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Banking on Customer Relationship Management Back  
Customer relationship management (CRM) has become a top priority for any financial institution that seeks to gain a competitive edge. However, with the advent of CRM technologies that do a good job of capturing customer data, problems with accessing past and up-to-date information were introduced. While trying to meet increased expectations and maximise profitability, CRM solutions do not fully resolve these costly, time-consuming obstacles that arise when communicating with customers.

Most of a bank’s financial information is held in the form of reports. The difficulty lies in the fact that some reports are produced on outdated computer systems using archaic technology, whereas others are produced on state-of-the-art machines. Reports are stored in geographically distant locations, printed and saved using diverse technologies, on paper or microfiche, ultimately leading to a situation where they are inaccessible via the bank’s CRM system.

Customers are not interested in technological shortcomings; whether or not the bank has linked all its information sources, their queries require immediate replies. From their point of view having their query answered in one call is far more satisfactory, it is also far more efficient for the financial institution and their customer service representatives.

Historical customer data is vast. Transaction reports, debit reports, credit reports, interest reports and others are produced daily, and include billions of lines of information. CRM solutions have neglected sharing information across all arms of the business and technologies.

When a customer calls up asking for a transaction report from March of last year, because it is needed for a tax audit, many financial call centres are at a loss. The report exists, but it is often archived in printed form or is only available on another system that cannot be reached by the customer service representative’s (CSR) screen. In some cases, customers end up waiting on the line or paying large service fees to have the information mailed to them at a later date. Call centre CRM solutions would prove to be more successful if they provided online access to this historical data, either to bank employees or directly to customers using the Web.

One of the distinct characteristics of bank reports is that they are extremely long. Once you have located the relevant report, it may still take a while before you can locate the pertinent information within the report and answer the query. This is true for online reports as well as paper-based reports. What’s more, some CRM implementations allow the CSR to view a report on a computer screen, but offer no index or search capabilities, forcing the CSR to browse through the report manually while the customer holds on the line.

Having an exact online representation of a statement helps create a better basis for communication between the customer at home and the call center.

The problem lies in the fact that in many cases the statement is produced on a separate computer system. Moreover, the information within the computer system is not stored in the same format as when it is printed. The printed page layout is produced with the customer in mind, and is presented in a fashion that is simple to understand, whereas the same information looks entirely different when a CSR views it online. CRM implementations that endeavour to make the customer feel at home and save time would do best to address this issue.

A key difference between information stored on a computer and information on a piece of paper is that once the information is produced, and more so if the paper is signed, it becomes an entity of its own. It is no longer just information, it is now a snapshot of information at a certain time, and someone has signed it.

Enabling bank employees to view that entity via the Web drastically increases the level of customer service. What’s more, enabling customers to view their own account information over the Web saves time, and it is something they are increasingly expecting. With a smart initial investment, banks can sit back and watch effortlessly as customers eagerly sign up for this service.

Customer relationship management is more than just a computer application. It is there to ensure your customers can perform their daily business tasks.

When customers sign on to a bank account over the Web to make a transaction, such as depositing funds into a short-term savings account or transferring money from one account to another, it is of no interest to them how the computer system executes the request. Often this involves integrating and scheduling computing tasks on several machines, verifying account information against bank records, and creating reports for later distribution. CRM implementations must ensure these inner workings are seamless and transparent to the customer at home.

Moreover, customers know immediately when your internal systems fail, and they have come to expect uninterrupted service around the clock. Having a CRM implementation in place does not exempt your bank from assuring its availability. Banks would be wise to have measures in place to monitor the

CRM environment and assure it meets customer demands.

We sometimes forget that CRM implementations are there to improve customer service levels, and not only for gaining competitive advantage. After it is in place, banks do not always check to see if the investment has achieved its goal. Analysing Web-site usage and customer transactions via the Web provides essential input in determining whether the CRM system is being used as it was intended. It is no less important to define adequate levels of service for customers. Service levels should anticipate growth or change, and should be in accordance with bank priorities.

Customer relationship management systems are vital to the success of banks in the 21st century; however, we must not lose our heads in the turmoil surrounding the huge investments required to implement these systems.

Automated call centres are essential, and business-information management bundled with service-level management and business-integrated scheduling play important roles in assuring they meet the high standards expected by customers. Providing access to all customer information, regardless of its source, regardless of its format, and in a timely fashion are vital in reaching the ultimate goal of less rings until the phone is answered, less time spent on each call and most importantly, improved customer service.

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