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The SAP CRM Interaction Center is somewhat different than other business software applications you might be familiar with. Most software applications and tools are designed to handle a specialized process. For example, some applications enable communicating between multiple users (i.e., Skype, Google Voice, etc.). Other applications facilitate transaction processing, such as ordering a product or requesting service from a company’s Web site. Still other applications, like installation wizards and online trouble-shooting tools, guide users through complex processes or interactions. The SAP CRM Interaction Center on the other hand is slightly unique in that it combines these otherwise separate processes within the context of a single process flow or “interaction”. Anytime someone uses the Interaction Center – whether for inbound or outbound communication; whether customer-facing, employee-facing or vendor-facing; whether for marketing, sales or service processes – three separate types of processes are potentially involved. These three processes are: the communication process (optional, if using CTI or multi-channel integration), the interaction process itself (mandatory, always), and the business transaction process (optional, as required).

To share my thoughts more in detail let’s walk through one of the most common process flows in the Interaction Center: the customer service scenario.

Scenario

A customer contacts the helpdesk via e-mail to report a problem and asks for help regarding a hardware problem. The customer receives an automated e-mail acknowledgement. An interaction center agent picks up the reported problem from the agent inbox, searches for a sufficient solution and replies to the customer by e-mail attaching the relevant knowledge articles as PDF files.

Process Flow

The process flow shows the main processes involved during the interaction. Assume that the service process could be exchanged with processes from other scenarios like telemarketing, telesales or shared service center, merely the sequence of the process flow could vary.
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The communication process is optional. Many times, an Interaction Center agent will be dealing with a business partner (customer, employee, vendor, etc.) in real time, either via telephone or Web chat. Other times the agent may work asynchronously, processing an email, service request, or workflow item from the Agent Inbox. Even in the latter case there still might often be some form of communication with the business partner, such as an outbound email providing status updates, documents, problem resolutions, or other information. However, there are also some cases in which a back-office agent might just be using the Interaction Center to process work items without any direct communication to any business partner.
The interaction process is mandatory and occurs anytime an agent uses the Interaction Center to communicate or interact – either directly with a business partner or asynchronously with a business transaction belonging to a business partner. The interaction process starts with either the identification and confirmation of the business partner or the selection and interaction with a business transaction, email, workflow, or other item belonging to a business partner. The interaction process includes all steps that the agent takes to resolve an issue or process an order including intelligent agent guidance tools such as interactive scripts, alerts, knowledge articles and solutions, email templates, and so on. The interaction process can also optionally result in the creation of one of more business transactions.
The business process is optional. Certainly some simple customer or employee requests can be resolved by providing a short answer or other information. However, quite often an interaction will result in one or more follow-on business transactions such as a sales order, service request, or complaint. In such cases, each business transaction is linked to the Interaction Record, providing a connection between the business process and the interaction process. 

Several capabilities are supporting the processes outlined above.

Capabilities used in the communication process are targeting process-automation:
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SAP Connect
receives inbound and sends outbound e-mails like auto acknowledgements and solution provisioning by agents. Once e-mails are received, SAP Connect creates SAP office documents, which can then be processed by SAP Business Workflow. Of course you could also think of the communication process as an inbound or outbound phone call here – handled by communication management software. Please take the inbound e-mail just as an example representing a variety of communication channels that can be integrated with the interaction center.

E-Mail Response Management System (ERMS) using Rule Policies handles and evaluates incoming e-mails. Mail Forms with personalized e-mail content is used for auto acknowledgements and providing the solution to the business partner.

Organizational Management in SAP CRM defines how e-mails are routed and to which groups or organizations and how they are going to handle and process e-mails. You can route e-mails to an organizational unit or responsible group, a position, or even an individual user. The e-mails are routed to the agents’ inboxes where they are available for further processing.

SAP Business Workflow enables automated processing and routing of e-mails. Workflow is used for e-mail routing and handling as it allows dispatching emails as work items into the shared inbox of several agents. The first agent who starts processing an e-mail based work item automatically blocks it for processing by other agents and removes it from their inbox.

Capabilities used in the interaction process are targeting user productivity:
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Account Identification: Based on the senders e- mail address the business partner information could be easily determined and related information is  immediately available.
Transaction Launcher integrates non-IC transactions and applications into the interaction center.

Capabilities used in the business process are targeting user productivity and guidance:
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Rule Modeler integrates the functions of autosuggest and content analysis with the aid of Multilevel Categorization and an Alert is populated which guides the agent to available solutions.
Mail Forms with personalized e-mail content is used for solution provisioning to the business partner.

Isn’t there something more?

Yes indeed! The process above describes the handling of incoming e-mails and knowledge provisioning as an example. If you take a look to inbound or outbound phone calls or chat you could imagine that additional capabilities exist (e.g. interactive scripts, automatic number identification, call attached data), but this will be another story.

In the end you can take into account, the 3 processes Communication Process, Interaction Process and the integrated Business or Application Process as well as the classification of capabilities in direction of Automation, User Productivity and Guidance.

Please take a look at related blogs giving insights to some of the capabilities mentioned above

What is Computer Telephony Integration (and Why Do I Need It?)
Introduction to the Interaction Center Agent Inbox
Everything you need to know about the Interaction Record in the CRM Interaction Center
SAP CRM 7.0 Service Tickets and Service Requests: Frequently Asked Questions
Alerts, System Messages, and Broadcast Messages in the Interaction Center?
Knowledge Articles in SAP CRM

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