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Automate the Flow of Information

By: Michael D. Baker

When branches were the sole focus of retail delivery strategies, the chief considerations for structuring the branch organization were location, location, location. In today’s multichannel world, the keys to growth and success have become unify, unify, unify. The branch is still very much a primary and relevant point of customer interaction, but to effectively manage the customer experience, deepen relationships and capture new revenue, the other delivery channels must be in harmony with branch systems and processes.

Leave Silos to the Farmers

Silos in the world of agriculture are a great thing, but silos in banking are not — yet they are still prevalent. While many banks have made strides to automate the branch, there often remain communications gaps between the front line, the front-office and the back-office.

Furthermore, the technology applications that support a bank’s other delivery channels do not often share data or common functionality with one other, let alone with the institution’s branch systems. These fragmented infrastructures are significantly hindering data access and creating inconsistencies in the processes of selling and servicing. They prohibit that coveted 360-degree view of the customer and present hurdles to customer relationship management and customer experience management where customers have the most personal interaction with the bank — the branch. And, just think of the missed sales opportunities. Banks are spending billions of dollars on multi-media marketing campaigns to reach out to prospects, while the best prospects (existing customers) enter their branches each day. It is time to capitalize on that face time.

Through unification and breaking down silos, a bank can leverage its existing channels and investments to deliver intelligent and relevant information to customers every time they visit the branch — or any other channel of their choice. A bank can achieve consistency and establish a single, uniform process for sales and service. Then, customers will be able to begin a process like opening a new account at one channel (the website, for example) and complete it via another (such as with a customer service representative) without repeating steps or having to provide redundant information.
These concepts may sound familiar, but we are not just talking about automation, channel integration and traditional approaches to CRM. Channel unification is where the rubber finally meets the road in executing highly effective CRM and CEM strategies at the branch and across the enterprise — while at the same time reducing operating costs.

Unify Technology, Applications, Processes

The first step in unifying the enterprise is to “open up” its technology infrastructure. You must enable that “handshake” or ability to share data between disparate systems. The advent of IP networking, open system standards and relational databases have enabled a much more flexible approach to integration. What’s more, you do not have to throw out existing systems. There are branch sales and service software options on the market that facilitate the exchange of data to and from core processors as well as in and out all of the applications that support delivery channels.

With these capabilities in place, think about how you would like to enable the launch of business processes in one area of the bank and fulfill them in another. Of course, first contact resolution is the primary objective for most institutions. With real-time, automated enterprise workflow and routing, the power of the entire organization can be brought to each customer interaction to resolve problems or help close new business.

A $6 billion institution, headquartered in Texas and serving several states with more than 70 branch locations, provides an excellent example of how enterprise workflow can help tellers to effectively engage as the front-line in sales and service.

When a customer approaches the teller line, a teller identifies that customer to the institution’s system and it automatically pulls up a single, integrated desktop view. The teller’s desktop contains the customer’s profile (updated in real time from the institution’s Fidelity core system), account alerts and personalized or global sales and marketing messages, along with quick access to other data sources including product information. With all this data at his fingertips, the teller is equipped to present an offer within the flow of service.

If the customer says yes to an offer, the institution’s system enables the teller to open a referral in just four mouse clicks. The referral is automatically routed directly to a customer service representative or a back-office area of specialty, such as the mortgage department. The system knows, based on product, location of the branch and the customer profile, exactly where to route that referral. If the customer declines an offer the system — with one click — will ensure that the campaign or message is not presented again to that customer at the teller line or any other channel.

Unify Customer Data, Interaction History and Real-Time Insights

Another crucial aspect of unification is to tie customer data, interaction history and real-time insights together — from all customer interactions in the branch and beyond. That is the only way to truly achieve a 360-degree customer view, which is so important to deepening relationships. The emphasis here is that account data from the core system or campaign details from a managed customer information file alone (i.e., which accounts customers hold and their demographics) is not enough for personalized selling and servicing.

You need access to a customer’s interaction and issue management histories and have a way to capture feedback from customers during each interaction, especially those that take place face-to-face in the branch. This can all be facilitated by most bankers by real-time integration with legacy applications, a corporate customer information file, MCIF and other data sources.

An Illinois-based institution with $2.5 billion in assets and more than 50 branches has taken customer care to new level using in a single, front-end solution. The bank’s system gives its front-office and call center staff swift access to existing customer information and interaction histories, drawn in real time from its SilverLake core system as well as multiple other data sources. This comprehensive view of the customer enables bank representatives to not only provide personalized service, but also to solve customer problems and inquiries in dramatically less time. (Using the same technology, the Texas institution mentioned earlier has achieved upwards of 80 percent first contact resolution — without having to engage the back office.) The system also tracks and measures how well the Illinois bank responds to its customers, applying ticklers, alerts, escalations and calendars (all part of a pre-defined enterprise workflow) to ensure that each case is not only brought to a prompt and satisfying close, but that the customer’s experience was exceptional.

Unify Service, Sales and CRM Strategy

The last key step to unification is to adopt a single system of record approach to integrating servicing, marketing campaigns and selling activities. You must unify to achieve consistency in the delivery of information and in the content of your response to customers — across the branch and all other channels, including self service. Through unification you can combine product promotions with personalized offers, map organizational resources to opportunities and capture sales within the flow of providing service — not as an add-on event.

The Texas-based institution again provides a compelling example of the tangible benefits of unifying sales and service processes. Its branch system has enabled some tellers to capture as many as 90 referrals in a week in a few mouse clicks while performing their core duties — and without disrupting or slowing service at the teller line.

At a fundamental level, all of this boils down to having the ability to bring current and historical data as well as relevant sales, service and product information to each customer interaction. Only then can you begin to deliver on the promise of not only CRM, but also CEM.

Create an Exceptional Customer Experience

An effective customer relationship management strategy requires the unification of data, systems and channels. After all, CRM is how you manage the information you have about the customer to optimize marketing, sales and service processes and capture new business. But in this new world of banking, sustained, long-term growth also depends on customer experience management — how you design and deliver memorable experiences through your systems and people. CEM is all about what the customer knows and feels about your bank, namely the caliber of service you provide and how well your products meet their financial needs.

By unifying all of these areas, the bank can provide a consistent, exceptional experience for customers at their channels of choice. Consider these important steps to break down silos once and for all and position the bank to exceed customers’ expectations at each interaction. This will empower the branch staff to maximize face-time with customers and play a vital role in building customer advocacy.

Michael D. Baker is the founder and president of KIVA Group Inc. Contact him at mdbaker(at)

Copyright (c) May 2012 by BankNews Media