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Quality Control

SunTrust Banks installs site management suite to automate the identification and management of content quality, privacy and compliance.

SunTrust installs brand and compliance management software

Broken pages, dead-end links and slow uploading times all contribute to poor online customer experiences and could damage brand image. To improve online visits and secure brand image, SunTrust Banks added WebXM, a hosted site management tool from Watchfire, Waltham, Mass., that detects these problems at a granular level that no human eye can achieve.

When a bank puts up a Web site, it has an obligation to ensure the architecture is working, all sections are up to date and information is accurate.

Industry analysts have reported that consumers who pay bills online at banks are twice as likely to stay with their banks. Proactive monitoring of Web sites dramatically reduces the likelihood that users will find glitches and leave.

"A company featuring a Web site that generates revenue or provides an important channel for customer service benefits best from a site that works," noted Brendon Lynch, director of privacy and risk solutions at Watchfire. "When visitors can't access content, define what they are looking for or complete a transaction, a company could risk brand or reputation damage."

Atlanta-based SunTrust is well aware of these risks, and has taken steps to shore up its Web site, which includes online banking, product and company information.

"The online customer experience has to be reliable, secure and convenient for our Internet users," said Monica Champion, senior vice president of Internet and e-business at $117.3 billion SunTrust Banks. "We recognize that effective Web site privacy management is key to maintaining customer confidence."

Yet keeping up with changes to company sites, links to partner sites and compliance issues within those third-party sites is tough for one team to manually monitor.

"There is no guarantee manual processes will find all content that needs to be revised.," said Champion. "Something happens to content each day on the Web; humans just can't catch or confirm these ongoing changes.

"Information found on the Web is constantly ongoing and changing, and it is impossible to see all changes happening on a 24/7 basis, even with several people looking manually. There is always something to fix.

"By adding Watchfire, finding instances is much more efficient, and changes are easier to manage. We still need our people, as the technology tells us what to do, but our people still make the decisions."

Ready to trade in its own manual processes, SunTrust began exploring its options for automated services.

"Trade bots"-systems that detect trademark registers by comparing occurrences to a database-weren't enough, said Champion.

Instead, SunTrust added Watchfire's WebXM site management suite to automate the manual process of identifying and managing content quality, privacy and compliance. The product scans SunTrust's site and the Internet to identify potential trouble spots. The results are displayed in a dashboard-like graphic which features a needle that indicates the level of each parameter.

The suite is comprised of three modules that help the bank detect and manage possible risk scenarios. The first, QualityXM, deals with content and "searchability" of the Web. It baselines SunTrust's site, then identifies and prioritizes Web site repairs and changes that need to be corrected.

"My main focus is to look at the overall quality, and the WebXM application grades the level," Champion explained. "It detects broken anchors, links, titles, duplicate information, even design, height and width effectiveness for page flows. It provides automates output of suspect URLs, which enables fast maintenance and research of identified issues."

The second module, PrivacyXM-the core module of WebXM-generates detailed privacy reports that identify information collection, privacy policy links, user tracking and Web page security practices. These reports help SunTrust manage potential privacy risks.

The third module, AccessibilityXM, integrates accessibility testing capabilities with the enterprise scanning and reporting capabilities of WebXM. This module helps the bank monitor accessibility to ensure the Web can be viewed by customers.

SunTrust accesses the site management tool via an ASP (application service provider) connection which is managed and maintained by Watchfire. The bank sets thresholds based on specific factors within the Web site and how the brand is viewed elsewhere online.

Each Sunday evening, the system spiders out to the Web and analyzes dead-end or broken links, errors, even how fast pages load. The report, which includes Web links to the identified attributes, is pushed to Champion via e-mail within 24 hours.

"We recognize that effective Web site privacy management is key to maintaining customer confidence and enabling compliance with industry regulations and global legislation," she said. "This tool helps us proactively and automatically verify and ensure quality, privacy and compliance standards and brand management of our site."

She added, "It gives us the ability to understand how our brand is being used on our site and on the Web."

Since its installation in March, WebXM has detected 712 instances of possible brand infringements online.

"Some of those may simply be mentions of our brand in press releases on a site like Fortune.com, but without the tool, we wouldn't know," she said. "We need triage, and it is nice to have the software do that triage. We simply click on the link that cites a Web reference to SunTrust Bank."

Suggested links are forwarded to SunTrust's content management team.

"Our content manager can fix code directly at their desktop, or if a page is missing or needs to be taken down, we can immediately coordinate with our developers," Champion said.

Slow page loads are becoming a thing of the past.

"In some cases, we changed HTML to Flash to lighten pages and decrease load times," Champion said. "As we attack slow pages, we also learn that there is no global answer to fix all load issues."

SunTrust is also able to pinpoint stale information on partner sites. The suite, for example, located an announcement about a SunTrust-sponsored marathon in Florida that was still being displayed weeks after the event took place.

"We were able to provide the broker with the site's troublesome link so he could take it down, proving the suite is helpful to our partners as well," said Champion.

Watchfire's ASP model carries an average $100,000 price tag. The solution can also be licensed for a one-time fee plus an annual maintenance fee.

"The Web-based solution is increasing in popularity because it doesn't require a large capital investment or operational expense. It's a more suitable choice for risk management," said Watchfire's Lynch.

The product has decreased the amount of time SunTrust developers spend correcting errors.

"The scans reveal the Web links, they fix the issue and move on to the next issue," Champion said.

Neither party would define a specific rate for a return on investment, but Lynch said, "Companies using reports to improve brand and corporate position online can gain rewards within a matter of weeks."

Besides considering a migration off of an ASP model and bringing WebXM in-house, SunTrust is planning to add the solution to its intranet by the end of the year. "We use the intranet to run our business and provide employee data, and we want a consistent brand message internally as well," Champion said. "It seems like a natural next step."

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