Microsoft Excel is a powerful tool, there is no doubt about that. But, for a growing business, using Excel as a customer management tool doesn’t come without it’s risks; corrupt files, missing files, duplicate files (master copy not known), copied/stolen files‚ etc, the list goes on. Maybe thinking about using case management software isn’t such a bad idea. After all, centralizing your customer information, secure access and getting a 360 degree view of your customers are just some of the benefits you can achieve.
Thankfully, moving from Excel to case management software should be a painless process. I can only speak for AgileCase here, which can migrate your customer data from excel to our case management system in 3 steps. Here’s how:
Firstly, you need to find the people on your contacts list; those you want to import into the case management software. Since you’ve been using Excel to store and manage your customer data, this part should be straight forward to process.
AgileCase has a data import tool and a handy spreadsheet template you can use as a vehicle to add your data to the system. By following the template, you can migrate large volumes of data quickly.
The spreadsheet, which can be downloaded via “Settings > Data Import” under User Admin, is a comprehensive table showing the headers used to map your contacts across to AgileCase. Don’t worry, you don’t need to complete every column. Just fill in cells for the data you already have. For example, if you leave “Client Code” cells blank, AgileCase will automatically generate a unique identifier for each contact.
On completion of the spreadsheet, just proceed with the “Add Document” process. This will allow you to upload the spreadsheet you’ve worked on. Then, voalà, your data is imported.
This is the fun part and where the flexibility of good case management software should shine through. Now you’ve imported your contacts, it’s time to identify the types of data you want to associate with your business and your customers. In AgileCase, you can create custom case types that enable you to tailor the product to your business.
Custom cases are created using the relationship between three main elements: Practice areas, Case plans and Case types. First of all though, you need to define your practice areas.
Creating practice areas simply allows you to add areas of business you practise in. For example:
If you practise legal services, areas could be:
* Family law
* Wills & Executry
If you’re a practising Architect, areas could be:
* House extensions
* Alterations & conversions
If you practice in social care, areas could be:
* Residential care
* Post-hospital care
* Rehabilitation and reablement care
Next, you can create custom case types. How you relate practise area, case type and case plan will shape the structure of the system and allow you to customize AgileCase to work for your business in your specialist field.
Case type can be Anything, whether “general work”, “consultancy” or any other type of work you do for your customer. When you define a case type, you can associate it with one or more practice areas. This allows you to really monitor revenue at a granular level through reports. But that’s a topic for another blog post. Right now, really think about the different type of work you do and how they relate to your business practises.
Now, on to case plans. Case plans allow you to set a series of milestones for each of your case types. This is a great way to ensure that every case you open proceeds on schedule.
For each case, simply add one or more events like initial client meeting, second client meeting or respond to initial query. Each event has a customisable time period for the event to be completed after a case is opened. You and your staff can use the case plan to act as a service level monitor – instantly improving your customer management strategy, which means more happy customers.
3. Case Creation
You have your contacts and your data types, like practice area, case type and case plans. Finally, you can start adding cases for existing contacts and any new contacts.
When you “create case”, you will automatically be presented with the customised data you entered into the system to build your case. Additionally, you can access advanced options at point case creation, allowing you to set, among other things, the date of when the case was open (helpful for historical cases) and viewing permissions; whether everyone in your organization or specific users.
Now you can view your the case and every artefact related to it. A 360 degree view of the customer interaction.
There you have it. The easy way to move from Microsoft Excel as a customer management tool to using case management software. Of course, the steps above have been condensed a little. While I have highlighted a lot of flexibility, there’s so much more you can do with AgileCase to customize the system and make it your own to fit your business processes.
Right now we’re running a beta program. If you would like to move away from Excel and use AgileCase, let us know. Sign up on agilecase.com and reply to the initial email or send us a message on Twitter telling us about your business, your pain points and why you think AgileCase can help.
For any organization that sells goods and services, after sales will no doubt be a key contributor to repeat business and customer satisfaction.
Businesses such as car sales, jewellers, clothing sales or any type of equipment sale like electronics, machinery or plant, need to have processes in place to deal with post sale customer issues. Whether that’s an ad-hoc repair, or scheduled maintenance, each incident, or case, needs to be managed effectively.
Your after sales processes could be improved dramatically by implementing a case management system to manage your customers.
So here are our 7 reasons why case management software should be part of your after sales process:
1. Accurately manage ad-hoc incidents per customer
All of your customers can be stored in the case management system. For each time your customer returns for any type of after sales service, you can create a new case. That case is unique and contains all interactions for that case.
It also allows you to log time spent on the case, how much work on the case cost and the ability to raise an invoice for the case directly from the case management system.
2. Reduce customer complaints
By using case management in your after sales workflow, you can reduce customer complaints and boost customer satisfaction by adding your SLAs (Service Level Agreements) to the system.
By setting milestones for each case type, you’re setting goals for each customer engagement that must be met during the case lifecycle. Alerts will be visible to any users your system, ensuring cases are dealt with efficiently and consistently every time.
3. A 360-degree view of your customers’ history
All after sales cases are linked directly to the customer. This means you get an accurate view of every engagement they’ve had with your business; every email, meeting or call, how much revenue they’ve generated and much more.
By having a full audit trail of your customers’ history, you can effectively deal with future engagements by quickly learning from past engagements.
4. Automate communication to remind customers about periodic scheduled maintenance or warranty expiration dates
A good case management system has the functionality to automate communications with your customers. Upload your business document templates for email responses and proactive communications. Save your after sales team hours, by enabling one click sending of communications to your customers by email and SMS. Uses include:
Send an SMS to alert that a repair is ready for collection
Send an email to inform that a warranty is due to expire
Send an SMS to inform that a regular service is due, with Call To Action to call and book in.
5. Understand which service streams generate the most revenue (and the least)
With flexible features, comes flexible reporting. By having a 360-degree view of your customers, your case management system should be able to let you cut and slice custom reports to help you really understand your customer base.
Custom reporting helps you understand where your revenue is generated or identify where margins are too tight. Distill data down to revenue per case type and even revenue per customer. Using data in this way is an enabler to focus on key profit areas, and grow your business.
6. Understand which customers you can cross sell additional products and services to
Back to the 360-degree view you’ll have of your customers. An additional benefit of knowing your customer means you have opportunities to cross sell products and services which might be relevant to your customer. Cross sales mean returning customers, which means increased revenue generation.
7. Centralize and Digitize your after sales processes
Last but by no means least, a major benefit of adopting case management into your after sales processes is centralizing your customer data and access to that data. I’ve seen busy after sales departments who still use a hard back diary, a simple online log and post-it notes to manage their repairs desk. The team cause themselves unnecessary stress and workload by using multiple tools to manage their customers.
By centralizing your processes into a single case management system, you’re ensuring your team can securely access accurate and consistent customer data. Case management software also digitizes your processes. No more paper diary and post-its that can be misplaced or lost, and which can’t be backed up. Quickly on-board new staff and ease workload on existing staff with clear and consistent case milestones, documentation and reporting.
Case management for after sales service can clearly provide tangible benefits to any business that implements it. Both from a customer perspective and from the business perspective. Transparent 360-degree customers views, full audit trail, comprehensive reporting, process automation and cross selling opportunities all contribute towards this.
Do you have any experiences of after sales process you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments.
So you’ve hit a brick wall, using pen and paper, or software tools like Excel, MS Access, network folders, email aren’t as scalable as you hoped. Or you discovered, unfortunately, that keeping these assets up to date is a hard task in itself; never mind that you’re not quite sure if your customer data is backed up appropriately.
But, you’ve decided to do something about it. You’ve spoken to your peers, colleagues, friends or consulted Google about what to do; information management, customer management… case management. It looks certain a case management system fits your needs. If it’s information you need to store about a customer and all that surrounds each piece of work, it’s worth implementing a solution to capture, store and access centrally and securely. But which one should you choose? Some systems are targeted at legal services, some at health care, social services, non-profit organisations and HR teams.
As a small to medium business, you need a solution that fits your business. Don’t worry, confusion need not apply as long as you take some time to really consider what your requirements are.
First ask yourself, what features do I need?
Define your features. Honestly, if you do this at the outset, you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle later on. “How do I do that though?”, I hear you say. There are a couple of investigation techniques you can use to figure out what features you need in a new case management system. Let’s take some ideas from our Business Analyst friends.
Firstly, if you have any up to date documentation about existing processes, that is a good start. Study those to identify feature requirements. If you don’t have any process documentation in place, that’s fine. It is good practice to map out and document your processes though, so I would encourage spending some time to think about and map out your processes using process mapping software.
Next, if you are not the only person in your organisation, talk to all or most of your staff or colleagues who might be knowledge workers; people who’s daily routine involves handling or using information. By talking to people, you’ll be able to document any tacit knowledge, which could reveal patterns and show needs for features which could help your business.
So you have some feature requirements, now what? Prioritise the list. Which features are most important to your business processes?
Case management system features we’ve found that are important to many businesses
Coincidentally, we’ve also done some research on what features businesses benefit from having in a case management system. It’s not an exhaustive list but the list should provide some food for thought on your high level needs.
Can the software be customised to my existing workflows?
This is an important feature. It’s consequential you find a case management system that can adapt to your existing/improved processes. Quite simply, if you need to adapt your workflow to the software, then the software is not benefiting you.
An adaptive case management system should be flexible enough to allow you build and design your case plans and case types from a detailed control panel. By having this powerful control and flexibility it means you can ultimately remove any need to outsource for “integration” or “training”.
Cloud based or on-premise?
First, let get our definitions in place. Web based and cloud based are interchangeable terms. Also known as Software as a Service (SaaS), the terms mean the software and related data is stored on a server which is accessed via the internet and might be in a different geographical region. On-premise means the software and data is stored locally, on a computer (or computers) in your office.
Either method can be suitable for a business. Cloud case management, like many other cloud service types (banking, storage, word processing and even gaming), has become reliable and secure.
Reliable in a sense that “uptime” service level agreements usually mean you can access your chosen system 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and that all of your data is backed up for you on a regular basis. It’s also generally the case that the service provider completes regular software upgrades in the background as part of your subscription. All of this goes toward reducing risk of not having your data backed up and not having the most up-to-date software (and not having to do the software updates yourself).
Secure in a sense that not only does each person require a password to access the system, but the connection between your computer and the cloud case management system will be encrypted. The term ‘military grade encryption’ is used and often it is the case, making it extremely difficult to access your data without permission. Check your provider’s data policies to make sure data is indeed stored securely and not shared with third parties.
Another benefit to cloud case management is you can access your customer data from almost anywhere you have an internet connection. At the office, at home, when you’re out on the road and visiting clients. This is great flexibility and can play a part in your customer experience management policies.
An on-premise case management system is also a good way to manage your data. It just requires a little more resources on your part. You’ll need to ensure backups are completed regularly, you’ll need a disaster recovery plan in place incase any of your hard drives fail – which means you may need to set up redundant, duplicate storage of all files, back up hourly, daily, etc. You will also require resource to perform software updates. If you need access to the case management system away from the office, you’ll require secure access into your network, which needs to be set up and maintained.
For larger organisations, both cloud and on-premise are viable solutions, since larger organisations are likely able to secure resources to set up and maintain on-premise software. For smaller business though, in the early stages at least, cloud case management is the simpler, more cost effective option. Again, it depends on what your business needs are.
Time and Billing
Built in time tracking and expense management can be a great cost and time saving feature. Not everyone likes time tracking or expense management, but we all know it has its place. It offers potentially large benefits to your business from knowledge about your revenue pipeline, service demand and pricing, that can help you drive up profits and grow.
Customer portals, are great ways to leverage new technology and enhance your customer experience management strategy. Rather than relying on ‘snail mail’ to send copies of documents to your customers, a customer portal will allow you to upload files to a secure area on your website or cloud case management system where only that client can access their files – by logging in with a username and password.
This is convenient for the customer as it allows them to access documents at times which suit them. It should also allow them to upload files; for example, digitally signed contracts or order forms. Customer portals invariably speed up processes of communication when document viewing, completion and return is part of the process.
Importing and Exporting data
One that can be easily overlooked at the start of your investigation. Firstly, can you import your existing customer data and how easy is it to do so? Secondly, if you decide to use a different software or do extra back ups of your data, can you easily export your data?
Good case management system providers should be on hand to provide help to import and export your data.
Document management in a SaaS case management system is a great opportunity to go paperless. Good case management systems allow you to centralise your document management practises. What does that mean? It means you should be able to digitally store documents, linking directly to customers and specific cases.
One great feature to look for is the ability to generate documents based on templates you’ve uploaded, but we’ll get on to that in the next part. By digitising your documentation and, with email integration (check that’s a feature too!), you should be able to easily send and receive documents to/from your customers, with a full audit trail.
Digitising your document management also enables you to take advantage of having a Customer Portal, like that described earlier in the post. Reducing mailing costs and the need for storing and securing document hard copies.
Wouldn’t it be helpful if you could automate your processes?! Again, a good case management system should allow you to automate repetitive tasks like sending out a reminder, information about a sale or rekindling a customer relationship.
These features enable you to create accurate and relevant communications to your customers which can be sent at the click of a button or predefined dates and times. It could save your organisation many hours of effort.
How big is your budget?
This is where you need to be realistic. If you need a feature rich product accessible by many staff, the chances are you’ll need to pay a lot for that. Same goes if you want to set up an on-premise solution, you’ll have to think about resource costs in maintaining your system on-site. As a guide though, for a cloud case management system, you should expect to pay around $50 per user with administration access permissions and a little less per standard user.
Overall, for an organization with 5 staff (e.g. 2 administration level, 3 standard users) you might expect to pay around $3000 per year (+/- a few hundred, depending who you compare prices with). Considering this comes with flexible access, secure storage, regular backups and regular software updates all done by the vendor, it’s good value.
There we have it. That was a high level overview of some features to look out for on your journey to choosing the best case management system. I hope it helps and I’d love to hear your feedback. What have your experiences shown? What other features have you found to be important in your quest for case management? Feel free to leave a comment below, or even get in touch with us via email or twitter and let us know what you think.
We know case management works, so why is it only used by lawyers or large institutions?
The answer seems a lot simpler than you first might think, but it took us a little while to figure it out.
Back in the late 2000’s we had been working in the legal services industry, seeing how lawyers worked and the processes they used. We’re somewhat passionate about business processes. Actually, that’s quite an understatement. We live and breathe process management and look for every opportunity to improve processes wherever possible. Even standing in line at a bank, we get really frustrated seeing opportunities to improve workflows… open a new teller window, it’s lunchtime after all. If they did that, during the busy period, their customers would be happier. Simple eh?!
And that’s the key. Thinking about process improvement from the customer point of view. That’s what the law firms we engaged with did. Satisfying the requirements of the customer, whether internal, an organisation or average Joe, was at the heart of each process. And they were successful. And why were they successful? They used a valuable tool to streamline and manage their business processes. A Case management system.
It wasn’t just law firms that used case management either. Large institutions like health and welfare organisations used case management. We then started to do our research on the markets and business types. We talked to friends in other industries like architecture, retail, motor industry, real-estate, financial services and few had heard of case management let alone used any case management software during their careers. To us, this seemed confusing. Here we had examples of businesses where the customer is essential to every day business processes, yet no one was really thinking about how they managed their customers.
The defacto was, “we use email or excel” or “Jean from reception looks after the files”. It seemed crazy. There were so many possible issues and risks that everyone was aware of, but no one done anything about them.
So, why not case management? Well, the status quo is one reason. And another is a correlation between lawyers and large institutions, which is pretty obvious; they have the financial resources in place to purchase and implement case management systems.
That sparked something in us. We already had a thing for process improvement and knew the benefits case management could bring, so we decided to do something about it.
A Next Generation Case Management System Was Born
For the last year we’ve been researching, talking to potential customers and building. We have been developing something we truly believe in. Something we truly believe will benefit almost any business, not just big law firms or large institutions. We’ve developed something really flexible and accessible. Something that can adapt to any business process. We want to bring tools like automation to businesses and give them a fighting chance to reduce costs and boost their revenues. We want to give businesses a tool that will help them grow. AgileCase was born, and we couldn’t be more excited.
This is our journey. You and us. Let’s make it work.