CRM by Any Other Name

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lthough the financial services industry remains in the throes of a perfect storm of economic, financial performance, and regulatory pressures, spending on CRM remains a priority. Just don't call it CRM. Consulting firms with sizeable CRM influence report strong client investment in desktop applications that bankers, financial advisors, and insurance brokers use to access a complete view of the customer and a strong desire to squeeze more value from existing customers. "That is CRM," says Steven Hoffman, managing director of financial services for Sapient, "but few people are calling it CRM. Instead, we're using terms like integrated advisor desktop. I don't even talk about CRM any more." For many financial services firms the acronym CRM isn't as important as the returns they derive from their investments in specific components of the technology. For example, Accucard, a London-based credit card company, reports an expected payback within two years of 100 percent of its investment in automated customer-service infrastructure (for email and call center) from Kana and IBM Business Consulting Services (BCS). CheckFree Corp. projects that the integrated customer service email platform IBM BCS instituted to improve CheckFree's electronic billing and payment systems will reduce its customer case--handling times by 50 percent. Through its work with technology consultancy Sapient, Prudential Property & Casualty Insurance Co. developed a self-service online tool at a fraction of the price it costs to service requests through a call center. Prudential's insurance agents also reported significant time savings and paperwork savings. Banks, financial market companies, and insurers are also investing in focused solutions that leverage customer data to improve service. "Financial services companies have had mixed results in terms of leveraging the customer data into developing deeper customer insights to enable a better customer experience, sell more products, and dramatically improve the profitability of that customer relationship," says John Weisel, a partner in Accenture's global financial services group. "That is an area of significant growth." Even so, Weisel admits, his clients' eyes sometimes roll at the mention of CRM. So Weisel has dropped the acronym from his vocabulary, but has added to his firm's services around the technology. Union Bank of California (UBOC) also invested in an acronym-free approach to a CRM implementation when it enlisted BearingPoint to develop a proprietary relationship management platform for its commercial bankers and a handful of its retail bankers. That project followed several mergers that had left the bank's portfolio managers with a tangle of homegrown and out-of-the-box contact management systems. "We were barely limping along with the disparate tools we had," says Jo Ellen Hart, vice president, managed relationship services for UBOC. "Some had become so obsolete that they were no longer supported by the vendor. We had to do something, and we're very happy with the results." That success motivated UBOC and BearingPoint to collaborate on another CRM project, a sales management and relationship tracking (SMART) system for the company's 245 retail banks. Hart points out that the SMART technology supported a larger cultural shift from a service-based approach to a strategy more weighted toward consultative selling. The Web-based SMART tool, a Java solution that sits on an Oracle database, enables service representatives to collect and enter crucial data (a needs analysis) each time a customer walks into the bank to open a new account. The SMART tool flags branch managers and employees to cross-sell when a customer event arises. For example, the system might suggest offering an attractive loan rate to a customer prior to the date he reported he expected to by a new car. Thanks to the application's Internet architecture, any of the 1,200-plus branch employees can conduct that type of activity. Hart says the objectives of the implementation, which was finalized early last year, but continues to receive quarterly enhancements, were to automate the sales process; monitor sales behaviors and sales results; enhance the ability to access, research, and analyze marketing data; and improve the bank's ability to respond to customers' changing financial needs. "They didn't try to boil the ocean in one fell swoop," says Neal Levin, managing director, CRM solutions for BearingPoint. "They carved up their approach in a very targeted way." Currently, UBOC is striving to conduct at least one needs analysis per new account opened. Already the move to an automated sales management system has delivered sales employees 25 percent more than that to consult with and sell to customers. And Hart says the next measurement will quantify the number of cross-sales derived from the SMART tool's needs-reporting capabilities. These initial positive CRM results, regardless of the name, certainly spell success.
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