Customer solutions

Although software-based CRM solutions are not a panacea for businesses, if they are well implemented they can increase profitability, as well as customer satisfaction

The initial bubble of enthusiasm for customer relationship management (CRM) has burst and companies are now approaching customer management projects with more scepticism. Blame for the failure of CRM projects has been scattered in all directions. Information systems companies have been accused of hijacking the agenda and selling marketers the emperor’s new clothes. In turn, these companies have claimed that their products should never have been expected to be the ultimate panacea for all of an organisation’s problems.

However, Britannia Building Society demonstrated that, by implementing the right product in the right way, businesses can benefit from CRM. To accomplish this, they teamed up with software developers Fineos and database specialists Alterian – in partnership with Marketing Databasics and MarkIT. Britannia, as a mutually owned building society, decided in the late-Nineties – when its competitors were either merging or considering conversion – that it would show its commitment to mutuality by sharing its success with its members.

Convincing the masses

Research had shown that the majority of Britannia’s members were against these moves – as they felt that they risked losing quality and convenience of service – so the building society decided to make a statement to explain its stance. Britannia CRM senior manager David Crawshaw says that a customer a loyalty bonus scheme was seen as the best way to achieve this.

Under the Members Loyalty Bonus Scheme, members are paid a bonus based on the products they hold and the amount of time they have been a customer. Crawshaw says: “In order to be able to run the scheme we needed a quality database – we needed to know that our information on what products the customers hold was correct.”

People have names

Not wanting to spend unnecessary amounts of money on custom-built software – which would undoubtedly come with teething problems and an extended implementation period – Britannia opted for the Fineos software Clientwise, (now called Fineos Service Centre), for the customer-facing part of its CRM scheme. Crawshaw explains: “At Britannia we have a buy not build policy. If you can buy it off the shelf and it does what you require, it’s a lot easier than building it yourself from scratch.”

After a mass-mailing to its members to update its records, Britannia put together a system using an off-the-shelf package. The system allows access to customer data, as well as the delivery of data to customer-facing points, such as branches, postal and telesales units. Crawshaw says: “Now when you walk into a branch, instead of being asked for your account number, you are only asked for your name – all the other information is available from there. You are treated as an individual, not a number.”

Britannia’s CRM system is used by more than 2,000 online daily users, and across Britannia’s 190-plus branches nationwide.

Fineos chief executive Michael Kelly says: “The results the system delivered for Britannia are clear indicators that the implementation was a success. Perhaps the most tangible return is the dramatic increase in sales that the building society has enjoyed, with the average product holding across their membership base having increased from 1.2 products per customer to two – a figure that is rising yearly. Fineos component-based solutions was ideal for Britannia, in that it required a flexible, adaptable solution for each of its distribution channels.”

This system has been rewarding for the building society, says Crawshaw. He points out the project has reduced the cost of direct marketing over the past five years – a piece of direct marketing that once cost 90p per unit, now only costs 20p. Additionally, one in four customer interactions now leads to a sale.

Tools for the job

As well as the Fineos software supporting the front end of the business model, the building society has also used database analysis tools from Alterian, and its business associates – Marketing Databasics and MarkIT – to put its information into context.

Crawshaw says: “This is for data mining – getting into the data and analysing it.” With this system, Britannia is able to isolate variables, such as “how many people in Stoke-on-Trent have a Britannia mortgage that has not been running for more than 25 years.” Crawshaw adds that the speed of database technology enables huge quantities of data to be analysed quickly, which means that the building society is able to plan across the year and manage marketing budgets efficiently.

Alterian chief executive David Eldridge adds that the tools allow Britannia to “further develop its detailed analysis of customer behaviour, value and potential.”

Crawshaw adds: “Britannia has both the analytical capability and the system capability to deliver effective CRM. It’s easy enough to build a customer database, but to make money out of it is another matter. You do have to work hard to get value, and you have to constantly measure the success of your activities.”

Crawshaw, whose company is classed in the top five per cent of business performance on CRM by consultants QCI, is also keen to highlight the importance of his staff. “We couldn’t do it without the technology, but it is equally important to ensure your staff understand what you are trying to do. CRM is about people. The systems are important, but their role is a supporting one.”

Technology for Marketing 2002

Technology for Marketing 2002 is a two-day event taking place at the Wembley Exhibition and Conference Centre in London between February 12 and February 13 .

The show is designed to address the marketing technology needs of marketers, business managers and IT and telecommunications personnel. The event will cater for all needs, regardless of a company’s level of technical knowledge or stage of implementation, and it is uniquely positioned for the non-technical community.

Last year, some 450 conference sessions were booked, and more than 170 delegates from companies including British Airways, Ericsson and Unilever attended.

Technology for Marketing 2002 allows delegates to compare and contrast the leading 100+ suppliers first hand. Visitors can get free advice from industry experts, as well as valuable knowledge to take back to their companies.

There are three distinct conference tracks: customer intelligence and data analysis; CRM, and e-CRM and new media marketing. Additionally, there are two technology sessions for marketers and two executive master-class sessions on e-mail marketing and CRM.

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