In July, I had an experience with my bank that gave me insight into how far cross-selling technology has come, and, unfortunately, how far it has to go.
One Saturday morning, my bank (a recently-merged New York City-based institution) called to inform me that they now were offering life insurance, and given the fact I do not have a policy, would I consider buying one from them?
Upon later reflection, I have to admit I'm pretty impressed with my bank's upselling package. After all, not only did the technology find me and recognize I was a long-term customer without life insurance who has bought financial products in the past, it also knew something of my income level and living situation, and managed to tie all this information together into a cohesive offering. In addition, it managed to find me at home (not easy) and got my last name right. (As soon as I hear, "Hello, is Mr. Dooley there?" I hang-up the phone.)
However, this system is far from foolproof, because if it were, I would not have been contacted in the first place.
My bank has called me at home numerous times in the past to alert me to new opportunities and products. I have made it clear on these occasions, either through request or outright hostility (slamming the phone), that I do not want banking products pitched to me at home. A study of my purchase habits at the bank would show that if I need a service or product, I initiate the action, either through a phone call or, more likely, a visit to the branch nearest my office.
That I was called at home tells me that the cross-selling system does not have access to my purchasing history or, more likely, that the file does not contain information beyond the fact that I have purchased products in the past.
Either way, once I told the telemarketer I was not interested in the product and to please take me off the phone list, the system should have made certain I was never contacted again. After all, trying to sell me something I don't want is a waste of my time and the bank's money.
So imagine my surprise when 90 minutes later, I received a call from another telemarketer trying to sell me the same product. Add in the fact that both of these sales calls took place during the July 4 holiday weekend and you have an idea why I'm seriously contemplating another bank.
Upselling technology promises to make banks more profitable. But until all the kinks are ironed out, banks will have to keep a close management eye on the systems. Otherwise, it may do more harm than good.