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Banks find new ways to get closer to customers

By Aimee McClinchy

Friday 28th April 2000

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Ron Swift USING DATA: Ron Swift
Local banks will pay closer attention to transactions and call customers when large sums of money are withdrawn or deposited, following a worldwide customer relationship management (CRM) trend.

Two local banks are already watching when customers make a change 180% more than their average transaction in a bid for personalised service, international expert Ron Swift said.

Mr Swift, US-based vice-president of NCR Corporation, said the move, seen as controversial by some, aimed to fight a global trend for banks to lose customers to customer service and internet-savvy newcomers.

Banks, telcos, airlines and the insurance industries are turning to such intense data monitoring methods as the global CRM business grows to an estimated $US17 billion a year by 2003, Mr Swift said.

"The industries that usually don't foster relationships but have services on the spot, they are the ones changing.

"Retail is following close behind but has different kinds of programmes," he said.

NCR is one of the world's largest data warehousing companies, also specialising in retail automation and ATM machines.

Mr Swift would not reveal the names of the two local banks, both his customers, saying they considered the methods a competitive advantage.

Their anonymity may serve to shield them from critics who have been regularly raising privacy issues and accusations of exploitation as CRM becomes commonplace. Some argue such relationships are one-sided, and say few customers relish thoughts of intimacy with their banks or local shop.

But Mr Swift, author of Accelerating Customer Relationships, to be launched in June, insisted he did not see CRM as an invasion of privacy.

"It's not intrusive, there's no privacy issues."

Seen as major life events, these large transactions such as a mortgage withdrawal or car buy are used as a trigger for the banks to offer further services such as loans, he said.

NCR was also working with Australia's Department of Social Security to match up job location information with people on the dole and with skill sets, he said.

"Their government now considers taxpayers customers."

CRM is often described as a mishmash of marketing, customer service, call centres and IT.

Mr Swift described CRM as "applying technology to selling and services to maintain and grow the customer base."

He said CRM was only the beginning: called the next multibillion dollar wave, it was not being driven by the internet.

"It is coming to the fore because organisations have the capability of accessing massive amounts of information."

US research house Datamoniter said by 2003 CRM might employ more people than "farming and teaching combined."

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