CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems are designed to manage data about customer in a customer centric way.  It keeps a history of interactions with the customer, and makes it easier for multiple reps to handle the same customer; they can use the CRM system to get a running history of pervious interactions with that customer. Well-designed CRM systems work well and help make customers happier since they see a “single face” no matter whether they get a different rep. As an added benefit, the business gets a “system of record” or “system of engagement” of interactions with the customer – data that can be leveraged for various uses.

Sometimes a customer interaction needs to kick off a process, not just a one off interaction. In many cases the process isn’t one that will managed by the CRM system – e.g. the customer has a unusual request, something needs to be checked, or maybe the process is what the customer is calling for (like the insurance claim example in Deb Miller’s blog) etc. For these processes the rep  goes outside the domain of the CRM system, leveraging various people and systems throughout the organization. In some cases, these are structured processes, and then it makes sense to embed (or link) a BPM system with the CRM systems (as Scott Francis suggested in his blog a while back, I just can’t find the reference).  However in many cases (since these tend to be driven by exceptions) an unstructured process defined by the specific customer and their needs is required. Then it makes sense to link your CRM system with an Adaptive Case Management (ACM) system.

The linkage isn’t only technical (though that needs to happen too). In order to make the link work – some process work need to take place to enable the linkage between CRM and ACM:

  1. Who is responsible for the process? ACM needs a specific person to be designated as the owner of the end to end process. Unless you are a pretty big customer, there is no specific rep assigned to your account, but rather the CRM system works as the glue between the various reps you get at different times. That doesn’t work for an ACM process – you need to make sure that someone specific is assigned as the case or process owner.
  2. How do the systems interact (and keep each other up to date)? The next time the customer calls regarding the process, the customer rep that answers the phone needs to know about where things stand. Since the CRM system is the face to the customer, the ACM system needs to update the CRM system with the current state of the process (whenever that state changes).
  3. Which is the process system of record – CRM or ACM? Since this is a customer process, I would advocate keeping the process in both systems. The CRM system can give a view that cuts across customer processes for analysis, while the ACM system can give a view cutting across all unstructured process (whether or not they were generated by a customer).
  4. Where do data and documents reside? ACM is very document centric (CRM also uses documents, but to a lesser extent). Here it makes sense to have a central repository that both systems use. The same holds for the structured data relating to the customer and the case. Appropriate access control mechanisms need to be in place to make sure people can only see what they should.

Linking the two systems correctly will give you an outstanding customer experience – reps will know exactly where things stand, and therefor so will your customers. Nothing falls between the cracks.


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