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Kristi Nelson
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Referral System Leads to Connectivity

Banks implement the InTrader Safekeeping Web Portal for SunGard.

In order to prevent sales opportunities from falling through the cracks, Comerica has licensed referral management software from Atlanta-based WebTone Technologies.

The referral system, a component of WebTone's TouchPoint customer interaction suite, will allow the Detroit-based bank to refer opportunities to the appropriate employee or business unit, track and report on the status of each referral, as well as accurately incent employees based on the closure of a sale.

The system notifies employees within seconds of a new referral via e-mail, automates the transfer and escalation processes, and allows referring employees to check status.

Because the system will be linked to Comerica's customer databases, referrals of existing customers will be prepopulated with data. Managers will receive exception reports on referrals that have been open for a certain period of time without progress or closure of some kind.

Comerica expects to increase the flow of referral activity between business units, get better sharing of leads and referrals within sales units, and engage a broader segment of the population in the sales process. Management will be better able to evaluate results and build plans for improvement.

"We'll be able to manage referrals as a function or process across the company," said Don Parker, senior vice president and director of information services at $53 billion Comerica. "We'll be able to see who's doing real well, and reward those folks. And we'll be able to see who's not engaged yet, and help them."

The move is part of Connectivity, Comerica's strategic initiative aimed at deepening customer relationships through more effective selling. Begun last year, Connectivity is intended not only to make salespeople more effective, but to engage all Comerica employees in the sales process.

Training is a big part of the Connectivity initiative.

"If we're going to engage our back office staff in the sales process, we're going to need to train them in the products we offer," Parker said.

They'll also receive some sales training. "Not a lot," said Parker. "Our non-sales folks don't want to be sales folks, but we can give them the skill sets so they're comfortable, in a social setting, asking someone about their banking business and recommending that they talk to someone from Comerica."

Improving the referral process is a key element of Connectivity. But to make that vision a reality, the bank needed to make it easy for anyone in the organization to make a referral, as well as track results.

Each business unit within the bank has its own methodology for handling referrals. Some use paper-based systems, others use databases or spreadsheets. And in some cases, it's a process of calling a business development officer and making the referral over the telephone. "As you can imagine, it's difficult for us to assess how we're doing as a company," said Parker.

The bank plans to roll out the WebTone system to its first group of users by the end of the first quarter. Because the system is browser-based, additional user installations will follow quickly on an as-needed basis.

"As someone is ready to make a referral, they'll access the software and at that time it will be loaded on their desktop," said Parker. "This helps us with our software licensing. You don't want to be paying for software for staff members until they actually want to make a referral."

Once the software is available, the bank plans to aggressively promote its usage. "I expect that we'll very quickly get to a number of 7,000 to 8,000," said Parker.

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