Who hasn’t been there? After waiting 20 minutes on hold with Customer Service, then 15 mins for explaining your problem, the Contact Center Agent says she is really sorry, but can’t do anything about resolving it because something first has to be done by some other department, or it the system won’t let her do what needs to be done as this isn’t in the process, even though it should be simple and straightforward to do.
The customer is frustrated because she need to call some other number and explain everything all over again, and the agent is becomes frustrated and may take it out on collegues, or worse – the next client in the caller cue! The example above is an issue of empowerment and system inflexibility, but also of process rigidity. The rigidity of the process has just killed the positive customer experience.
Thanks to Taylorism we spend bucketloads of money to model our understanding of how things should work, hoping to recoup the time and energy in the long run thru process efficiencies. Although this may work well for Easily Repeatable Processes (20%-40% of the time), resolving Barely Repeatable Processes effciently and sustainably will be a key challenge to meet, especially as customers now have more choice and are more informed through their social network and are more sensitive to how their ‘experience suppliers’ cater to their needs.
Business Process Management (whcih is part of what I did in my previous role) solves a real business need by identifying, modeling and optimizing processes – cutting work into repeatable parts and adding decision trees to ultimately lead to a known outcome. It is characterised by heavy upfront investment in modeling which the company intends to recoup through efficiences in the long run. However, BPM is not a panacae as it can be a straight-jacket leading to customer and employee frustration when exceptions occur (and inevitably they do), with little or no ability to adapt the model once it has been set. Especially not by those that go through the drill everyday such as your Contact Center Agents!
There is a good group of people and companies looking at at how to make improvements, gathered under the heading “Social BPM”. As Tom Allensen says: “Social BPM is basically just collaborative business process management utilizing a collective network environment – it’s about extending BPM access and decision-making to partners and select external parties without compromising the exclusivity of the core group.” Michael zur Muehlen adds: “Social is all about providing context, a rich environment of data points that a streamlined workflow would be lacking otherwise. The challenge is to make this context useful, both from a social networking perspective and from an unstructured data perspective.”
So Social BPM is about getting all those concerned involved (and why not the customer?) and about collaborating whilst taking the context of the task at hand into account. Although this approach certainly has its merits to get people to collaborate effectively on process steps within a pre-existing model, it still does not add flexibility and agility to reaching the desired objective or outcome in case of non-modeled exceptions. If exceptions do take place, employees just revert back to email and the company could lose thread of what is going on, making it unable to capture insights for continous improvement and learn from them.
I’ve been looking at the potential of Adaptive Case Management (ACM) as a framework for guiding and structuring issue resolution (or even collaboration in general), relying on the insights and experience of knowledge workers (such as your agents), pulling together the right resources to make informed decisions at each step based on the context, and choosing and adapting next steps as necessary to reach the desired outcome.
ACM makes a distinction between routine and expert processes. Routine processes are prime candidates for modeling whereas expert processes are emergent and the domain of Knowledge Workers – they give the organisation the flexibility to adapt and respond to changes around it. ACM also aims to bring understanding, visibility and control to unpredictable knowledge work and serves to make routine work processes more reliable. It doesn’t set out replace BPM or workflow, but adds to the tools that the organisation can leverage to be sustainable and resilient to changing expectations and conditions.
Adaptive Case Management sets goals that describe what must be done rather than how the process must be done. It provides guidelines and looks to Knowledge Worker experience on how to achieve the goals but does not dictate the work or the flow itself. Control is achieved through tracking deadlines and goals, and having a case owner responsible for the process results. The flow is organised around the context and content assets, and can be modified to bring in participants as needed based on the availability of information and expertise.
My focus is on the customer and customer experience and ACM applies to non-routine Customer Service, but is equally valid for for example Sales Processes (such replying to an RFP, customizing a product to a client’s need), Loan Management, Financial Audits, Innovation, Strategy Implementation : basically anything that requires collaboration and negotiation. As another more concrete example, who knows beforehand how a patient will be treated when entering an Emergency Room? The flow of events that lead to the patient leaving the hospital in good health is highly unpredictable but is guided by fragments of processes (diagnosis, CAT-scan, medication, operation etc.) that are assembled as the situation evolves and more information becomes available.
This is a quick (certainly not exhausive) introduction to the concept of ACM, which in my opinion can be a valid framework for guiding emergent Knowledge Work – which Enterprise 2.0 is ideally suited to facilitate! In my opinion, E20 has been putting a lot of emphasis on devising the tools to improve information flows within an organisation to the detriment of actually helping the employees do their task at hand better. Where it can add a lot of value is by organising the content assets, identifying the people with the right expertise at the right time, and facilitating information flows and sharing, as well as tracking and consolidating lessons learned by capturing fragments as templates and distributing these. Social CRM – through Social Analytics – can help by providing a better insight into the context which can then be used by Knowledge Workers as information inputs on which to base their decisions, choose the next steps and who could provide the right expertise, which can include partners, suppliers and of course customers!
In my coming post I will discuss Adaptive Case Management in more detail as I think this has great potential to for linking Enterprise 2.0, social CRM, business and social analytics on the road to Social Business and the Collaborative Enterprise. Together they provide framework for work in an agile organisation.
I’ll be at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Santa Clara (8-11/11 2010) to participate in a customer panel on social CRM. I’ll be happy to meet and exchange ideas on the above subject when I’m there. Drop me a note and we can arrange to meet!