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Improving customer interactions one decision at a time


Syndicated from ebizQ

William Band at Forrester (@waband) recently tweeted that his next research project was:

When to use CRM apps vs BPM tools to improve customer interactions? Pros & Cons of each?

I replied that companies should be sure to manage customer treatment decisions too and he asked me to expand on that thought.

Every customer interaction requires decisions – you must make a selection from a range of offers, pick a course of action, agree (or not) to a request. These interactions involve conversation, process, data and more also but there is always a decision or a set of decisions. When I think about my interactions with companies, it is the effectiveness, relevance or value of the decisions they make that stays with me. When I talk to Asus about my eeePC, it is their decision to handle the repair without complaint or delay that I remember. When I call my bank about a fee, it is their decision not to refund it that I remember, not how nice the agent was or how efficient their process. When I log on to an online account it is the relevance of the offer being displayed that I notice. Decisions matter to customers and to customer interactions.

And these decisions are customer-specific, customer-centric. Each decision is what Neil and I called a micro-decision in our book. Each decision relates to a single customer and each may seem relatively unimportant. But the cumulative effect of those decisions is very great. Making a compelling offer to a single customer is probably not going to make all that much difference to your bottom line. Making a more compelling offer to each customer who calls, however, adds up to real money for organizations with large numbers of customers.

To improve these decisions takes more than CRM or BPM. It takes an explicit focus on decisions, especially high-volume operational decisions. It takes business rules to manage the logic of those decisions (so that the business can collaborate in defining how they should be made while the systems environment applies those rules systematically and consistently across all customers) and predictive analytics to predict what will work or not work for each customer (a model that predicts how likely this customer is to churn or that customer is to accept an offer). It also takes experimentation and a focus on continuous improvement as decision making must evolve as business circumstances do.

Neither CRM nor BPM tools have  the necessary focus on decisions – CRM tools tend to be focused on the information about a customer (necessary to drive better decisions) while BPM tools tend to focus on how to act on the decisions made about a customer (fulfilling the action). Both are necessary to manage the customer interaction but so are decisions and so is decision management.

I have blogged about this topic before. Check out:


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Nick van Goor August 25, 2010, 6:03 am

    Good post. I think decisioning (whether automated or not) is at the core of how you interact with your customers. Advanced organizations are now moving to automated decisioning in real-time, whereby the customer interaction is modified on the fly depending on information gathered while the interaction is in progress. Here’s an example.


  • Mark Eastwood August 25, 2010, 10:06 am

    You’re right on with managing decisions along with the CRM/BPM, in fact I’d argue that decisions as you describe them are a critical part of CRM. As you poit out its the decisions a company makes when they interact with you that you remember.
    As I tihnk you have said in the past, companines should manage decisions as a corproate asset and something that makes them different from their competitors. I definitely agree that its a combination of CRM/BPM (as appropriate) and decisions.


  • Stephen Kraus August 26, 2010, 9:17 am

    James – great exchange between Bill and yourself on this topic — one thing i might add is i am not sure you have to make a choice between a CRM application, a BPM tool and Decisioning. A powerful combination of CRM functions, with the configurability of BPM and the intelligence of analytics powered decisions is perfect end game

    This combination is what we are focused on at Pega (especially with the inclusion of the Chordiant technologies)