CRM Adapted To Veteran Relationship Management


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How CRM Serves Those That Have Served

On this veteran's day I'm pleased to share how one organization's innovative use of CRM is improving the lives of military veterans.

Two recent wars, including America's longest war, have culminated to create a large and growing population of veterans in need of social services.

VetAdvisor, a veteran-centric holistic care company, is doing its part by delivering coaching services to veterans, including assistance with career transitions, job search, finance counseling, behavior and health wellness, interpersonal relationships and more. The organization's staff help thousands of military veterans earn college degrees, reconnect with family and find the support services they need.

It's a truly admirable mission, however, I know firsthand that veterans can make for difficult patrons for two big reasons. First, many suffer from non-visible and psychiatric challenges that are still not fully appreciated by most, including those who suffer from them. Second, veterans have a propensity to serve without being served and an unfortunate tendency to evade help somehow believing others need that help more.

To combat these challenges, VetAdvisor sought to rethink the typical case management approach to serving veterans. I spoke to Paul Handly, the organization's CTO. He indicated some time ago he recognized the shortfalls of case management applications which tend to focus on single cases over short spans. This approach essentially treated active symptoms or issues but not necessarily underlying causes or patients.

They also determined that veterans in need of assistance cannot be channeled into a single category – such as mental health, depression, careers or financial distress – but instead must be viewed holistically, effectively creating a multi-faceted plan to treat the whole veteran.

But treating the whole veteran requires really knowing the whole veteran. This is where Paul and his team turned to Customer Relationship Management software. They recognized the relationship management constructs within CRM software, and selected SugarCRM, an open source CRM software application, in order to more easily adapt the software for their objectives.

The CRM system was extended to accommodate the management of personal coaching plans, orchestrate the combination of social services that would achieve the desired outcomes, capture survey data to continuously measure effectiveness, and work across channels – such as SMS, email, wearables, portals and mobile – to gather data from veterans and communicate in whatever channel best facilitates engagement.

The veteran-centric relationship management approach is now showing progress and a number of benefits.

  • VetAdvisor's strategy and enabling technology is delivering a force multiplier effect, allowing the organization to reach more veterans with fewer staff. Coaches have saved 500 administrative hours per year, allowing them to redeploy that time to veteran services.

  • While operational efficiencies are clearly increasing productivity, the more strategic benefit lies in the intelligence which identifies when to engage the people that need that engagement. This contributes to the overarching goal of having the right coach deliver the right care to the right veteran at the right time.

  • The organization has applied information analysis to create what it calls a Milestone Velocity Score, which is similar to a point in time measure of engagement. Data is applied to create an engagement baseline using numeric scores and then continues to measure progress against goals. The data is displayed in a bell curve like engagement spectrum. When veterans show downward trends or deviations the system may trigger an automated response (SMS or email outreach) or a human intervention depending upon the need.

  • VetAdvisor has created some interesting data capture methods, such as the integration with FitBit, and developed gamification techniques that reward engagement with recognition, points or even an Amazon gift card.

The approach of building long-term relationships instead of responding to piecemeal incidents is a much more holistic approach that treats the veteran and not just his or her conditions. VetAdvisor seeks to know each veteran as a person instead of by the ailments they poses. The combination of really knowing your customer and applying a proactive engagement approach allows coaches to inject action based on events or activities, and not just based on a calendar. As VetAdvisor has discovered, the faster you recognize a behavior anomaly, the more likely you can change that behavior and achieve the desired outcome. End

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Chuck Schaeffer
Chuck is the North America Go-to-Market Leader for IBM's CRM and ERP consulting practice. He is also enjoys contributing to his blog at


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