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[Online CRM] Solution Approach & Design Principles

Recently, we went live with a huge public sector implementation for a major transportation unit in North America. As a next step, the client asked us to devise an online portal to better customer experience and reduce their employee work load. As part of this blog, I have elaborated on the strategy and key design principles adopted in designing our web CRM application. It captures detailed aspects which were thought upon to make the online CRM portal implementation a successful one.

The methodology adopted for building online CRM functionality was starkly different than those adopted for CRM employee facing applications - primarily due to direct interaction of end business users with customer data. A user could perform any action directly on the CRM database which mandated it to be handled with care. To start with, a detailed study was conducted to understand customer behavior including the most frequented transactions taking as-is (offline) processing as the source. The results were startling, for instance there were many transactions which currently performed manually could be automated. This lead to actionable insights. Myriad stakeholders were involved to determine the quickest way in which a customer could process a transactions with least number of clicks which was followed by detailed wire-framing and mock up sessions being conducted with client.
 
Some of the key principles which we focused on for designing online CRM application were as follows -
  • Customer Experience - Website experience is the most critical factor for any online application. An exercise was conducted to classify processes which can be auto fulfilled versus those processes which mandate a manual input. Processes involving less/ no manual action by an employee were classified as automated transactions which meant that an authenticated business owner or authenticated representative could directly commit an update to the CRM application sitting at their home or relaxing on a beach, without sending across a physical application or without visiting the outlet! There were many other factors which were worked with client to improve overall end user experience. It included devising business user friendly error messages, reduced number of clicks, visualization of key parameters which impact business users, reduced page scrolling etc. These along with best in class web designing principles were adopted to provide a seamless end to end customer experience.
  • Security - Is hosting a CRM application online just about providing a seamless customer experience? No. The content should be accessible only to an authorized and authenticated user groups. Data visibility and information accessibility becomes all more important in a public sector implementation, since these institutions hold sensitive customer data and are also accountable to citizens. For our implementation, we had configured a 2 step authentication process - first being a registration process followed up with a step up authentication using system generated PIN. Over and above, the logged in user was asked to re-identify themselves with a customer account using a unique pin to access a particular customer record. All these factors ensured data protection and provided data access only to authenticated and identified users.
  • Ease of Use - As an end customer, a user should be provided with links and shortcuts to process any transaction from logical view point. For instance, a user should be able to renew his/ her license from License Summary screen or one should be able to add a product from product details screen. The navigation path which a user could traverse, was thought through and only relevant links were shown to the users retaining simplicity. In our case, these factors along with actionable insights helped us design the application in a way which supported ease of use and navigation. We worked in detail with client to fine tune application look and feel - be it the information content shown to the users or the consistent theme across application. A separate section for online help and quick guides was also hosted on the portal using Siebel Open UI capabilities. These were a bunch of quick help guides for the customer when in need. This encouraged self-help reducing employee workload.
  • Accessibility - We had to comply with accessibility guidelines owing law of the land. CRM portal was designed in a way which catered to needs of population diaspora - including the users with vision impairments, poor vision, blindness etc. removing barriers which prevented equal opportunities for interaction, navigation and use of CRM portal. Our web based CRM application was designed on a robust technology platform - Siebel CRM Open UI and thus was able to meet majority parameters for complying with accessibility guidelines.
 
As a next step, we are working towards enriching this CRM portal to include cool features like social listening and analytics, configuring personal dashboards, enabling calendar, appointment booking and so on. Overall, the entire process of building an online application which directly interacts with end customers (and not employees) was enthralling and challenging!

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