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There’s a fact of business today that’s simple yet true: it is easier to retain customers than it is to recruit new ones. For this reason, financial services institutions are continuing to invest in CRM solutions in spite of--or perhaps because of--the tight economic times. Customers know that if one financial services firm doesn’t cater to them, another one will.

To keep pace with the needs of the financial services industry, CRM solutions have been evolving at a dramatic pace, moving along a continuum from closely integrated front-office-only systems, to highly advanced front/back-office solutions with embedded analytic capabilities and, ultimately, to “total stakeholder management.” Total stakeholder management, or TSM, goes beyond optimizing customer relationships and involves the optimization of all enterprise relationships--customers, suppliers, employees and partners.

CRM solutions are further evolving from discrete products focused on an individual line of business toward comprehensive CRM suites that create a unified view of the customer across all interactions with the enterprise. New CRM technologies are enabling banks to migrate from customized services to truly personalized services. Software can now identify and appropriately market to an individual customer in real-time, often targeting the customer during critical, fleeting periods corresponding with major life events--periods where the customer is more apt to seek financial services. For instance, an application can notice and respond to a change in marital status, retirement or a child heading off to college.

In financial services, the key to successful customer service is understanding the overall relationship as well as the intricacies between the financial institutions and their customers. This can be accomplished with the aid of CRM software that is easy to use, accurately tracks all aspects of the customer relationship and enables a consistent, streamlined experience for the customer through any interaction method the customer chooses. Such CRM software must either deliver a central repository or be able to use an existing repository without duplicating the resident data, in order to capture the complete history of customer interactions.

In addition, this repository must be accessible to all employees at all customer touch points. Today, customers can often initiate contact with the organization through one channel (e.g., the Internet) and then complete the interaction through another (e.g., the call center), with seamless transfer of information between the different underlying technologies. When employees have access to such complete information, they are armed and empowered with the information they need, enhancing confidence and job satisfaction, which in turn promotes better customer service and stronger relationships.


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