Sovereign Bank improved its operations with consistent service practices for customers and fellow employees.
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Growth through acquisition is one of the most painful types of expansion. Not only is the pressure to produce a return on investment high, but the melding of companies can sunder chemistry and process. Sovereign Bank faced that problem in the early part of the decade, as rapid growth from the divested assets of competitors left the company without a coordinated sales process. "We had no culture and no background...one third of our folks were from Bank of Boston, one third were from Fleet, and [the rest] from our new company," says Bill Patten, director of sales management at Sovereign. "So we spent the first couple of years just retaining customers."
Sovereign realized that shortsighted focus on individual sales, not on overall relationships, would lead to long-term problems. The bank embarked on a project to define the sales process and improve service both to customers and to others in the organization. Implementing Salesnet allowed Sovereign to bring order to its sales process, initially in the commercial banking group. "We needed to have better information on the customers we were dealing with, and didn't want to spend a lot on internal [software] development," Patten says.
The initial commercial banking implementation has expanded to multiple lines of business, including government, cash management, and international trade, growing from fewer than 200 users to 500. "I have to get [executives] to slow down and explain what it is that [signing on to use Salesnet] can do for [business units]," Patten says. "The value comes with vetting their sales process, because people rarely document it. It forces them to consolidate the information they want in the [sales] process." The buildout of the sales automation system has helped Sovereign meet expanding growth and wallet-share targets.
The company has also grown more serious about its "red-carpet treatment," Patten says, implementing binding service levels not only for customers standing in line in a branch, but also for internal employee relations: "We have guarantees with our customers, and we have internal customer guarantees, as well. There is an expectation that I will be treated courteously by all the other employees." He also notes that there are agreed-upon service levels for tasks as basic as internal voice mail.
Although the bank has met its initial goals for its service overhaul and its Salesnet implementation, Sovereign is still working to improve on its accomplishments. A new tailored sales process is being developed with external consultants, and Patten says the company will not slow down its service initiatives until the country stands up and takes notice. "We want to be known as one of the one hundred best places to work in America."
By adopting a CRM strategy, Sovereign Bank has
improved its cross-selling capabilities, raising customers significantly above the previous 2.5 product average;
established consistent service standards for customers and fellow employees;
refined its sales processes and eliminated redundant or wasteful steps.
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