Financial Players Need To Get CRM, Channel Acts Right

Mumbai, October 17: | Updated: Oct 18 2002, 05:30am hrs
Disparate consumer relationship management (CRM) and channel integration efforts will not change how consumers use delivery channels to fix disjointed cross-channel customer experiences. Firms must right channel: get consumers to use the right channels for the right transactions and interactions, says a report titled Right Channelling Financial Transactions by Forrester Research (Forrester).

According to Forrester, a laissez-faire approach to delivery channels build them and let customers decide, which to use is not effective. To improve the quality and lower the cost of service delivery, firms need to right-channel consumers behaviour. The report has analysed that a growing number of consumers use electronic channels to research, purchase and manage their financial lives. In addition, consumers use different channels for the same transaction. For activities such as paying bills, consumers prefer to use the same channel, but for transactions like buying stock and checking balances, channel usage varies greatly. It was found that 79 per cent of online consumers transact in multiple-channels and to purchase products like mortgages and auto-insurance, their behaviour crosses channels. The report also says that consumers cross channels over time.

The report further states that todays efforts result in high costs and disjointed touches. In addition to their disparate CRM efforts, most firms have channel integration projects underway, but none of these efforts influence consumers channel behaviour because CRM efforts do not change product packages, resulting in higher support costs.

In fact, most CRM efforts fail to capture consumers channel behaviour or preferences. Consequently, firms cant see how channel behaviour changes and how it affects profitability.

Also point-to-point channel-integration is inefficient resulting in disjointed customer touches. Call-centre reps cannot help customers pay bills online; consumers re-enter data on paper forms after pre-qualifying online, and branch-reps are not aware of offers made online to the customer, the report states, adding that organisational boundaries get in the way resulting in overspending on technology.

According to Forrester, in order to correct these disbalances right-channelling firms will rebundle services to migrate account and self-service transactions to electronic channels, provide collaborative support and rebuild cross-channel experiences. Rebundled services will push transactions to low-cost channels, and that 60 per cent of banking customers would give up human assistance if motivated to.

However, according to the report, to support consumers who move their account transactions to electronic channels, right-channelling firms must be ready with the following.

Firstly, online self service functions. Firms should analyse branch and call center volume for self service transactions to determine development priorities. Secondly, consumers who switched to broadband in 2001 were 46 per cent more likely to receive or review their bills online then when they had dial-up access. As broadband adoption grows it will reach half of all online homes by 2004 right-channellers will be ready with online statements and bills that offer reverse lookup of merchants and direct links for fee disputes. And lastly, branch and call-center support will be spruced up.

Today, most call-center representatives can now co-browse with a customer paying a bill or making trade online for the first time. But many consumers will need hand holding to get the setup online, or they will abandon the channel.

Forrester goes on to say that collaborative support will make the Net the right channel. Account transactions only scratch the surface of interactions that consumers have with their providers. But for many of these touches like researching rates, evaluating investment alternatives or getting answers to service related questions todays sites fall short.

And branch and call-center representatives cannot help the customers finish what they have started online.

To make the Net the right channel for these interactions, firms will need to incorporate instant messaging (IM) and chat. Right channellers will use tools from firms like Communicator to provide secure messaging. Increased IM and broadband will make it more feasible for consumers to download applications that let advisors or representatives collaborate with them online.

It further adds that smart right-channellers will drive consumers to the Net with tools from firms like Motive Communications that preempt the need for human support.

Charter One Financial, for example, uses a software that lets its customers set up alerts when balances run low, a bill is due, or a credit-limit is reached. Whats different is that these alerts are actionable consumers respond and right channellers take action on their behalf.

Forester says that rebuilding cross-channel experiences will require financial services hubs. Not every interaction has to be cross-channel. For the right ones, firms will redesign the cross-functional processes that support them. Firms will create a single system of record for consumer data and functions such as providing the current status of accounts will access data through a single standard interface with no knowledge of the datas original source.

To create right pricing and product bundles, firms should capture customer channel transaction behaviour and the percentage of monthly transactions that the customers do electronically. And to ensure that new service bundles are directed at the right customers, firms should start field surveys to determine customers willingness to give up human assistance, says the report and further adds that without the ability to measure shifts in channel behaviour, firms will not be able to determine the impact of their efforts.