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Ministry uses intelligent BPM to save time chasing expired credit cards

A ministry used PNMSoft’s Sequence iBPM suite to more efficiently track down expired credit cards and eliminate manual tasks for call center representatives.

Imagine knocking back a call center rep's average time on a call by 25%. Joyce Meyer Ministries (JMM) did just that with the help of intelligent BPM.

A couple of years ago, the ministry -- an international nonprofit that provides humanitarian aid -- identified 30 processes that could benefit from business process management (BPM) software to better handle declined and expired credit card transactions. Dealing with these problems was a daily occurrence at the Fenton, Mo.-based ministry, and it also resulted in a drop in donations. JMM has thousands of supporters who make monthly donations, and it was a manual, labor-intensive process for call center representatives to update information, said Angela Triplett, business process strategist at JMM.

The ministry's data warehouse generates a SQL server report that is delivered to operations team members who then input the data into spreadsheets and pass them on to the call center. Call center representatives contact donors to let them know a card was declined or has expired and obtain an updated credit card number to process the transaction.

With iBPM, we're assured that 100% of those cards that were declined or expired are getting updated because it's automated.
Angela Triplettbusiness process strategist, Joyce Meyer Ministries

A call center rep might call upwards of 200 people a day but, in the past, reps also had to make multiple calls if a person wasn't home. From start to finish, the process of updating credit card information used to take as long as seven weeks, Triplett said.

"Our issue was not the time; it was accuracy,'' she said, as it was manually done, and every day the reps were getting new reports, so they had to keep track of all of their calls. As a result, mistakes often cropped up. For example, a rep might accidentally call the same person a few times or, conversely, someone else would be missed or not get called again after two unsuccessful attempts were made.

Intelligent BPM technology under review

The ministry prides itself on using cutting-edge technology. CSO Andrea Turek attended Gartner's BPM Summit in December 2014 and looked at platforms, including Microsoft Visio, Kofax TotalAgility 6 (now part of Lexmark), PNMsoft Sequence and Fujitsu RunMyProcess. JMM determined that deploying iBPM would give the ministry advanced analytics functionality, so the company selected Sequence.

Angela Triplett says that intelligent BPM has helped her group reduce average calls times by 25%. Angela Triplett

"Our need was more than just BPM; it was more iBPM. With the automations and integrations of systems and the complexity of our processes, we needed the whole iBPM suite," Triplett said.

Workflow technologies are nothing new, but they have evolved to expand upon earlier generations that were specific to the kind of work a person did, noted Janelle Hill, vice president and distinguished analyst of CIO research at Gartner.

Still, with traditional BPM systems, when tasks were handed off from one person to another, things often didn't get completed because all the system did was coordinate the handoff, Hill said. With newer iBPM suites, "there's absolutely more intelligence put in the stack," she added.

Intelligent BPM means "the software itself is making decisions for finding insights or making recommendations to you on what to do next,'' such as identifying who needs to approve a purchasing order request and then routing it to that person, said Hill.

Call times and manual tasks reduced

That type of automation was appealing to JMM. "With iBPM, we're assured that 100% of those cards that were declined or expired are getting updated because it's automated,'' Triplett said. The system has digitized the process of collecting information for declined or expired credit cards and provides automatic notifications to donors when there is an unsuccessful transaction.

Triplett said that, with Sequence, the ministry was able to reduce the cost of the entire credit card updating process by over half within the first 30 days after installation. The amount of time call center reps spend on a call has also been reduced from four minutes to three -- a 25% drop -- "because the interface is really easy to use and the work is right there: the script, the number, everything,'' she said.

Further, a key performance indicator (KPI) JMM gleaned from Sequence is how many calls a specific rep makes. "That's a really big, meaningful KPI for us," she said.

Additionally, JMM has eliminated manual processes. Previously, after reps made calls, they followed up with emails, and then letters would go out that were generated by a third-party vendor.

Deduplicating records is a future goal for iBPM

Joyce Meyer Ministries hopes to use intelligent business process management (iBPM) to merge multiple accounts from the same customer or donator.

Ministry founder Joyce Meyer is an author, and sometimes duplicate accounts are created as people use the web, phone or email to purchase her books.

"We will feed [our intelligent BPM system] the accounts that match … and a rep will look at that to see if they can be merged or are truly unique accounts,'' said Angela Triplett, business process strategist at the ministry. "The ability to merge those duplicate accounts will be a huge cost savings."

"Because Sequence automatically prints the letters, we can print them out here at headquarters, which saved us money,'' Triplett said. "We eliminated the third-party printer."

The only issue JMM ran into stemmed from difficulty unearthing finer details. Because the process of obtaining updated credit card information is so complex, company officials wanted to learn how successful the reps were at call number three versus call number five.

"So we want to report down to that granular task level, and it's a little more difficult to do that," Triplett said. "We can get all the metrics we want at a process level, but as we dig down to each task it's more difficult." She said they were able to work through getting the analysis with help from PNMsoft's support services.

Future iBPM goals require technical savvy

Another goal for JMM is integrating Sequence with the ministry's data warehouse, customer relationship management and ERP systems, which Triplett said requires a developer or someone who is technically trained to do that work.

"I think, initially, the thought was whoever was trained to develop processes in Sequence could connect to other data sources, [but] you really need someone technical to do that,'' she noted. "We just didn't have those people trained, initially" on Sequence.

Today, because JMM's call center reps obtain updated credit card numbers earlier, they don't make as many follow-up calls. The ministry has not reduced staff since "there are other processes we want to take on, and now our reps have the time to do that,'' Triplett said.

For example, the ministry makes outbound calls when there is a natural disaster in a particular area so the reps can call and pray with affected partners. "We want our call center reps to be freed up to do that,'' she said.

Future plans include developing a process in Sequence to streamline how vendor contracts are handled. Triplett said statements of work or new contracts are typically overseen via email, but the company wants to minimize the number of times contracts have to go back and forth. The approval process for professional development courses outside of JMM is another task the ministry is planning to move into Sequence in order to reduce approval time. 

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