Case Management can help small businesses

Small Businesses are often faced with a variety of challenges which could be solved through the use of Case Management.

Case Management can be used in a variety of industries and businesses of various sizes but today I will focus on how it can help small businesses. Case Management can allow you to improve collaboration, efficiently manage your processes and manage your communications to name a few.

Now I want to talk about small businesses and how technology can help you as a small business owner, looking at making its first investments in business applications.

At some point in time, the business which you have lovingly grown from nothing will start to creak. At the start, you may have had no technology, other than MS Office and email. After a while, you may have invested in a website or you might have bought software packages to perform specific functions, like manufacturing, or tracking new business leads, or job scheduling.

You’ll probably make heavy use of spreadsheets containing information about customers and orders, which are passed around between staff. There will be documents which sit on file servers or on employee laptops and email inboxes.

As your business grows, more and more pressure will be placed on your systems …you might experience failures such as jobs being missed or incorrect information being given to customers. You might even have difficulty in finding the status of work inside your business.

At this point, you will start to look outward and take advice on what technology can help if you haven’t already been doing that. When you add on the uniqueness of your business though, it becomes a problem…. what do you do with all the existing data in documents and spreadsheets? Will that software package being recommended actually work in your business? Should you hire some developers and try and build some software applications, with all the inherent risks of software projects? You don’t have unlimited funds to invest, so the price of getting this wrong will likely be high.

Case management can help the small business in a number of ways:

1. by introducing order into the common activities across your business

2. by accurately tracking the status of each piece of work, such as a customer order, across your business

3. help with your fulfilment processes on customer orders and the support needed to deal with pre and post-sale queries

4. help your staff exchange information and instructions in a consistent and transparent way, between themselves and external 3rd parties

5. provide management information about the status of jobs across your sales and fulfilment funnels

6. provide a central source for documents, communications, queries, orders and other processes.

Case Management will bend to your business and the way you operate, which gives you the best of both worlds as it is quick to get up and running, and easy to change if you decide to change the way your business functions.

Lets consider a before and after scenario. Your business is involved in fitting new fireplaces, which you buy wholesale from different manufacturers. Normally you capture new customer orders in one of your high street stores, which contain all of the instructions to get the order completed. The instructions include everything about the customer, what is getting fitted, where to collect the fireplace, and where to install it. There are manufacturer-supplied systems which are used to build customer orders. They produce some documents which can then be emailed to the manager responsible for making fittings in his area, but not much more. Each manufacturer provides a different system, so there are variations which need to be worked around.

In the normal run of fulfilling an order, there will be lots of communication between the area manager, the manufacturer, the installation team, the customer, and you as the business owner, all done via the company email or over the phone.

The challenge with this way of operating is that the process from order capture to fitting is reliant on people knowing what to do, your current systems don’t control the process What problems can this give you?

Firstly, it’s difficult to know where a job is without contacting the people involved directly. So the customer, if they have a query will end up calling the store and asking, which then involves calls to lots of people to find out more.

Secondly, there will be lots of manual transcribing of information from the order system into emails. This can be time consuming and prone to error, especially when you have staff going on holiday or working across multiple jobs.

Case Management would allow you to very quickly define a process around fitting, working out all the stages you need reporting on (order captured, payment received, fitting date agreed, awaiting manufacturer delivery, order in transit, fireplace fitted). You can then decide what information is important such as customer data, address data, product and payment information.

Once you have done that you have a process, where information is all stored centrally, and your staff or customers can access that information on a company website, or using the software application on their phone or laptop.

An important benefit of case management is that all of the order documentation, emails, phone calls, queries, and notes raised against that order have a natural home, and can be collected against the live case with easy centralised access.

No more spreadsheets, no more finding emails inside staff inboxes, no more missing documentation which allows you to see the status of every order at a glance. Most importantly, Case Management helps improve operations within your business to ensure your customers receive excellent service.