With spending on customer relationship management (CRM) zooming to stratospheric levels, independent observers are hard-pressed to come up with a one-size-fits-all definition of the concept.
According to GartnerGroup, worldwide CRM spending will reach $76.3 billion in 2005, up from $23 billion in 2000. A big chunk of it will come from financial institutions looking to pull out all the stops in reaching customers via traditional and electronic channels.
But while there is broad consensus that CRM is a key to survival, the concept remains elusive. According to Rob DeSisto, vice president at GartnerGroup, "CRM is a business strategy. Any notion of applying technology to customer relationships will fail unless business executives understand the key decisions they must make."
CRM, according to Meridien Research, is about enhancing an organization's most precious asset: customer knowledge. "It is critical that this asset survive despite ongoing campaign management software decisions and implementations," noted Dennis Behrman, an analyst at Meridien.
"Campaign management has grown from one-way, broadcast-style, untargeted marketing communications into two-way, one-to-one, event-driven interactions," he continued. The depth of data generated enables financial institutions to enhance the customer knowledge asset, deliver value to the customer, and capitalize on customer interactions and touchpoints.
Fiserv, a Milwaukee-based data processor, offered its own definition in announcing a CRM solution: "The basic premise is to deliver the right product, to the right customer, at the right time, through the right channel. The solution provides shared views of the customer through multi-channel integration, allowing financial institutions to grow their business and enhance customer service."
Key products and technologies included under the Fiserv CRM umbrella are data warehousing, campaign management, marketing, call center, contact management, telemarketing, workflow automation, branch sales and service, voice response, Internet banking, document imaging, loan origination, core account processing, ATMs, sales force automation, and Web collaboration.
Fiserv customers are hailing the solution's breadth. "The comprehensive CRM and ancillary products of Fiserv won us over," said Bill Thompson, vice president at 1st Mariner Bank, adding that the solution would help improve customer contact and establish more significant customer relationships. At $6.4 billion Fulton Financial Corp., the Fiserv solution will also focus on relationship management, not just transaction processing, according to Jim Shreiner, executive vice president at the Lancaster, Pa.-based institution.
Bank of America's new CRM system, using technology from Siebel Systems, is designed to provide a more complete view of the customer relationship to both service reps and customers. "Our customers will have access to a complete view of their relationship at every point they do their banking," according to Gene Taylor, president of consumer and commercial banking at Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America.
The system ensures that Bank of America customers have the right product mix, lets them view transaction and inquiry histories for all of their accounts, provides improved problem resolution and lets facilities routine administrative requests like change of address, check reorder and statements.