In today’s business climate, successful case outcomes are more important than ever before. Factors ranging from the turbulent global economy to the continuing rise of social media are forcing companies to provide the best possible experience to each customer, and dynamic case management (DCM) is an increasingly popular way to do just that.

But despite case management’s long history and established best practices, achieving the desired results is still sometimes easier said than done. Following are five top potential barriers to successful case outcomes and some insights about addressing them.

Potential barrier #1: Customer-experience expectations. Today’s customers expect more and more from the companies with whom they do business, and customer service is increasing in importance as a differentiator. Meanwhile, customers don’t care about company processes, except perhaps that they don’t want to be constrained by them. They’re looking for a personal experience—which some companies may find difficult to provide.

“In the customer experience area, there is a tremendous gap between what consumer technology has provided to the average customer and what companies are really able to provide,” says Craig Le Clair, vice president and principal analyst for Forrester Research. As a result, “you have frustrated and disenfranchised information workers,” he says.

That’s where effective case management can make a big difference. “You’ll see companies taking these case solutions and applying them to highly personalized customer experiences at scale,” Le Clair says. “That’s what case gives you. It allows you to do much more targeted, personalized compliant interactions at the kind of scale that will make it really valuable.”

Potential barrier #2: Organizational mindsets. Effective case management often requires a fundamental cultural change. “It’s a whole new paradigm; a whole new way of thinking,” Keith Swenson, vice president of research and development for Fujitsu.

“A lot of people support office workers from an automation point of view, and they think about the office as a factory. They try to automate the office,” Swenson says. That’s a reasonable approach when you’re working with predictable processes.

“But when approaching case management, you have to understand that intelligent people are the key, and you need to give them all the things they need to make decisions,” Swenson continues. “It’s about empowering knowledge workers, not eliminating them. If you can just get people to understand this, you win half the battle.”

Potential barrier #3. Technology. While technology can be a great enabler of successful case outcomes, it can also stand in the way. “If you don’t have the right technological foundation, you can do something that you can call case management, but that is still very rigid and inefficient,” says analyst Neil Ward-Dutton, research director for MWD Advisors.

Ward-Dutton advises organizations to take a hard look at their existing technology, considering factors such as how well it responds to marketplace and consumer-behavior changes, whether it supports agility, whether it provides analytical insights and whether it can help users quickly resolve issues.

Today, many vendors are adding social capabilities to case management solutions to help users locate expertise, work together and solve problems in real time through messaging and other interactive functions. “Those kinds of technologies are important if you’re at the front line,” Ward-Dutton says. “Without them you don’t have the ability to resolve issues at the point they occur, and you can miss opportunities.”

Potential barrier #4. Accessibility levels. Providing widespread access to key case files is another important factor. “Case management is around the work that is not predictable. You don’t know when you’re going to need it,” Swenson says. “By the time you file a help ticket with IT to gain access to the system, the opportunity may be gone.”

Often, organizations undertake a limited deployment—for example, rolling out case management for just one group. “That’s like saying, ‘We’re going to give telephones to this team, but no one else.’ That doesn’t work,” says Swenson. “You have to have the right access controls. It’s easy to lock things down. The challenge is to open it up and make it so that anybody can access it any time without having to think about it.”

At the same time, effective case management requires advanced security capabilities. “Security differentiates a good system from an immature one,” he says. “You can set up passwords and secure protocols, but the difficult thing is the usability around sharing information correctly to the right people and not sharing it with the wrong people.”

5. Employee guidelines and education. Another challenge, according to Ward-Dutton, is providing adequate instruction for employees involved in case management. Sometimes, organizational guidelines aren’t as well developed as they should be, giving case owners too much latitude in how they delegate work, how they handle approvals and so on. In addition, “there may be gaps in terms of guidelines and restrictions or constraints around certain things that have to happen for regulatory or policy reasons,” says Ward-Dutton.

The good news: This is one area where technology can help. “If you use the technology in the right way, you can—within the context of a work portal or case management environment—present guidance to the worker,” says Ward-Dutton. For example, in the instance of a case owner managing a particular customer complaint, technology might prompt the case owner about what steps should be taken next or when to bring in a higher-level manager.

The key to using such automation successfully is to balance it with the flexibility that allows case owners to make their decisions as well. As Ward-Dutton puts it: “Case management gives you the wrapper for auditing and observing work and providing some structure, but it also empowers people to make decisions and go off script as long as they stay within constraints that are predefined.”

READER FEEDBACK: What was your biggest case management barrier, challenge or reason for hesitation? How did you overcome it, if you did? ebizQ's staff wants to hear your story. Please e-mail Site Editor Anne Stuart at editor@ebizq.net.



About the Author

Crystal Bedell is an award-winning freelance writer who specializes in covering technology. Contact her at cbedell[at]bedellcommunications.com.

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