Slowdowns bring with them a sea of changes. Purse strings become tighter and less is just enough. Expansions take a back seat and companies play it safe. But there is something that cannot afford to succumb to this changing environment: the quality of customer service.
It is a time when the phrase 'customer is king' holds more water than ever before. Especially for an industry that is facing a lot of heat: banking. Keeping their existing customers intact and adding to that customer base is an imperative for banks.
The definition of customer relations is broadening. When every new piece of customer data can reveal a new facet of a customer, information becomes a business opportunity. The more data, the merrier everyone is.
YES Bank was no exception. It managed customer relations via Excel sheets, something that the bank was beginning to regret. The problem was that it was a one-way information sharing system that restricted data flow from the customer to the company. Although it was used extensively by the bank's staff for cross-selling and up-selling, it lacked interactive features like capturing feedback from a customer.
Neither was it the smartest way to run the bank's sales force. "We had instances when we lost sales leads, or multi-interfaces to the same lead and re-assignment of leads. We just couldn't track older leads because there were multiple registrations and entry for tracking them," says a branch manager of YES Bank who prefers not to be named.
Having a customer relationship management (CRM) solution was the need of the hour. But, not just any CRM solution. If the bank's management was going to get one, it needed to be flexible and have the scalability to follow the business wherever it went.
"While conceptualizing the CRM, I was not looking at a mature and stable CRM package because our retail business model itself was demand-based and hence very fluid. We wanted to start with a small framework-based model which changes with our business needs," says Suvanjay Kumar Sharma, VP (corporate strategy) & chief enterprise architect, YES Bank.
An off-the-shelf CRM solution would have made Sharma's job much easier but he believed that a CRM tool should have customer feedback at every step and only a system based on Open Source would give him the agility that he was looking for. Neither was he willing to settle for a stopgap solution so he decided to build the solution in-house -- a tough task by any standard.
A relatively new entrant in the field where the big daddies such as nationalized banks have already celebrated their cetenaries, YES Bank was established in 2004 with financial support from Rabobank Netherlands.
From the bank's perspective, it's late entrance didn't have to be a disadvantage. It could give miss to legacy migration since there wasn't any and it could also adopt and implement technology according to the needs of a 21st century bank serving the new needs of the modern customer.
"We consciously wanted to avoid settling for a system and working with it just because our organization was still evolving. We wanted a flexible solution that would change in accordance to the dynamics of our business. What we wanted was a scalable CRM that could grow as we grew and not just any CRM solution," says Sharma.
And from those priorities was born the concept of the Yes Bank Collaborative CRM (YCCRM). But Sharma's in-house YCCRM wasn't satisfied with just fulfilling these needs. Sharma felt that customer feedback was vital, and that the bank needed to embrace its customers. "The difference was collaboration. We wanted to make it collaborative by making the customer part of the system. We were keen on empowering the customer to share his ideas and feedback. The system has two logical separation models: a pre-acquisition and a post-acquisition service cycle for customers," explains Sharma.
It took six to eight months to develop and implement the solution in the first branch. The YCCRM banks very heavily on employee collaboration. "Information lying in islands, without being shared across, is of no use at all. Internal collaboration adds a productive edge to the information we capture," says Sharma.
The customer information captured in the YCCRM is mapped to blog-like entries made by employees. These entries include ideas, suggestions, and perceptions of the sales representatives. The sales and product teams can then analyze this information and figure out related business opportunities. Such information can also be leveraged to customize existing products or conceive new products altogether.
Earlier, with Excel sheets, sales staff culled out details of customers by tabs in the form (name, company, account number, etcetera). But with YCCRM, they were provided with a template where they can fill details (other than the standard keywords) noted during their interaction with the customers. This meant they could personalize their dashboards.
Typically, sales staff interacts with customers over the phone, jotting down the most important parts of their conversation on little pieces of paper. This information was later filled on a separate form. With the new CRM, sales reps can now upload or download scribbled information from their phones to the main CRM system.
"We focused more on capturing data from mobile phones into the CRM system instead of capturing CRM system in the mobile phones. We leveraged the fact that people are more comfortable with their cell phones than their computers to introduce greater comfort for the user," says Sharma.
The new system also helped sales representatives in other ways. As a sales rep, part of the job includes being constantly on the field, which leaves them little time to fill in their reports. As a result, it is not always possible to feed details of their interaction with customers on the day they meet them. The old system marked the day they filed their report, not the day they met their customer. YCCRM has changed that. It provides an additional tab of source date (the date mentioned as the source date when they meet the customer and the system date when it is registered in the system). Sharma says, "Adding the source and system date has helped calculate the turnaround time of serving a client."
The integrated and personalized dashboard with an activities planner enables the smooth functioning of a sales rep. And it's social value-based relationship management helps in cross-selling. Take for instance a software developer who wants to move from an employee status to being an owner of his own firm. That piece of insight can be uself for the bank. The social value-based relationship management component will help cater to his changed needs.
On the dashboard, a small search box allows the bank staff to do an internal as well as a Web search on their customers. "We modeled the system so that it is practical. We wanted people to take part in the development of the system. The system has to be agile and ideas have to come from the users. This also allows you to add features according to your requirements," points out Sharma.
But this convenience comes at a price. It wasn't easy to implement the CRM solution across YES Bank's multiple branches. The foremost challenge was convincing the business about using the Open-source CRM software and customizing it for their use.
But Sharma was convinced it was the way to go. He also knew that it was a decision that would introduce its own special set of challenges. One example is an initial performance issue related to JBOSS. When the number of concurrent users grew to over 80 to 100, performance started deteriorating and JBOSS shutdown. "We have done some optimization to solve the issue and also have logged the issue with Red Hat and have received some patches," he shares.
Developing a CRM solution in-house was not just about having faith and confidence in Sharma's team but meant that he needed to get involved with even the smallest details of the project. This gave him complete visibility of how the project was shaping. Since they worked closely with business, articulation of business needs was very clear and hence, Sharma's team was to develop features close to user requirements. Getting business users who were accustomed to off-the-shelf products to use the unique collaborative features of the YCCRM -- which could possibly give the bank competitive advantage -- was a task.
"The business users needed to be convinced because people prefer to walk the conventional path and hesitate to give up their existing mode and processes of working. But once you help them understand smaller processes they gradually accept the change," says Sharma.
"The idea of making the system with self-servicing functionality is to give the business users the ability to define the fields that they want. The business division rather than the IT division should be responsible for all the contents displayed and they can manage the user interface without IT's help," he says.
The Credit List
The implementation of a key tool like CRM has already started reflecting positively. There has been a drastic improvement in customer acquisition after sales leads were passed on via discussion boards. "There is servicing of 10 lakh leads and around 5 lakh service requests per year. Customer service has improved by 60 percent and turnaround time for its processes by almost 70 percent," says Sharma.
"This helped achieve greater service excellence, capturing all customer queries, complaints and their feedback into the common system. It has helped us understand our customers better and analyze the resolution time for each query or complain and then improve internal process accordingly. It also added lots of intangible business benefits and helped retain customers better," says Sharma.
The cross-selling of products has substantially surged after the implementation. The collaborative CRM has given a new window of social value-based relationship which is key for future cross-selling.
Further, the centralized repository for reports generated numerous benefits for the organization. "When data gets captured in a central repository there is more than one advantage to it. First, data loss is prevented. Second, data can be extracted and analyzed, which helps in understanding the business better. It allows us to observe trends and take proactive action to improve the customer experience and products," says Sharma.
The repository also enables geography-wise customer segmentation to plan a promotional campaign better. With the implementation of the YCCRM almost complete in all the metro branches, the next phase aims to cover the non-metro branches, bringing all 60 locations of the bank on board.
The next logical step is to take YCCRM online, where customers can directly be part of the system.
"Since this is an initiative to accommodate customers in the bank's process, we want to get the CRM system online soon so that customers can directly send their feedback or use blogs to interact with us.
This will definitely open new sources of information and at the same time it will provide us with a new set of opportunities in understanding the customer. This would surely help us serve our customers better," says Sharma.
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