BPM and CRM: Real-life success; pitfalls to avoid

Editor’s Note: In this two-part Q & A, ebizQ’s Peter Schooff and analyst Neil Ward-Dutton discuss using BPM to enhance customer relationships. In Part I, they talk about BPM's role in improving customer service. Here, in Part II, Ward-Dutton shares examples of a customer successfully using BPM for customer relationship management (CRM) and offers advice on pitfalls to avoid. Ward-Dutton, co-founder and research director of MWD Advisors, is among Europe’s best-known IT analysts. This interview, excerpted from a longer podcast, has been edited for length, clarity and editorial style.

ebizQ: Can you give us a real-world, real-life example of a company that has used BPM to enhance customer experience?

We’ve been talking to a--the best way to describe them is a hybrid. They’re kind of like a telecom firm, they’re kind of a retailer and they’re other things, too. They’re a company based here in the U.K. called Carphone Warehouse. They have used, interestingly, what’s not cutting-edge technology. It’s really quite modest technology, but they've used it in a way that is really smart.

What they’ve done is use technology that helps people in the call center be really consistent about the way they make offers to customers so that when someone calls in, or when they come in through the Web, they're given a consistent experience. [That’s the case] whether that customer has an inquiry or whether the call is more of an outbound nature and there's an offer being made.

Rather than relying on individuals knowing everything and keeping up-to-date with quite fast-changing catalogs of offers and products and promotions, it's all done through a system.

Again, it’s not leading-edge technology; it's a system which basically helps them make sure they're always consistent in how they lay things out for the customer. That's delivered great benefits for them in terms of customer satisfaction and in terms of retention and up-sell and cross-sell.

What Carphone Warehouse did that was really great, though, was: When building this system, they made sure to involve all of those guys on the front line in understanding what the system had to look like. What was smart was not really the technology itself, but the way they applied that and the way they really valued the contributions of the people they were already employing to deal with the customers’ issues. They used all that knowledge and they made sure they got people to champion the change that was going to happen.

ebizQ: What are some of the bigger mistakes you've seen, and things to avoid, when trying to use BPM to improve customer experience?

The biggest challenge comes from taking everything with a kind of an inside-out perspective where you are basically taking an established kind of BPM method or approach which is, typically speaking, about efficiency, predictability, and all those good things.

The reason I say “those good things” is that in many, many cases, if you're employing BPM, you know you really want to maximize efficiency and predictability and structure and all those good things, that’s fine.

If what you're trying to do is deliver great customer experience, you actually need to throw that all out the window because, as I’ve said, people aren't predictable. If you want to deliver service that delivers on people's expectations, you have to embrace unpredictability, you have to embrace variation, you have to embrace flexibility. Often, with traditional methods around process improvement, you try to engineer out exceptions and try to avoid change or costs; what you want to do is lock stuff down.

But if you're really trying to use this stuff to drive customer experience, you need to embrace those exceptions, you need to embrace flexibility and embrace change. So it's like 180-degree shift in terms of your approach, and that catches a lot of people out. They approach things very much from a kind of operational-excellence point of view, an “inside-out” view, rather than looking at it from the customer-first, “outside-in” view.

[That involves saying] “Let's understand what customers are struggling with. Let's understand, with a blank canvas, what this service needs to look like. How do we design it? Not so that it's easy to fulfill, but so that it meets what [customers] really need. Let's work backwards from that.”

That's the biggest mistake I see: people not making that shift in thinking and that shift in kind of perspective in terms of how they start to design the solution.

See Part I of this Q & A, where Schooff and Ward-Dutton discuss other aspects of BPM’s role in CRM.

READER FEEDBACK: Have you used BPM to improve customer experience? If so, ebizQ editors would like to hear about your experience. Contact Site Editor Anne Stuart at editor@ebizq.net.

About the Author

Peter Schooff is a former contributing editor for ebizQ, where he also managed the ebizQ Forum for several years. Previously, Peter managed the database operations for a major cigar company, served as writer/editor of an early Internet entertainment site and developed a computer accounting system for several retail stores. Peter can be reached at pschooff@techtarget.com.

More by Peter Schooff

About ebizQ

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