One of the most fun things we did in the book was write about real success stories. We used an “Old Way” v “EDM Way” model for these. In the past I have written some blog posts using a similar style and today I have a new one.
An online pharmacy (that the country trusts, apparently) has a pretty good system for re-filling existing prescriptions online and then either having them mailed to you or made available for you to pick up at a store. It remembers your local store, does a pretty good job of letting you manage active and inactive prescriptions etc. It also allows you to automate the re-order process.
Here’s where things go wrong. The re-order process is not reliable – it will work for a few months, then stop. Furthermore it treats new prescriptions for the same drug as wholly new, forcing you to re-start the automated refill when you reach the maximum number of refills on a prescription, even if the system already has a record of a new prescription that is still good. This is irritating but the situation gets bad only when you try and call to find out what’s going on. There is an 800 number right there on the website (so far so good) but as soon as you start talking about problems with the prescription part of the website you are told you must call the pharmacy that handles it. So you call the pharmacy at your store but, because you choose to have the refills mailed to you, it is actually filled at a central pharmacy somewhere else so you are given another number where, finally, someone can help you.
The problems mean that this month’s refill might not arrive by mail in time so you ask, naturally enough, to have this month’s sent to the local store. They can do this but they warn you that doing so will cause any automated refill to also be sent to the local store as it always goes to the last place you had the prescription filled.
Everything works pretty much the same until you get to the display of your existing prescriptions. There we inject a decision – What is the correct 800 number to call for questions about this prescription – and use the rules we have about the status of the prescription and where it is being filled to correctly display the right number firs time – no wasted calls, no wasted expense.
The decision about where to fill/ship a refill is also an explicit decision. In this case driven by rules set by the customer. The interface allows them to say “usually do this” (creating a rule under the covers that says “If no other location is set for the refill, set location to XX”) while also allowing them to specify exceptions like “send this one only to” or “send the next N to” (to handle extended trips) and so on. Large numbers of rules would be created – lot of customers would create rules after all – but that’s OK because business rules management systems (especially those using Rete and similar algorithms) are really good at quickly finding the few rules that actually matter for a given transaction.
Fewer calls, less costs, happier customers – the EDM way.