It’s Oscar season again and while Argo and Life of Pi walked away with the awards this year, I've been thinking about a past classic. In this article of my ACM series, I look through the lens of three iconic scenes from The Wizard of Oz to see how case management can help create great customer experience.

The Wizard of Oz happens to be one of my favorite guilty pleasure movies of all time. I will probably be first in line to see the prequel Oz the Great and Powerful, which arrives in theaters this month. Not only does my inner child love everything about the Oz stories, my adult persona believes there are important business lessons to be found there. 

Creating a Great Customer Experience

Why is customer experience so important? A company's ability to deliver an experience that sets it apart at all times in the eyes of its customers will inspire their brand loyalty and increase customer spend. The Customer Experience Index from Forrester Research found that the companies providing the best customer experience are also those that are leading their business sector.

While brand loyalty is a serious matter for business success, it can be fun to find lessons about customer experience in a childhood classic. Customer experience is a journey, the sum of all interactions from discovery to purchase to use. So take a look with me at three scenes from The Wizard of Oz that help illustrate what it takes to create great customer experiences.

Ready, Camera, Action!

Scene 1: Follow the Yellow Brick Road

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Our first scene from The Wizard of Oz occurs shortly after Dorothy arrives in Oz. Dorothy is told to follow the yellow brick road to find the Emerald City and the Wizard. For Dorothy, the road is intended to guide her, much as case management implementations can offer guard rails that guide knowledge workers and customers alike to their objectives.

Interestingly enough there are a number of current business models that evoke this theme -- from Fidelity’s “Follow the green line” award winning campaign to CarMax with their “Start Here” ads. Fidelity was conjuring up a financial GPS; the company’s “simple, iconic, green line became the visual metaphor of how Fidelity gives consumers the guidance necessary to meet their goals -- even if the path changes along the way.”

Along the way, collaboration may be necessary for informed guidance to help achieve the desired results.

The Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion were necessary collaborators for Dorothy in Oz. For the best customer experience in business processes like loans or new account opening, both guidance and expert collaboration are important with account experts and underwriters.

Case management guard rails provide improved customer experience in the loans environment. For example, a leading automaker’s European financing arm took days to grant their loans before implementing case management. Now their case management solution ensures the coordination of all the documents related to a new request for credit.

For each request the dealer initiates a new “case.” The list of required documents is identified and tracked throughout the credit process to meet their target goal -- to approve or reject a new leasing request in 30-minutes. This has greatly improved the customer experience, with loan granting reduced to minutes or as they say, “the time it takes the customer to choose their options.” This has helped define and build the brand of quality and speed.

For law enforcement officials, experience is formed by rules instantiated as guard rails and collaboration with the information systems they depend upon.

For LA County DNA Tracking System, case management delivers the guidance to determine if a DNA sample is required. When inmates are transferred within the county jail or transferred from the jail to the courtroom and back, the DOTS system automatically retrieves RAP sheet data from CCHRS and uses its DNA eligibility rules to guide decisions about whether a DNA sample is required.

What creates a great customer experience? The lesson from Oz -- and from Fidelity, CarMax our European automaker and LA County -- is that customers need guidance and insight to create a great experience. Further, to be effective, the guidance must be personalized to their situation and allow for collaborative decision making.

Scene 2: Horse of a Different Color

Our next scene occurs when Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and the Lion (and Toto too) arrive in the Emerald City. They are brought to the Emerald Palace in style. The gatekeeper takes them in a carriage driven by a “horse of a different color.”

In the scene we see the unusual carriage horse actually changing colors throughout the song -- from purple to orange to yellow. Dorothy gasps and says "What kind of horse is that? I've never seen a horse like that before." And the gatekeeper replies "He's the Horse of a Different Color, you've heard tell about."

The “horse of a different color” serves to remind us that all customer experiences cannot be alike because all customers and all situations are not alike. Businesses competing on service need to understand and adapt to customer differences in order to meet or exceed expectations.

Guard rails, like the yellow brick road, are important to enable knowledge workers to respond to customer needs. But a single process or path is not always what is needed. Equally important is the ability to change and adapt “in the moment” to customer situations.

In their award-winning implementation of case management, Vision Service Plan transforms customer experience with the ability to apply personal judgment to create the best “unique” customer experience, in a timely and effective fashion. VSP has a generic case template defined that contains key fields (member i.d., doctor i.d., claim i.d., etc.) to aid in finding cases.

VSP Customer Service Representatives create a case using the template and can add tasks to the case as needed to initiate the required work activities. Each task represents a cooperating process. Adding tasks triggers collaboration with the processor knowledge workers who receive the case and process the necessary activities on the case.

This approach allows a nice balance between ad-hoc workflow with any combination of tasks, but still provides some structure for specific task types. Still a horse if you will, but a different color and changing easily in the moment to adapt to the needs of that particular customer experience.

Scene 3: Behind the Curtain

The experience that happens in the moment for a customer is often dependent on what has been orchestrated ahead of time.

I vividly remember the signature line “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” in our third Wizard of Oz scene. Here the man behind the wizard is revealed and we all see how Oz the Great and Powerful is creating that awe inspiring experience for Dorothy and her friends.

My takeaway for today’s enterprises is that a great customer experience is often formed largely by what takes place “behind the curtain,” and case management is a perfect tool to orchestrate that.

What occurs on the customer experience “front line” reflects what has been implemented and integrated with the back office and systems through case. If done properly, the result is actionable information put into the hands of the customer sooner. Case management enables the combination of business rules and analytics to reduce time spent searching for the next task. It is the work done behind the scenes that enables that “just-in-time” guidance to be delivered in context.

The advantage of orchestrating behind the scenes to create the resulting customer experience is that the customer does not need to know how all the technology (applications, rules, systems) works. Intuit has implemented case management to support its Employee Management Solutions that provide easy-to-use payroll and employee benefits services to more than one million small businesses.

Use of case management at Intuit is driven in large part by an understanding of the importance of the User Interface and the customer experience. Case management is used to ensure delivery of a personalized view of work with access to information, tasks, documents and interactions (behind the curtain) that translates to better customer experience.

Lessons Learned from the Merry Old Land of Oz

To create a superior experience requires understanding the customer point-of-view and taking action to ensure the experience reflects the individual’s perspective, needs and situation -- both in the moment and over time. Adaptive case management might not have been what transformed Dorothy’s experience from Kansas to Oz. However, the three capabilities evoked by my Wizard of Oz scenes -- and enabled by adaptive case management -- can go a long way towards transforming your customer’s experience by:

  • Providing guardrails and collaboration to help direct successful interactions
  • Establishing a change environment that adapts to different customers, needs and expectations
  • Orchestrating behind the scenes to deliver information and insight at the interaction point

The Lion would certainly not be afraid to use case management to build his brand. It seems obvious that the Scarecrow would think case management was brilliant, and of course the Tin Man would just love it!

Image courtesy of Jennifer Mitzel (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: To read more from Deb's Adaptive Case Management series, check out The Past, Present and Future of Case Management