It’s great to move to automated tellers and a combination of mail and email promotions, but in the end, banks will still elect to maintain tellers in some of their facilities and customer agents in their call centers.
One of these people's responsibilities is to work directly with customers. In this age of anticipatory marketing, this means that tellers and customer agents have to be able to understand the needs of the customers they are working with -- and to present customers with appropriate offers before the customers even realize themselves that they should be asking for them.
For financial institutions, this move to front-line selling hasn’t been easy. This is because the people who traditionally staff the teller lines in branches have been operationally oriented with a natural aversion to selling. The same can be said for many of the folks who end up in the call centers, frequently moving there from positions in back-office functions that have little or no customer contact.
Banks have tried to combat this selling aversion problem by strategically hiring people out of the retail sector (instead of banking) and then training them in banking positions. However, then the risk increases in other areas of banking -- like security and regulatory awareness, which is essential to anyone working in the industry.
Banks have also redesigned salary and incentive programs, so that those tellers and customer agents who sell really well can see their earnings go up based upon commission income -- but this same group traditionally tends to be conservative and prefers to know what their paycheck is going to look like at the end of every month instead of wagering part of it on the uncertain world of commissions.
Part of the solution for this dilemma for both the business and its supporting technology is a “smart” analytics system capable of providing those on the front lines who are most likely to interact with customers with an “on the spot” snapshot of the customer they are dealing with, and what that customer is most likely to be in the market for.
How does it work?
Marketing begins by using a server-based system that is “seeded” with an extract of its customer data from its primary banking system. Using a series of analytics questions and reports, Marketing then develops segments of the bank’s customers that might be grouped by age, geography, buying habits, credit worthiness, or other pertinent criteria. Central to this customer segmentation process is Marketing’s ability to ask the right analytics questions of the software so that the customer segmentation is effective.
Once customers are segmented based upon Marketing’s business rules and guidelines, the customers in effect are placed into certain “lifecycle” categories that are linked to the bank’s products that they are most likely to be interested in. Those 55 and over might be targeted for annuities or financial planning services. Those in the 25- to 35-year-old range might be targeted for home mortgage loans.
Once customer segmentation and profiling is complete, IT integrates the analytics and profiling results with the frontline teller transaction system. The result is that when 55-year-old Sam Johnson steps up to the teller window to deposit a check, the teller keys in Sam’s account number and immediately sees on the screen display that Sam has an excellent credit rating and might be a good person to approach about financial planning services or an annuity.
Of course, the process isn’t quite as easy as that. Tellers and customer agents still get a knot in their throats when they are compelled to “sell.” To ease this discomfort, banks over the past few years have invested in sales training and the use of these customer profiling systems to help their frontline personnel.
The message for financial institutions trying to understand how they can use analytics to make good things happen operationally is that a system with a specific value (furnishing important sales lead data) that is inserted into the right place in the operational workflow (where the agent or teller faces the customer) is easily understood and accepted because those being asked to use it can also see its value. When the business value is apparent, it makes it easier for staff to make transitions into the new and unfamiliar roles they are now being asked to perform.