Case 1. Knowledge Support for the Customer Communication Center of Union Investment
The following action research case of Union Investment, a large mutual fund company in Ger- many, shows the importance of explicated knowledge for the CRM subprocess service manage- ment. The case focuses on a major element within modern service management, the customer communication center (CCC), which usually integrates the communication channels phone, fax, and e-mail to serve customers via multiple channels.
In this case, the CCC serves bank employees and retail customers alike. It consists of 120 employees who offer support on two levels, depending on the expertise and knowledge required to resolve inquiries about a wide array of topics connected to complex financial products.
CKM Challenges. In order to address the needs of their customers, CCC agents utilized differ- ent information channels provided by an internal unit named Information Support. Initially, the content was disseminated via e-mail. While this was possible without further investments in the technical infrastructure, each CCC employee had to organize his or her content individually, and new employees did not have access to older information. Therefore, using basic Web tech- nology, a knowledge platform was created that offered the same information as e-mail with a certain time delay. As the amount of content increased, the navigational structure eventually became more and more cluttered. Since no search function was available, the CCC agents tended to primarily use their personal e-mail folders rather than the central knowledge platform for information retrieval.
The existing solution also caused significant costs for creating, formatting, and publishing content. The complicated process, with only very basic support by information systems in con- verting documents to a Web-based format, also delayed timely publication, which is critical to supporting the CCC agents.
Relevant Knowledge Aspects. The relevant knowledge aspects in this case were content as well as composition. The focus of the project was to provide the CCC employee with knowledge for the customer. However, there was a major shortcoming in the current design of knowledge composi- tion. The navigational structure was unwieldy; searching for content was not possible. This also applied to information support, since the editors had no adequate tool to help them structure the knowledge and get an overview of existing documents.
The major content challenge, requiring up to 50 percent of the time to supply information to the CCC, was the conversion of documents from office application format delivered by other departments into content displayable in a Web browser. Up to the project, editors had to convert content manually with specialized HTML editors.
To overcome the challenges, a new content management system was selected. It included a conversion tool which was based on newly created templates in office applications and could create HTML content automatically. The application for the editors enabled them to publish new content directly from the office application and provided an overview of existing documents. They could be directly accessed and edited from within the tool. On the part of the CCC agents, the content management system offered a search function in addition to a redesigned consistent navigational structure.
Results. Based on a detailed analysis of the processes of CCC agents and editors, knowledge dissemination was significantly improved. The new structure and improved timeliness of infor- mation available on the knowledge platform is an important factor in supporting CCC agents. It enables them to provide faster answers with higher quality. By saving time, customers are served faster. An individual agent can serve more customers, thereby increasing service levels and reduc- ing waiting time.
For the information support department, the cost and time needed to maintain the new plat- form were greatly reduced by eliminating most efforts to convert existing content. The structure could now be maintained much more easily. The focus on just one information source made it easier for agents to find what they needed and reduced operational costs of publication for editors as well as strain on the network infrastructure caused by large e-mail attachments.
Case 2. Skill Management as a Customer-Oriented Human Resource Management Instrument at Helsana Health Insurance
The following action research case of the Swiss health insurance provider Helsana shows the business impact of the knowledge aspect of competence for all CRM subprocesses. The case focuses on strategic skill management as a means to support complex customer processes, to improve the corporate ability to react quickly to changing market requirements, and to manage and improve the corporate skill set.
CKM Challenges. Customers demand individual, affordable insurance services. This requires employees in the customer-oriented units that are organized along marketing, sales, and services to have complex, comprehensive and flexible knowledge for and about the customers. Without a management tool for managing and making visible the required knowledge and skills on a corpo- rate level, the organization could suffer competency shortages with a negative impact on business performance.
Relevant Knowledge Aspects. This case focuses on the knowledge aspect of competency and therefore concentrates on the management of implicit knowledge. The project aimed at es- tablishing an IT solution to support corporate skill management. The main services to be delivered by the new system were derived from the requirements by the business units. They required competency profiles of employees combined with a search functionality to locate employees with certain skills. Also, the system was to create competency maps of the organi- zation based on individual competency profiles. In addition, human resources (HR) demanded that the competency profiles be usable for goal definition, human resource planning, and to derive training measures.
To develop the competency profile, a “skill tree” was used which included professional com- petencies as well as information about education, language skills, and experience. The identifica- tion of competencies critical for the success of the company was based on criteria such as relevance to strategic goals, relative steadiness (i.e., how much effort it takes to acquire a skill that lasts), and relative scarceness.
The project team used these criteria to develop a hierarchical ordering, with relative steadiness being the top hierarchy level. This ensured that the skill tree could be aggregated into a skill map reflecting the skill development costs in an appropriate manner. For each qualification in the skill tree, the competency profile stated whether it was present or not. A multilevel grading scheme measured professional competency and soft skills.
Results. The prototype for the skill management system was developed based on standard soft- ware. The skill profiles and the skill history enabled managers and HR personnel to efficiently plan training measures for each individual employee. On a corporate level, the aggregation of data within the skill profiles allowed for the analysis of the existing skill set and for the deduction of required strategically relevant skills. With this information, a gap between the required skill set and the existing skill set could be identified and addressed via corporate training measures or new hiring policies.
Also, the skill profiles allowed for quick and easy location of required expertise within the company during any step of any process. Thus the resource allocation could be optimized, since long searches for experts were avoided. Additionally, project team members with the required skills could be recruited more easily.
The prototype was field tested and the results were very good. All participants assessed the system as essential to their daily work and ranked its benefit as “good” or “very good.” Therefore, it will be rolled out to further parts of the organization in the near future.