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James Taylor's Decision Management

James Taylor

Improving customer interactions one decision at a time

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William Band at Forrester (@waband) recently tweeted that his next research project was:

When to use CRM apps vs BPM tools to improve customer interactions? Pros & Cons of each?

I replied that companies should be sure to manage customer treatment decisions too and he asked me to expand on that thought.

Every customer interaction requires decisions - you must make a selection from a range of offers, pick a course of action, agree (or not) to a request. These interactions involve conversation, process, data and more also but there is always a decision or a set of decisions. When I think about my interactions with companies, it is the effectiveness, relevance or value of the decisions they make that stays with me. When I talk to Asus about my eeePC, it is their decision to handle the repair without complaint or delay that I remember. When I call my bank about a fee, it is their decision not to refund it that I remember, not how nice the agent was or how efficient their process. When I log on to an online account it is the relevance of the offer being displayed that I notice. Decisions matter to customers and to customer interactions.

And these decisions are customer-specific, customer-centric. Each decision is what Neil and I called a micro-decision in our book. Each decision relates to a single customer and each may seem relatively unimportant. But the cumulative effect of those decisions is very great. Making a compelling offer to a single customer is probably not going to make all that much difference to your bottom line. Making a more compelling offer to each customer who calls, however, adds up to real money for organizations with large numbers of customers.

To improve these decisions takes more than CRM or BPM. It takes an explicit focus on decisions, especially high-volume operational decisions. It takes business rules to manage the logic of those decisions (so that the business can collaborate in defining how they should be made while the systems environment applies those rules systematically and consistently across all customers) and predictive analytics to predict what will work or not work for each customer (a model that predicts how likely this customer is to churn or that customer is to accept an offer). It also takes experimentation and a focus on continuous improvement as decision making must evolve as business circumstances do.

Neither CRM nor BPM tools have  the necessary focus on decisions - CRM tools tend to be focused on the information about a customer (necessary to drive better decisions) while BPM tools tend to focus on how to act on the decisions made about a customer (fulfilling the action). Both are necessary to manage the customer interaction but so are decisions and so is decision management.

I have blogged about this topic before. Check out:


It is true; to drive a positive customer experience you need decisions. I also agree that decision management needs to be a crucial ingredient within CRM and BPM to drive profitable customer interactions…and there are some CRM and BPM product offerings that enable this. Not many, but some.

However, I think decision management should be used more broadly than you explain. If a decision is triggered it should not only effect what is the appropriate answer to the issue. It should drive the entire customer experience. In today's social era it is important that a customer notices how nice and efficient an agent was, for instance. When you log onto a self service portal it should be important to you that the system is not only smart enough to offer the right campaigns but is able to apply the right logic and processes to drive the right experience for the customer at hand. To deliver an impeccable customer experience decision management needs to do more than correlate a group of properties to derive an outcome or provide conditional tests (e.g. High Risk Customer or Low Risk Customer).

Rather, rules should play a role on deciding which customer service scripts are displayed based on the type of customer. Rules should call the most appropriate process to drive the most optimal outcome for the request at hand. Rules should display the most appropriate data and update customer records. To accomplish this, decision management need to be easy to master and be treated as “first class citizens? within one’s CRM and BPM strategy. After all, the last thing an enterprise needs is another complex system that impedes their ability to provide a stellar end-to-end customer experience.

I completely agree with you - customer decisions can and should be at the heart of managing customer relationships. Decisions, like processes, need to be a first class object in the overall strategy.

James Taylor blogs about decision-management technologies such as predictive analytics and business rules, discussing how they deliver agility, improve business processes and bring intelligent automation to SOA.

James Taylor

James Taylor blogs on decision management for ebizQ, and is an independent consultant on decision management, predictive analytics, business rules, and related topics.

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