December 01, 2006

Building Customer Relationships

Mobile solutions also have merit for banks as they connect with customers in-branch. Whether they use a kiosk, wireless tablet or a handheld device, "Mobile solutions enable banks to serve more customers," says AirDefense's Rushing. "They can process a transaction as customers wait in line, enroll them in new accounts or cross-sell new products."

According to Northern Trust's Spradlin, the bank currently is exploring how to apply mobile solutions to cross-selling efforts. Northern Trust, which has been supporting a customer relationship management (CRM) program for approximately eight years, will launch the first release of an enterprise relationship management (ERM) tool in November. Spradlin says her goal is to eventually enable users to access data via mobile devices, but she declines to specify a rollout date.

"One of our distinctions is that we do not force our clients to visit us -- we go to them," explains Northern Trust's Dworman, who is leading the project. Since it's crucial for the bank's remote relationship management executives and sales staff to be on the road and in front of clients, "We need to keep them connected to all client data available in our enterprise systems."

New York-based Citigroup ($83.6 billion in assets) also is bullish on employing technology to expand customer relationships. "Besides interacting with customers at ATMs, call centers, branches and through the Internet, we are also testing mobile solutions," Richard Naddy, SVP, North America decision management, Citigroup, said during the SAS user conference, "BetterManagement Live!," held in Las Vegas in October. "We are committed to focusing on how to connect with customers across all distribution points," he added. "Mobile technology is part of this strategy." Naddy declined to discuss specific projects during the session.

One popular mobile application that offers enormous potential for relationship building is SMS (short message service) text messaging services. In 2005, an average of 5 billion text messages were sent a month in the United States, up from 2.8 billion in 2004, according to the wireless trade association CTIA.

"Text messaging is a $35 billion-a-year business," explains ClairMail's Salesky. "Text messaging is a natural way to invoke two-way communication with customers."

For example, banks can use text to deliver actionable alerts to their mobile customers. These may indicate a low balance, seek to verify a transaction, deliver a cross-selling opportunity or even supply special dial-in information for the contact center.

"The mobile phone can strengthen the abilities of agents at the contact center," says Accenture's Georgi. "The combination of a person in the contact center and the mobile device opens up the next level in terms of contact center services," he adds. "Texting becomes a means for the customer to connect with you rather than call in and wait on hold."

According to ClairMail's Salesky, if a bank is outfitted with the vendor's solution, for example, the customer can text the bank, and ClairMail's system puts that person in the call queue. "Then we text the customer with a message alerting them with a time and number to dial into," Salesky says. "Being on hold never benefits anyone. Texting is a means of connecting the bank more easily and getting better customer service."