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With more and more of the world's economy becoming service-based, it's no surprise that companies of every size, in just about every industry, are turning to customer service as a competitive differentiator. The resulting question, of course, is how to provide experiences that exceed customer expectations without breaking the bank.



One increasingly popular answer: enhancing customer relationship management (CRM) with BPM technology and practices.

According to Forrester Research, organizations often struggle to meet customer expectations due to an inability to consistently manage their customer service-related business processes. By adding a layer of process to front-office paths, BPM can make customer service-related actions more predictable, according to Kate Leggett, a Forrester senior analyst.

"The reality is that a customer-service agent has to use, sometimes, tens or hundreds of different tools during the day, hunting and pecking through all the systems to solve a customer's issue. In multi-step processes, agents don't often follow the same process," Leggett says. "Adding BPM is like handholding the agent through the process. It creates reproducibility."

PROCESS STANDARDIZATION

Leggett offers the example of adding a family member to an insurance plan. The service agent might first need to validate the caller's identification, then confirm that no outstanding payments are due, and then finally add the relative to the plan. Each of these sub-processes might require using a different system.

Coupling BPM and CRM can dramatically improve efficiency. "Information and knowledge presented can be pushed to the agents at the right point in the resolution process," which, in turn, helps those agents serve customers faster, Leggett says.

Standardized processes can also improve the service experience for agents and customers alike. By guiding agents through issue-resolution processes, companies ensure a consistent service experience for their customers, Leggett says. That approach also eliminates the need for agents to memorize multiple steps required to solve specific problems, freeing them to focus on the customer's needs. Results: Agents need less training to provide service that makes customers happy.

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