Thursday, May 19, 2011

What's in your records?

Things have been quiet on this blog while I was kicking off a new project with a client. The good thing about this is that I have loads of ideas about things to talk about. At the top of my list is one that reinforces how important it is to maintain quality document records about a client if your customer relationship management (CRM) or equivalent client management system doesn't give you the absolute full story.

When you need to look at the whole history of a client, does the structured data you have about the client, usually stored in some sort of database or CRM system, show you everything you need to know? If you were pressed to show all the information, for an auditor or a lawyer, could you say when the client requested to change her address, when another client added a new service to his contract, or how many times a company had contacted you with a question or complaint? Although this sounds like pure CRM, I would bet that many companies with CRM in place just couldn't do it.

The problem is that clients communicate with companies in many ways - through email, the website, paper, phone, fax. If a company is good enough to have an organized repository for client communications, organized by client and type of communication (or better by the request or case), then the documentation gives you all the information you need. For this to work, you need to be sure of the following:

  • The information is complete
  • You can identify which documents and communications belong to which cases
  • The client information and related documents can be viewed side-by-side
  • There is no way that important discussions or communications with a client don't get captured
  • A full history of important client events can be easily identified without forensically picking through documents
If you have the full view of the client in this way, you have worked hard to get there - congratulations! 

Challenges come if you rely on documents for a history of your clients, but can't be sure that these documents contain a full history in a single view. This is case management, or just a complete client record if you want to avoid adding another unnecessary term to the mix. And when companies work out how to do it well, they are able to service their clients far better, and avoid troubles with auditor and lawyers.

A post from the Improving It blog
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