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Making the Business Case for Unifying All Channels Part II: Efficiently & Profitably Process Volumes of Business

May 4, 2010 (comments: 0)

Have you ever wondered how many resources your bank is wasting by supporting a hodge podge of customer interaction channels with disparate databases and different application software? And, what kind of experience is this creating for your customers? Consider this. Why is it that your customers wait in line to use expensive channels at the branch to get balance information that's readily available on the Web, ATM, or via IVR? Is it that they don't trust those sources, or are they uncomfortable with inconsistencies in the user interfaces? How many times must a customer contact your organization to get an issue resolved, and do they have to repeatedly explain their problem in the process? What this all boils down to is that there is a very definite cost to NOT unifying your channels. 

A multi-channel strategy for interacting with your customers offers a substantial payback in hard operating costs, such as eliminating redundant system technologies and the support costs for multiple interfaces to the same data. But perhaps more importantly, it creates value by enhancing your customer's experience at each interaction. Here are a few things to think about when you are ready to begin eliminating silos and achieving consistency across the enterprise.              

Access to all information real-time is paramount

You must start by defining the experience that you want to provide your customers, and then work back from there, keeping in mind that the self-service channels are most profitable. So, what can you do to make the self-service channels more attractive? For one, give customers fast access to their most up to date information. Two, approach self-service channels as a vehicle for enhancing the relationship (which leads to the next key element)...  

Make self-service personal & relevant

It's about making each channel totally user-focused; this is essential to being able to optimize channel usage by customer and maximize the return on your investments in self-service channels. Invest in the user interface to make it as friendly and intuitive as possible. Track customer usage and record any service issues or product interests to bring these back into subsequent interactions. The inclusion of personalized information makes self-service meaningful and valuable to the customer. Over time, your best customers can be rewarded for using self-service (special offers, additional benefits, etc.), while the customers whose relationship offers no profitability can be assessed fees for using anything other than self service channels. 

Automate the workflow process

Finally, you must standardize the process workflow across channels; this will not only help bring consistency to the customer experience, but it will also aid in eliminating waste and inefficiencies within your channel investments. The interface and the workflow process should follow a single set of standards for sequence, the use of color, terminology and more; this will help the customer quickly find their way to the information or transactions that they need. Remember though that user acceptance is key, especially with self-service channels. Acceptance is most closely tied to accessibility of information, ease of navigation, and trust in the accuracy of the process.         

The ultimate payoff

While unifying your delivery channels will cut operating costs, streamline processes and remove technology redundancies, the ultimate payoff is what you'll gain from providing a superior customer experience. In integrating your channels, you achieve consistency in the way you serve customers, but you also set a common goal throughout the enterprise, weaving exceptional service into the everyday fabric of how everyone at the institution interacts with customers. And, exceptional service equals profitable, long-term customer/member relationships.

Making the Business Case for Unifying Channels Part I: Making the Customer’s Channel of Choice the Right One for You

April 6, 2010 (comments: 0)

It used to be that the branch was the customer's channel of choice-and actually, not long ago, the only channel. During the past 30+ years, many channels have evolved with the objective of improving service, or at least improving the availability of service for customers/members. And, just when you thought that the number and types of channels might have stabilized with the Web, along comes social media, mobile banking and even customer interaction options that are variations of these many channels. The good news is that with the introduction of multiple delivery channels, interaction volumes have grown, but there's bad news too. Most institutions will find that the growth has not necessarily been in ways that are most profitable for them. 

Without stating every challenge that is presented by hosting and supporting four, five, six or more channels, suffice it to say that while the types of channels have multiplied by five, the number of customers at most institutions have not. At the same time, customers you hoped would use the lower cost, self-service channels often do not, while the people you would like to see in the branch in hopes of doing some cross selling, prefer the web.  

What is going on? Well, people choose channels based on their own preferences, lifestyles, or maybe life stages. I recently heard a statistic that 70% of people looking for a financial product today conduct their search on the Internet. Yet, 50% choose an institution based on convenient, local branch locations. (I'd still like to know where there are convenient ATMs.)  

The competitive reality is that most, if not all, banking channels need to be supported well if an institution hopes to attract and retain the best customer relationships. The key is to excel in usability across all channels and do so profitably. Here's how. 

You must find a balance in channel investments as a whole vs. individually, and to teach your customers to love the channel that provides the specific service they need at the best cost (to you).  For example, account balance inquiries have always been one of the first functions offered as new channels have been introduced; now the cost can vary from several dollars in a branch, to pennies on the Web. And, let's face it oftentimes it's your least profitable customers that queue up in the branches to obtain their balances. 

The way to begin to remedy this? Unify your channels. This will give you the ability to consolidate customer information, improve the availability of service and enable you to start a transaction in one channel, but complete it in another-this is crucial today if your institution is to remain competitive. You must also be able to make special offers and set up new accounts without requiring customers to visit the branch; then in the case of my example, you can also begin to migrate customers simply seeking their account balances to a more cost-effective channel for the bank. 

The fact is that unifying channels is not, and does not have to be, as painful as you think; it is a technical reality today vs. simply a promise of recent years past-and there are affordable options. It's time to optimize your existing channels so that you can serve customers well with each interaction, while lowering your operating costs across the board. By achieving a unified enterprise, you will also be prepared to easily integrate any new interaction options that your customers demand in coming years.   

By connecting all the dots and eliminating silos of information you can appeal to the customer's needs with each interaction and when possible, drive them to lower cost channels. At the same time, on the self-service channels, you can further cultivate the relationship with special offers and incentives that get them in front of your customer service representatives; ultimately, enabling your institution to gain a greater return on its brick and mortar investment. In the end, it's about putting in place an infrastructure that enables your institution to make all of your customers' preferred channels profitable for you.

Where CRM Must Evolve Into CEM

March 22, 2010 (comments: 2)

Last month I sat through a really interesting presentation on the CRM efforts of one of S.E. Asia's leading banks while at the Asian Financial Services Congress in Singapore. They have clearly developed a very large store of data on their customers and they are using this data to mine for opportunities. Each night they look for changes in account activities, such as large deposits that might portend a change in the customers' financial practices. They then create targeted opportunities lists and distribute them to their branches for the morning opening at 8:00 a.m. This is fantastic-but, what happens next? The branches are directed to contact the customers on the target lists. Then what? Well, the service representatives approach the customers regarding new products. Then what?  

The point is that their CRM initiative is highly advanced with huge technology investments having been made to analyze customer data, while their investments in technology to manage the customer experience has apparently not moved forward in a comparable fashion. The result is that while they can identify potential opportunities, their ability to engage the customer is not at the same level of sophistication. The gaps in the overall customer strategy result in not knowing what occurs when offers are presented to the customer. If the customer finds the offer to be interesting, but not timely, how is follow-up managed? What motivates the branch staff to make outbound sales efforts, which aren't always a natural fit with the everyday activities? And, what about pursuing opportunities through channels other than the branch? 

Balancing CRM investments with CEM investments is the challenge that must be addressed if investments in either are to reach their full potential.