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Transforming Financial CRM From Retention Mode to Growth Mode

By Darryl Prater
Jan 19, 2010 5:00 AM PT

As financial institutions gear up for 2010, many companies are still on the long road to recovery after facing some of the most difficult challenges in years. Mortgage defaults and foreclosures, new regulations on credit card and bank fees, and the constant barrage of related news stories sent customer call volumes through the roof in 2009, as concerned consumers inquired about rates, terms, the threat of foreclosure and fees.

Transforming Financial CRM From Retention Mode to Growth Mode

Service representatives were asked to do more than ever, in less time, all while financial institutions sought to hold on to their best customers, control costs and position themselves for future -- dare we say it -- growth. However, loyalty, customer retention and ultimately growth require well-executed customer relationship management (CRM) solutions. Customer touchpoints must be approached as opportunities to strategically improve profitability, not just control costs. As a result, providers need to take a hard look at how they currently manage their customer relationships and how they will advance these relationships and gain new ones in 2010.

Turn Obstacles Into CRM Opportunities in 2010

Many in the financial sector are glad to leave 2009 behind as the industry is starting to come out of the economic downturn that gripped the entire nation. Regardless of where institutions fall along the recovery continuum, obstacles can be transformed into opportunities by establishing customer management guidelines that are in line with the level of customer activity. The transformation starts by asking some tough questions. What are the specific goals that will advance the recovery of our company and customers? How can we continue to ensure customer loyalty? Are our goals clearly understood by every representative in the organization?

Experts predict that as the economy improves, customers will initiate more financial transactions in response to new programs and government incentives. Financial companies and their representatives must be ready to scale up quickly, yet cost-effectively, in order to take advantage of this increased customer activity.

Preparation means examining and learning from the past. Savvy managers can turn potential obstacles into opportunities to offer better customer solutions by incorporating customer feedback into program improvements. Leadership should consider: Have we asked our customers lately what they want us, as their financial institution, to do? Were our customer-facing processes as effective as they could have been during the mortgage default and foreclosure crisis? What do we need to do to improve our services? Do our representatives understand exactly what customers expect of us as recovery begins?

2010 CRM Trends

A new year is good time to look at current CRM practices to see which ones are working and which practices may need to be fine-tuned. There are some important CRM trends in the financial sector that you may want to incorporate into your planning.

  1. Care versus revenue generation: Many financial institutions are still stuck in the mindset that care and retention should be the main focus of their CRM program. However, today's CRM leaders know that care and retention efforts should also drive revenue generation opportunities. This is no small task, as companies find it increasingly difficult to hang on to customers, but loyalty itself should be an important revenue driver. Satisfied -- and loyal -- customers have a much better appetite for considering additional products or services which, in turn, add more value to the overall customer relationship. Most importantly, this turns what used to be a cost transaction into a revenue source.
  2. Growing call volumes: We all know that fallout from the mortgage crisis and financial impacts from the economic downturn in general drove record numbers of customers in need of account support to contact their financial services firm. Media coverage of foreclosures, credit card legislation and other timely events further contributed to a marked increase in customer contact -- especially call volume -- over the past year. This influx stretched many firms' CRM capabilities to the limits, and as market conditions improve, and government pressure to increase processing of loan modifications continues, financial institutions can expect call volumes to remain high well into 2010. Evaluating options like self-service Web and IVR (interactive voice response) solutions can help defer some of the volume. Evaluating analytics on root causes for current volume can also help identify opportunities to manage future volume.
  3. Efficiency and flexibility of the workforce: Today's customer profiles demand that financial service providers enhance training to increase service representatives' efficiency and flexibility. Our first two trends -- call volume growth and the opportunity to expand revenue generation -- further support the need for representatives to do more with each call. This year, leading organizations are training representatives to not only address their customers' fundamental questions, but also to cross sell products and services that add value.

As part of these new roles, financial firms and their managers will do much more probing to understand the client's needs and should address each of these key questions:

  • Do our representatives have access to the information needed to address our customers' issues quickly and effectively?
  • Did we really look for a creative solution and resolve our customers' initial problem?
  • Will our solution really help the customer?
  • Were we able to add value by turning a service opportunity into a revenue generation opportunity?
  • Are we truly able to effectively represent a broader share of the public with more offerings?

Manage CRM Expenses in 2010

As service representatives are able to effectively represent a wider range of products and services, CRM strategists also see that the cost to serve and retain customers can change, creating a greater focus on efficiency and effectiveness metrics. There are specific ways financial companies can maintain good CRM, still manage expenses and turn a cost transaction into a revenue source. Three key areas of consideration are:

  • Are we meeting the customer's expectations while still delivering on contractual obligations?
  • Is the value our organization brings to customers offsetting the service costs?
  • Are we preventing additional unnecessary phone calls?

Outsourced and offshore CRM support by a dependable team trained on high-quality transactions is also an important consideration. Highly trained and certified associates can help companies scale quickly as new market demands dictate, while ensuring accuracy and integrity on every call.

As 2010 begins, the CRM expectations in the financial sector will be more demanding than ever before. There will be more customer inquiries and people to help. CRM will be a key differentiator for successful providers as objectives expand from retention to growth through revenue generation.


Darryl Prater is senior vice president of financial services at TeleTech.


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