ECM, case management & the customer service Holy Grail

IBM Australia (Software Group)

By Tass Melissinos, Manager, Enterprise Content Management Solutions, IBM Australia and New Zealand
Wednesday, 05 December, 2012


ECM, case management & the customer service Holy Grail

Do our enterprise content management systems and our business use work together or get in each other’s way? Great benefits can be derived by integrating content capture and distribution coherently rather than relying on brute force to make ECM deliver the best possible customer service.

Enterprise content management’s primary task is supporting business functions, by ensuring all information assets get to users in the right context, at the right time. Case management tools integrate capabilities across different aspects of the business, allowing organisations to deliver more efficient and beneficial outcomes for each customer’s ongoing ‘case’. By using case management tools as a function of ECM, businesses can not only tailor their products and services to a customer’s unique needs and history, but also derive more nuanced insights into the trends and processes which underpin their customer life cycles more broadly. This approach requires highly integrated platforms that capture, store and analyse content, backed by infrastructure which can handle each case as a discrete yet interlinked data entity.

A case-by-case basis

A case, in its most basic form, is a collection of information and documents, which are assigned to individuals or groups, and tracked throughout all its interactions with your organisation until a successful outcome can be reached. Medical patient histories (and their records), insurance claims and customer complaints are all examples of cases. Case management tools aim to provide overviews on each case which span all of the organisation’s processes and divisions, so that insights from one process area can be taken into account and acted on by others (sometimes in different areas of the organisation) in a cohesive manner.

As such, every case ties a specific user entity to a continuously growing set of data; integrating case management tools as part of an overall ECM strategy can help businesses manage their customer interactions more effectively. This is particularly relevant for customer-centric industries such as healthcare, finance and professional services, where comprehensive access to content provides the foundations for more appropriate responses and targeted lead generation. When combined with predictive analytics systems, case management can move from ad hoc frameworks and allow organisations to pre-empt the needs of individual customers.

Case management processes allow businesses to extract more value from information, while ECM helps determine which information is most relevant for cases. In industries where cases often travel throughout different branches of an organisation (such as healthcare), treating ECM and case management as complementary systems results in both superior outcomes for individuals and improved efficiencies for staff (through reduction of repeat processes or decisions based on incomplete data). It can also boost the ability to audit current cases to drive improvements to future ones.

A complementary approach to ECM and case management

Case management approaches benefit from rigorous ECM systems and policies. Ideally, the case management tools in use should be compatible with the database and archival processes of your ECM system; that way, automated and manual case management processes alike can draw on a far greater volume of content, with far faster response time, than if they were to operate in isolation from ECM.

Ensuring continuity and consistency of service becomes possible when case management tools distribute ECM-stored content throughout the organisation, so that a customer’s preferences and history result in the most appropriate form of response at every point of interaction.

For many organisations, such as retailers or finance service providers, these customised responses can be automated to a large degree. A strong case management system will not only link content within the ECM framework to a specific case, but identify the responses it believes will generate the most impact or positive sentiment in each area of business. In the case of retail, a customer’s purchasing history may result in them being sent promotional offers for their preferred brands, suggestions for other choices or invitations to relevant events, all without human intervention. However, such processes must still incorporate a level of human intuition and intelligence to make the most of available content analysis.

Case management and ECM systems should offer clear and real-time access to customer insights across the business. Each operator or decision-maker should be able to quickly access all relevant records or changes to a given customer’s history; a strong analytics platform will deliver insights specific to each business unit based on the full range of available content in the system. Ideally, such insights can adapt as new content arrives from both internal and external sources (including new materials being simultaneously generated by other parts of the organisation), giving all staff the most up-to-date advice on the customer’s situation at any point of service.

A change in mindset

All this can only be realised if organisations overcome traditional siloed boundaries between their composite units. To improve ECM-based collaboration, decision-makers should focus on sharing the benefits specific to each business unit of using case management software to leverage the content stored by ECM systems. While building on resilient and scalable software and analytics platforms is important, ECM also involves significant cultural flexibility to achieve success.

Image credit ©iStockphoto.com/amriphoto

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