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Streamline Your HCM Service Delivery with an Employee Interaction Center: Now Available in mySAP ERP 2005

by Bianka Piehl | SAPinsider

October 1, 2006

A shared services model is no longer only for CRM teams -- it can prove just as valuable to HR. With its ability to streamline and standardize processes, enhance service quality, and improve employee productivity, the Employee Interaction Center within SAP’s HCM Shared Services offering helps your company deliver cost-effective HR services to every employee, everywhere.

As companies weigh outsourcing as a valid option for minimizing overall HR costs, the pressure is on HR teams to ensure that their delivery of services to employees is not a burden on the bottom line. A shared services approach, one in which common administrative functions and systems are consolidated and centralized, may be the answer.

Many customer relationship management (CRM) teams have been using a shared services approach for some time now. Consider a typical customer interaction center, a prime example of a shared services model in action. Through a customer call center, companies can experience tremendous cost reduction by streamlining and standardizing processes, enhancing service quality, improving employee productivity, and increasing customer satisfaction due to faster response times.

Savvy HR teams are now realizing they can apply the shared services model — and specifically the interaction center approach — to their own work in HR and achieve the same benefit: high-quality, cost-effective services delivered to a broadly distributed workforce (see sidebar).

Picture a centralized HR interaction center where employees can reach HR staffers in a shared services center by phone, email, or over the Web to address all their HR-related questions or issues. When an employee has a question, HR agents have a complete view of the employee's records and history on their desktop, and can directly address employee questions — related to compensation, payroll, or other concerns — using world-class call center software. Through such an employee interaction center (EIC), HR teams can:

  • Reduce HR overhead by eliminating fragmented, duplicate processes and replacing them with a centralized delivery channel — Instead of every line of business having its own HR department with its own way of doing things, HR teams can act along harmonized processes, sharing knowledge and interaction history and thus avoiding duplicated efforts.

  • Increase the accuracy and consistency of information delivery to employees — By eliminating inaccurate, out-of-date information sources that are scattered throughout the organization, HR can answer inquiries correctly and consistently. Conflicting messaging and unnecessary misunderstandings will diminish.

  • Improve response time for employee questions — Instead of being buried in paperwork and struggling to respond to huge volumes of employee calls and emails, especially during peak periods like benefits enrollment, HR departments can efficiently move from one employee issue to the next.

  • Expand the reach and convenience of service offerings to remote or virtual employees — An EIC can improve service to decentralized workforces and out-of-office employees trying to contact HR. Even if an employee who needs to adjust her time-off request is traveling without a PC, she'll have access to multiple communication channels and consistent, reliable options for contacting HR.

Fundamentals of a Shared Services Model

Delivering high-quality services on a global scale requires an effective business model that transforms service delivery from "reactive" to "proactive" while maximizing resources. A shared services model centralizes the channels through which services are delivered to your organization, so key resources can be freed up from mundane administrative tasks to focus on value-add work.

Over time, customers have voiced their confidence that a shared services approach tops the list of successful enterprise-wide, cost-reduction interventions, as it fosters substantial cost savings and an optimized ratio of service providers to employees. Simply stated, fewer administrative resources are required to support a larger number of employees, while still maintaining high-quality service delivery.

Interaction Center Functionality Now Available Within ERP

Interaction center functionality has long been part of mySAP CRM, serving as the foundation for customer call center agents as they interact with external customers and business partners. Now, interaction center functionality geared specifically toward HR teams is also delivered as an integrated part of mySAP ERP 2005.

SAP offers Employee Interaction Center (EIC), a centralized call center application that delivers relevant information and resources to the desktops of your HR staff. EIC is one important building block of SAP's complete HCM Shared Services offering, which also includes SAP Employee Self-Service (SAP ESS), SAP Manager Self-Service (SAP MSS), and SAP HR Processes and Forms.1

EIC complements self-service and professional service offerings and provides an additional level of support to address HR issues.2

EIC is part of standard delivery with mySAP ERP 2005. Customers using the latest ERP release or planning to upgrade can leverage their existing investment.

Whether you have CRM or not, your HR team can now avail itself of the benefits of a shared services approach. Using EIC's key features, seven of which we'll explore in the next section, HR can cut overhead costs and focus on more strategic, consultative initiatives that influence the company's bottom line — things like succession planning, performance management, and new compensation initiatives.

Seven Key Ways That SAP's EIC Augments HR's Strategic Value

Let's take a closer look at Employee Interaction Center and how it is the technology backbone for customers using a shared services strategy to cut costs and enhance service quality. With the EIC functionality SAP offers, HR teams can:

1. Integrate communication channels to improve service availability — An interaction center is a central point of contact for employees to reach HR, so it should offer different communication channels to expand the availability of services to all employees. This is especially important for a distributed or decentralized workforce as some employees, such as retirees or those on maternity leave, may not have access to the company intranet or self-services.

EIC offers a Web-based framework to handle and process incoming requests from multiple communication channels, including phone, email, and Web, at all times. EIC enables the integration of different interaction channels using push/pull technology. In push mode, an agent declares himself ready for processing interactions, and employee requests are actively prompted in his workplace. In pull mode, an agent (or agent group) accesses a central inbox. This inbox becomes the central worklist from which employee requests can be picked up and moved forward for further processing.

2. Manage contacts to ensure consistent information delivery — With EIC, your HR staff can manage and process information about individual employees across all touch points. Whether the employee is asking about a standard HR process like the vacation policy or a more complex issue like compensation, agents can view the results of previous interactions to provide consistent, accurate responses, reducing expensive employee "answer shopping."

3. Track activities to eliminate duplicate, fragmented processes — With EIC as a central technology base, your HR staff can record and process all procedural steps and follow-up activities through an intuitive UI. Consider an employee who contacts the EIC multiple times to resolve a payroll question. Companies can apply the same discipline and tiering of HR services that they would apply to any customer-facing service.

First, the employee consults SAP Employee Self-Service to find the answer to her payroll question on her own. Unable to find her answer, the employee then calls an HR agent, who can review the employee's history and log and categorize her request (see Figure 1). Since this is a complex case, the agent can then escalate the issue to the next level of support for processing. This next level may be a more experienced EIC agent or a specialized HR administrator — a payroll specialist, for example. EIC's workflow-based functionality guarantees HR business process support across all potential users.

Figure 1
Through Employee Interaction Center's Web-based user interface, agents can respond to all employees' HR-related questions and issues in one centralized location
Click here to view a larger version of this image

4. Provide a consolidated agent inbox to increase HR's efficiency — The agent's inbox is a central work repository where the agent receives incoming service requests via multiple channels. It can be used to manage and prioritize daily work items with a number of sort and filter options, such as date range, category, priority, or subject. Agents can determine which work items require immediate attention or can group items according to topic area for processing efficiency.

5. Facilitate knowledge management to expedite employee inquiries — EIC functionality can connect to a knowledge management database, which brings enterprise intelligence to the agent's desktop and helps expedite employee inquiries. Your HR staff can quickly and easily search for solutions based on corporate policies and procedures, frequently asked questions, and third-party knowledgebases. This increases the number of requests resolved on first contact. Using a common knowledge database also ensures consistent messaging to customers while increasing the quality of the services delivered.

6. Integrate HR services for synchronization with backend systems — Because of its integration with mySAP ERP, EIC can tie in any HR transaction and make it available for agents as services. In other words, EIC agents can access HR transactions such as Maintain HR Master Data directly from their agent desktop. The solution also has the flexibility to differentiate the services offered to agents with different skill sets. For instance, an entry-level agent can use Web-based services — instead of an ERP backend transaction — to change HR master data on behalf of an employee, using the very same interface that employees do via self-services (see Figure 2). This reduces training overhead and frees up more experienced HR staff to focus on strategic initiatives.

Figure 2
With the EIC interface, call center agents need minimal training to execute HR services on behalf of employees
Click here to view a larger version of this image

7. Enforce HR authorization and authentication concepts to secure confidential information — EIC can base agents' authorization profiles on what the agents are already authorized to see and do within the HCM solution. Employees also can update and maintain their EIC authentication profiles via SAP Employee Self-Service, using a simple question-and-answer format (for example, "What is your pet's name?") to add an extra security check. That way, the next time an employee requests something from the EIC, the agent can authenticate the employee's identity.


Interaction center technology is no longer only an option for mySAP CRM; it is now available within mySAP ERP as well. Using Employee Interaction Center offered by SAP, companies can improve service delivery and enhance employee satisfaction by giving employees more delivery options to access HR services. EIC promotes consistent messaging and accurate information delivery with knowledge management tools, so employees can expect up-to-date information at all times.

With EIC, HR staff can get out of the business of transactional, administrative work and focus on strategic initiatives, while service quality and costs are maintained. HR departments now have the technology foundation they need to become a shared services organization.

For more information on Employee Interaction Center, please visit

1 To learn more about HR Processes and Forms and how this functionality fits into a shared services model, see "Bolster Your Organization's HR Processes with a Flexible Technology Framework" in this issue of SAP Insider (

2 Note that there's no predefined order to implementing SAP's Shared Services offerings. Customers can first deploy self-services, or start with EIC and later deploy self-services.

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