcome of case handling is being limited by poor IT support.

In some organisations dealing with cases is core to what they do. In others, there may be plenty of straightforward processes working alongside, and these may run quite happily on the standard workflows provided in most document management, ECM, or scanning and capture systems. But a lot of ‘cases’ need more than this form of handling. For 62% of this population, for example, half or more processes were described as definitely needing the assembly of some sort of case folder, claim file, project folder, proposal, and so forth.

Payment processing is a good example, where 80% of purchase-order based payments work quite happily within a fixed workflow but the remaining 20% of contract-related or service-orientated settlements will involve supporting documentation, additional reports, varying levels of authorisation and may well end up in legal dispute. This is where case management is starting to make definite impact, we found.

The early adopters

As part of our research, we asked respondents what experience they had in smart business applications. 7% consider they have adaptive and intelligent workflows already in live deployment, with a further 12% experimenting.

On the other hand, 45% have process management applications but consider their workflows to be somewhat fixed. A further third are in a somewhat immature state with very few computer-driven workflows, they told us.

We then asked those who have some experience of smart processes what the outcome has been. This produced some particularly noteworthy results. 41% have already achieved their initial objectives and a further 52% are getting promising results – and a mere 7% report they are “disappointed” with the system. For such an early-stage technology as adaptive case management these results are very encouraging.

Users say they see a myriad of benefits from case management too. Faster and more consistent customer response was the biggest benefit – a crucial element in today’s competitive social media-driven environment. Shortening of the end-to-end process time was also cited, again a factor that could really improve customer service while also leading to cost savings. Flexible, rules-driven compliance processes can make response to regulatory changes much simpler and is a major benefit in areas such as finance and insurance.

The basis for case management ‘break-out’

Case management systems rarely operate in isolation: they need to be connected to email systems and to capture front-ends, plus some form of records management, although none of these are a given in most organisations. For 67% of respondents, half or more of their main line of business processes involve connecting multi-channel inbound content to one managed process. A third consider this to be their biggest single problem in managing cases.  

It’s not that there aren’t enough problems to go round, of course: 23% admit that their management of inbound emails and faxes is somewhat ad hoc, even 'chaotic'. That’s even more the case for voice and hand-written correspondence: while 47% have automated management of inbound invoices and web forms, only 34% automate email routing and only 29% automate handling of forms on paper.

The biggest issue with current solutions is a lack of a 'single view of the customer' due to the disorganised storage of data in multiple systems across the business. In order of priority businesses think they need to integrate email, their records management systems and then their line-of-business and ERP systems.

Meanwhile there is a strong (and as yet unfulfilled) need for mobile access to case content but also the ability to interact with case processes from mobile devices for capturing information and to facilitate quicker commenting and approval.

A final point: our respondents report growing acceptance about the importance of case management to business and its potential input in improving customer experience management. The majority (58%) already rate their case handling system to be a vital part or certainly very important to their customer experience management. For 67% it is also ranked as important for the organisation’s compliance obligations.

The verdict is clear: case management is playing a greater role in CEM, an approach that is starting to be used widely in modern business.

And as the importance of providing a good customer experiences increases, so will the need for modern case management solutions in more and more enterprises.

Doug Miles is director of market intelligence for AIIM and the writer of a series of highly-regarded AIIM reports into ECM, records management, SharePoint, mobile, Cloud and social business.

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