CRM Vendors Look to Improve Retail Banking

Banks spent much of the past decade trying to drive customers away from tellers, in some cases even taking the tellers out of the banks themselves (in widely lampooned "Robo-Teller" experiments). Now, the industry seems ready to embrace bringing additional value to the face-to-face transaction. A number of CRM vendors have seized the opportunity presented by this emerging trend to announce new solutions for the financial industry. At the BAI Retail Delivery Conference, one of the largest banking conferences of the year, four solution providers unveiled new systems aimed at streamlining customer-facing operations down to the teller level. IBM's infrastructure and services divisions also weighed in on two of the announcements, showing that Big Blue is not ready to concede the market that was once dominated by mainframe computing. E.piphany recently introduced a banking-focused edition of its Advisor product line designed to integrate with existing banking systems and add a customer intelligence component to the customer service agent's desktop. By placing in-context information on customer loyalty and value, the company aims to enable banks to make better recommendations at the point of interaction. Siebel
rolled out a branch banking platform solution emphasizing the ability to present clients with a greater range of personalized services rather than simply speeding up basic transactions. Siebel Global Services, will partner with IBM Business Consulting services to deliver Siebel's solution to retail banks. The Siebel Branch Teller solution tightly integrates with IBM's WebSphere middleware, according to Mark Greene, IBM's general manager of global banking. Chordiant unveiled a full teller system, already successfully deployed in Europe, which provides a common interface that takes into account the skills of the teller or personal banker using the system, and makes it possible for individual branch managers to customize the personalization and business rules being applied under their management. Last, Microsoft has pulled its banking solutions under a single marketing umbrella, Experience Banking, which focuses on unifying the customer experience across banking channels. Ian Jacobs, CRM principal analyst at Current Analysis, says, however, that these developments are not a sign that banks are interested in substantially expanding their face-to-face operations. "I don't think the idea is that they want Citibank to go out and hire 10,000 new tellers, or for tellers to all of a sudden be bombarding people with offers. In theory they are trying to do things in a smarter way." Ultimately, the goal of any banking technology overhaul will be to vastly improve the intelligence behind face-to-face cross-selling, which has historically not been a strong point of the financial services industry. "Some of these things [already] happen informally, but they happen sloppily," Jacobs says. "You go into a branch and it's credit card week, so tellers will have a pamphlet they hand to every customer." Better coordination will allow tellers and personal bankers to exchange more information electronically, and to reduce the amount of time spent bouncing customers between windows and desks. "These are things that seem obvious from a customer point of view," Jacobs says, "but, because banks have been thinking about trying to cut labor costs and have fewer tellers on and fewer branches staffed," they have missed opportunities to integrate sooner. Related articles: Banking on CRM to Maximize Growth Opportunities Retail Banks Cash In by Updating Branch Technology ABN AMRO Banks on e-Service to Boost Customer Satisfaction
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