What is Case Management?
Case Management, also known as incident or investigation management, is the process of managing incidents, investigations, and accidents that impact the security or overall health of a company. The way that an organization handles an incident will vary depending on the industry and leadership ethos, but Case Management typically includes the following: creating a case, managing the evidence, communicating with company leadership and local law enforcement, and taking additional actions as needed to determine the proper post-investigation steps.
As a key component of loss prevention, the way an organization approaches managing incidents and investigations will play a large role in determining the severity of the problem, the degree of loss, and the ability to prevent similar issues in the future.
What are the Primary Components of Case Management?
Incident tracking allows teams to reduce loss by improving visibility of the case. This visibility lets company leadership track incidents across all locations and give frontline employees instantaneous access to information that will help them prevent escalation or future incidents.
Root Cause Analysis
Analyzing and drawing conclusions on the root cause of an incident gives loss prevention professionals the ability to prevent future loss or company harm. As an analytical component of Case Management, Root Cause Analysis is a process of diving deeper into an incident and looking for trends or statistical oddities that could shed light on the root cause of the loss. Some companies put rules in place that determine when Root Cause Analysis forms should be completed based on a preset criteria.
Crime Reporting is the act of communicating incidents to the right people within the company, as well as sharing key information with members of law enforcement. The method of reporting theft or crime-driven loss will depend on the type of security that a company has put in place. As many retailers cannot afford a 24/7 security team, it is common for organizations to rely on video footage, advanced data analytics, or outsourced remote security teams to capture and report crime.
In order for crime reporting to work effectively, companies should have a set chain of command to ensure the system for reporting crime is clear to members at every level of the organization. This prevents confusion or underreporting in the event of crime.
Centralized Case Management
Centralized Case Management allows an organization to take a holistic approach to managing every facet of an incident or investigation. This centralization is valuable, as it enables companies to organize evidence, expand the scope of the investigation as needed, and efficiently close more complex cases. From the opening of the case to the conclusion of the investigation, Centralized Case Management puts all of these actions in place and allows teams to build systems to leverage in the future.
Civil Recovery and Restitution
Restitution focuses on gains-based recovery where a court orders that the defendant pays the claimant for their loss. As it relates to Investigation Management, civil recovery and restitution focuses on tracking files, collecting a history of payments and activities, and recovering lost funds. Recovery and restitution programs can be run manually. Processes such as notices, scheduling reminders, and payment tracking can be automated through a third-party company. As an integral part of Incident Management for retail, restaurants, and grocery stores, civil recovery and restitution exercises the leverage gained from the process of Investigation Management to minimize losses stemming from crime.
Health and Safety
Health and Safety protocols are important to establish and follow while managing an incident or investigation. Typically, all health and safety information will be included in an up-to-date safety manual that is widely accessible to all members of an organization. These protocols will set the precedent for how cases are managed and will include predetermined solutions for the following: common workplace hazards, first aid procedures, fire safety, ergonomics, cybersecurity, emergency action plans, safety inspection procedures, and training program scheduling and attendance.
Case and Incident Auditing
Incident auditing is the process of reviewing the key events of an incident from start to finish. It’s important that participating employees take detailed notes so that organizations can compare accounts. If multiple incidents of the same type have occurred, organizations will create a detailed map of the event that allows investigating officers to analyze the timeline of events to come to an educated conclusion. Because Case Management is a process that is improved incrementally over time, auditing gives operations teams (and organizations as a whole) a clear overview of the case and an understanding of what went wrong.
Who are the People Involved in Case Management?
Incident and Investigation Management in retail, restaurants, and grocery are typically driven by two primary groups: Operations teams and Loss Prevention teams (which are sometimes called Asset Protection teams). Loss Prevention teams have a primary focus on preventing loss, and typically approach Incident Management with specific expertise tailored to successfully recovering funds and preventing losses in the future.
If an organization does not have a dedicated LP department, the operations team will usually oversee Investigation Management. While this team may not have the same degree of specific knowledge of loss prevention, cases will often be run by higher level executives with experience that allows them to successfully navigate the process of creating and seeking resolution in investigations.
In both instances, third party companies and technology are often leveraged to ensure that cases are being managed effectively.
Best Practices for Case Management in Retail, Restaurants, and Grocery
Managing incidents and investigations in retail, restaurants, and grocery requires an acute focus on the most common causes of loss in these domains. Take a look at a few best practices for each:
In retail, external and internal theft are two types of incidents that frequently need to be addressed. In order to decrease margin erosion, companies will often put measures in place during Incident Management that work to both understand the complexities of the situation at hand, and to create a complete picture of all sales and operations data moving forward.
With the digital transformation and omnichannel landscape continuing to grow, Incident Management in retail requires more than a cookie cutter approach. Successful companies implement systems that allow for easy data sharing across stores to provide team members with a deeper look into their data. This also helps reduce shrinkage over the long term by utilizing insights to come to the most accurate conclusion in the investigation.
Case Management in restaurants works a little differently than other industries due to the more common nature of loss associated with operating a restaurant. In addition to operational losses like waste and inefficient processes, investigations stemming from fraud and theft look to analyze the root cause of the issue to mitigate damages to profitability, safety, and consumer trust.
According to a recent study, 75% of restaurant inventory shrinkage in the U.S. stems from internal theft, which costs restaurants an estimated $20 billion per year. Data analytics are commonly used during Investigation Management to flag activities that contributed to the current case to catch the issues more quickly in the future. These activities include matters of internal fraud like suspicious voids, transfers, and comped items, as well as occurrences of external theft, such as gift card fraud.
By taking an exhaustive approach to managing an investigation and using tools that enable an organization to track insights along the way, restaurants can maximize the recovery of loss in the short term and fortify their processes against future threats.
Incidents and investigations in grocery stores are typically pursued as a result of theft. With the rise of online shopping and the omnichannel, cases involving theft have become increasingly complex to navigate. This creates a challenge when approaching Investigation Management in grocery stores and chains, as the findings will need to be implemented in such a way that they protect the company from future theft, but do not compromise the familiarity or convenience of the customer experience.
Instead of manually inputting case data across multiple store locations, larger companies will often implement tools that compile all relevant data and track the frequency of flagged events following the closure of the case. This also helps reduce investigative time.
What Are the Biggest Challenges to Effectively Managing Incidents and Investigations?
Lack of Visibility
A common challenge for organizations navigating Investigation Management is the lack of visibility across multiple store locations and different operational teams. A primary goal of an investigation is to find patterns or behaviors that are contributing to problems on a recurring basis. Without the ability to predict future incidents, companies run a constant risk of the same problems arising again.
One solution to this challenge is utilizing a third-party platform that compiles data across locations and teams so LP departments will have enough data to work with to take remedial action.
Without centralization of data, organizations are likely to run into problems with Incident Management. The same challenge lies in entering data manually; while this practice may be useful for managing an individual case, it does not provide the insights or data to suggest a strong course of action for investing future spend towards preventing the same type of loss.
Difficulties Demonstrating Value
As incidents are typically managed by an operations or loss prevention team, it is important that these teams can demonstrate the value and effectiveness of their Incident Management programs to the company. The ROI that the department can generate is a core piece of the value they bring to the table. Unless a case is managed cohesively with data, evidence, and reports being shared across the organization, Case Management efforts can be difficult to quantify.
It is common for companies to face challenges when pursuing restitution. This is often the result of having disorganized documents and insufficient evidence available when creating a case. Additionally, there are many complexities involved in the restitution process that require help from a third-party restitution or Case Management expert. While some large companies will have a restitution partner employed or on retainer, most choose to utilize a loss prevention expert when needed.
Underdeveloped Incident Reporting
When an organization has reporting systems that are time-consuming or overly complicated, they will likely see lower incident reporting rates than an organization with systems that are efficient and user-friendly. Poorly documented incidents can cause insurance premiums to increase over time, which make the cost of the undeveloped reporting system exponentially damaging.
Additionally, a lack of a feedback loop from store employees about the usefulness of their incident reporting system can allow these problems to persist over a longer period of time. Getting frequent feedback from employees regarding their experience with the incident reporting system is a solid first step to improving this process.
Case Management programs must be constructed with enough flexibility to accommodate the varying nature of incidents and investigations. In an ideal situation, there will be an organized system for compiling data to help companies identify connections between multiple cases. If an online platform is being used, it’s important that the fields and administrative options are flexible enough to support the various types of cases an organization will be managing. This helps avoid negated information due to lack of flexibility in the forms or pages.
In addition to external challenges that can slow down or reduce the value of Case Management efforts, there are general systems and solutions that are inefficient in nature and decrease the potency of an investigation. These inefficient solutions include:
- manually compiling data from incidents case by case
- spreadsheets that are based offline or are not widely accessible across an organization
- in-house solutions being developed and implemented by non-experts
How to Improve Processes Around Case Management
Make Deeper Connections
Connect more dots across investigations to find trends that may not be outwardly apparent. For example, search prior incidents to identify employees, categories of loss, or time of incident to begin systematically breaking down events to build out case profiles.
Transform Events into Investigations
As soon as an event of loss or crime has occurred, begin putting together a detailed map of the event that includes evidence, timelines, involved parties, and other relevant details. Approaching cases with an investigative focus from the beginning allows companies to come to a conclusion and take corrective action faster.
Eliminate Blind Spots
Set up systems that provide alerts and notifications to all parties involved to ensure the focus and daily actions of the involved parties will be clear throughout the investigation. Also, be consistent in the approach to each case to help other members contributing to the Investigation Management be aware of the current phase of the investigation.
Quickly Share Case Information with Law Enforcement
Once the reports and evidence have been compiled and a case has been created, share the case information with law enforcement. Speed matters in the event of crime and loss and making law enforcement aware of the case earlier in the process will increase the likelihood of recovering more of the lost funds.
Provide Direction to Prevent Delays
One reason why there are often delays during investigations is because there are members of the organization who do not understand their role. Company leadership should be clear in designating roles to all involved staff so that everyone is aware of their responsibilities throughout the investigation. All team members participating in the investigation should have access to shared case files and timelines to avoid confusion as the investigation progresses.
Delays can also be prevented by minimizing time spent consolidating data. While manual processes have been the standard for much of the past century, advancements in Case Management technology have created data solutions that are cloud-based and accessible across organizations. The more efficient the processes, the higher the close rates.
Goals for Managing Cases, Incidents, and Investigations
Goal #1: Streamline Processes
A strong approach to Case Management should include streamlined processes for handling evidence, managing files, and collaborating with people across a company. Look to create a system that allows for centralized file sharing and organization. Track extra case details by attaching notes to evidence and witness accounts. Leverage tools that support live collaboration and mobile access so that everyone working on the case will be up to speed and able to contribute from any location. Lastly, find ways to create a workflow that is optimal for both the industry and specific case. Having a streamlined process in place will allow an organization to achieve consistent efficiency and set clear strategies in place for everyone involved.
Goal #2: Save Time & Resources
In addition to refining and streamlining processes, placing a focus on saving time and resources will enable companies to reduce the cost of investigations and the time spent managing each case. Utilize technology or third-party companies that help case reporting be managed without unnecessary delays. Create links between current and past cases to identity connections. Track time-to-close metrics to give teams data to analyze and improve upon. By setting goals that focus on saving time and resources, the approach to Incident Management can become more intentional and strategic over time.
Goal #3: Recover More Funds
One of the biggest goals in managing cases is to recover the maximum amount of lost funds. Time is your friend when seeking restitution. Make sure data is centralized and accessible from any location to achieve faster resolutions and recover more funds. Giving teams real-time visibility helps reduce bottlenecks and avoid tampering.
Additionally, it is essential that an organization has effective processes for sharing case information with law enforcement so that the restitution and civil recovery process can be initiated as soon as possible.
Case Management is the process of tracking, documenting, and managing incident investigations and accident inquiries. From case initiation to closure and analysis, the best system for managing incidents will include pieces from all the elements discussed above. If an organization can navigate each of the steps of investigating an incident, be thoughtful about the people, processes, and systems involved, and utilize professionals to overcome the common challenges, Case Management can become an iterated process that grows stronger with every new case.
When done right, this is how an organization’s approach to Case Management can transform from a set of disorganized, inefficient processes to a potent, powerful system for swiftly managing incidents and preventing loss in the future.