Lessons learned from implementing SAP BCM on SAP CRM in a customer service environment

2 October 2012

I was recently involved in a project implementing SAP BCM. The customer needed to:   

  • Improve timeliness in answering telephone call
  • Identify the caller on the SAP CRM system automatically (and keep the caller identified as they were passed between departments)
  • Manage in-bound calls and categorise the type of calls coming in during the busiest periods, so extra help could focus on reducing the number of callers waiting in a queue.

(Skip the first 3 sections if you already know what SAP BCM & VoIP are.)

What is SAP BCM?

SAP BCM is a contact centre solution. It integrates well with SAP CRM (particularly the Interaction Centre).  SAP BCM communication-enables the SAP CRM application (for example allowing users to place/receive telephone calls and see the presence of other CRM users).

SAP BCM uses voice over IP technology (VoIP) to make and receive telephone calls.  It can also be used for emails, chat and SMS.  On this particular project we did voice only.

We had already routed inbound emails using SAP CRM's inbuilt ERMS (with SAP BCM you can add "push" emails to agents for a quicker response).  If your company isn't currently using SMS it requires some thought as you don't get all the hardware or services needed to do SMS out the box, but this would be true of many VoIP solutions. 


What about other Unified Communications software?

I've used Microsoft Lync a lot recently for VoIP telephone calls (and certainly noticed my mobile phone bill coming down).  Lync is classified as unified communications software.  It sits alongside other solutions from Cisco, Avaya, etc.  Unified Communications also does IP telephony, chat, web conferencing, etc.  These solutions offer a slightly broader and deeper communication experience over SAP BCM.   

SAP BCM is classified more as a contact centre solution. It shares many of the capabilities of Unified Communications but offers more in the area of queuing inbound calls / communications and in managing a contact centre.   You can configure something call the IVR (Interactive Voice Response) where an enquirer presses tones on their phone to navigate a menu to get connected to a more specialist agent.  Agents can then sign into one or more queues to receive these calls.  What is great about the IVR and queues is that you can monitor the type of calls coming in, and during peak times ask for help from other team members.  An IVR design tip here is to have no IVR during quiet times - the enquirer should come straight through to an agent for that immediate customer service experience.  During busy times start classifying the caller using the IVR (you'll now know what areas need focus).

Back to VoIP solutions. The lines are blurred between solutions.  SAP BCM and SAP CRM would fit well with your contact centre team and people who use SAP CRM regularly. You can also use SAP BCM standalone for other employees or (with a bit of work) run 2 VoIP systems for different types of employees.

What do I need to think about if I'm new to VoIP?

In UK offices the traditional office landline is disappearing. There are cost advantages. You only need a power and network infrastructure in place as opposed to full telephony infrastructure. If your business spans several regions you can cut call costs. And if you travel a lot, you can cut call costs with VoIP and a headset plugged into your laptop. VoIP is still not perfect.  A 2 second delay may be bearable for many applications but it's not tolerable on a phone line, so you need to put in place quality of service on your networks and prioritise voice traffic.  Also think about some of the traditional features you get with mobiles or landlines, for example, my mobile has a permanent phone number that everyone recognises - VoIP may not. You need a gateway to convert a regular telephone call (external or internal) to the VoIP phone calls. SAP being a software-only solution does not provide the gateways (unlike Cisco, etc).  There is a list of VoIP gateways that SAP BCM supports, but this is not quite the same as having a wall-to-wall Cisco hardware/software implementation. The temptation is there if you already have a VoIP gateway to try it, even if it's not on the list!

What was easy and what was hard about implementing SAP BCM and SAP CRM?

It was very easy to link SAP BCM to SAP CRM.  And this is one of the advantages - it's SAP wall-to-wall software.  There's a basic technical guide here on configuring SAP BCM and SAP CRM Interaction Center.

If it's your first time configuring SAP CRM and SAP BCM, it might be tricky to get the call transfer working.  This is where agent 1 takes a call from an enquirer using SAP CRM integrated to SAP BCM and passes it onto another agent.  Out of the box SAP CRM will match an enquirer based on telephone number.  With the transfer working - the unique business partner details are passed (it's actually quick to set up - try CRMM_IC_MCM_CCADM and change the CAD handling option).

On our implementation we (optionally) asked the enquirer for a unique reference number - this required some development within SAP BCM and SAP CRM to ensure the caller was uniquely identified as soon as they arrived with the 1st agent.  It's also the way to go if you want to create self-service IVR's - say for example a customer who wants to know their account balance held on SAP ECC (ie SAP BCM is not just for SAP CRM).

Working with a telephony administrator with experience of other telephony products he thought SAP BCM was good and stable.  His only objection was that amending the IVR wasn't quite as quick as another telephony product. 

Reporting. Out of the box SAP BCM SQL server reports were good.  And you can run blended reporting (SAP CRM and SAP BCM data) on SAP BW.

Stress test. You may not have enough team members to stress the SAP BCM and/or SAP CRM systems with phone calls.  We worked round this with some creative scripting to place significant load on BCM and CRM.

Go-live. No matter how thoroughly you have tested you may not have tested all hardware, protocol, software, user combinations.  Troubleshooting VoIP telephony issues can be time consuming, so first learn how the traces and logs work on each application so you are ready. Within the SAP CRM functional side there is CRM_ICI_TRACE and within the SAP BCM side there are comprehensive call logging options (you can see if someone hangs up on you). You may have to go down to IP traces in which case a tool-like wireshark helps.

Any other advice about SAP BCM and SAP CRM?

When it comes to actually using SAP BCM, most controls are available in the SAP CRM telephony bar.  There are a few things extra SAP BCM shows and does, but the gap narrows in later versions (for example more detailed presence information in SAP CRM).

The latest versions are SAP BCM 7 and SAP CRM 7 (Enhancement Pack 2).  I really recommend you move to the latest versions as there have been some significant improvements  since (and including) SAP CRM 2007 - your business team will thank you if you move to the latest versions (click to dial, handling multiple sessions at once spring to mind on the SAP CRM side, and call back on the SAP BCM side).

Feel free to post questions or feedback your experiences of SAP BCM.

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