By David Sims
David at firstcoffee d*t biz
The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is The Byrds' Younger Than Yesterday, the sounds of a band transitioning out of fun, enjoyable music they like to play and people like to hear into a band anxious to secure the "serious" label from critics:
Increased competition and the need to improve brand image are pushing more than half of the banks in Europe and the Middle East to view customer-centric activities as a strategic differentiator, and thus plan to invest in customer relationship management
(CRM) technology, according to a new report commissioned by SAP AG and conducted by the European Financial Management and Marketing Association.
Nearly 50 percent of banks either have invested or are currently investing in CRM.
The report, titled "Achieving Customer-Centricity Throughout the Enterprise," from an online survey of 108 banks in Europe and the Middle East, found that banks recognize the strategic importance of CRM "but face many challenges including price competition, pressure to lower operating costs, fragmentation of customer segments and channel proliferation."
It also found that banks are moving towards a customer-centric approach -- "but it is a very slow process," and that generally today CRM at a bank is driven by individual departments and is primarily a front-end process, rather than extended across the enterprise.
The study also found that banks still have limited information to measure their use of
"In the current economic climate, it is more important than ever for banks to have as much insight as possible into the financial needs and behaviors of their customers and prospects," said Martha Bennett, research director, Financial Services Technology, Datamonitor. "Providing a level of service that makes the client feel well looked after and valued is as critical as the ability to offer the most optimal product at the right time."
The survey found that while the majority of bank respondents said they have not yet been able to adequately address their fragmented customer segments, they see CRM as a key strategic driver and require a more enterprise-wide approach to managing the entire customer experience.
Survey respondents said their customer relationship management strategies are primarily front-end focused and situated on old legacy systems.
Communispace, a vendor of "online customer insight communities" for more than 100 brands, has announced that it has expanded its relationship with InterContinental Hotels Group. IHG has more than 590,000 rooms in nearly 100 countries.
IHG's first private online community, launched in 2007, is made up of 300 members of its 25-year old Priority Club Rewards' loyalty program, and was designed to integrate the voice of their most valuable customers into their organization. The response from this primarily US-based community prompted IHG to launch a second community with a more global focus for the company's Ambassador Members.
The company is now in the process of launching a third community devoted specifically to the European region.
"Our online community initiative is one of those investments in our commitment to listening to our customers," said Ken Bott, director of global consumer marketing and CRM, IHG.
Leslie Forde, VP of Strategic Alliances, said "for us, expanding our business relationship with a client and industry leader such as IHG is especially important."
Communispace Corporation has created more than 300 customer communities for firms such as Kraft, Hewlett-Packard, Charles Schwab, Hallmark, Unilever, GlaxoSmithKline and Hilton Hotels.
Zuora, formed by software-as-a-service industry veterans from Salesforce.com and WebEx to work the subscription billing industry, has announced that Scott Thompson, president of PayPal, has been appointed to the company's board of directors.
Thompson joins existing board member Peter Fenton of Benchmark Capital.
Tien Tzuo, CEO of Zuora, called Thompson "an accomplished global industry executive, having developed and deployed online payment products." Tzuo said Thompson's expertise was needed "as we build out our company and online billing products."
Zuora launched the company's flagship application, Z-Billing, in May 2008.
"With the rise of on-demand and subscription services, there is also a growing demand for online billing products. Zuora's platform is built with the needs of the subscription market in mind," said Thompson.
Thompson previously served as PayPal's senior vice president and chief technology officer, where he oversaw information technology, product development, and architecture. Prior to PayPal, he worked for Inovant, a subsidiary of Visa formed to oversee global technology for the organization and as chief information officer of Barclays Global Investors.
Agilent Partners, an online marketing automation and lead generation vendor for small and midsized businesses, has announced that it has entered into an arrangement with the Technology Executives Club aimed at improving "the usability and service delivered" while growing its online member community.
Using their new Online Community Growth Program, Agilent will assist the Club in re-organizing and optimizing the Club's membership and communication structure in ways intended to make it easier for new members to access the Club's online library of white papers, Webinars, Webcasts and newsletters while encouraging new members to join.
"The Technology Executives Club has progressed significantly since we began in 2000," said Founder Alex Jarett. "Our online community has now become a key piece of the value we deliver to our membership."
Having now assembled over 1,000 white papers and Webcasts, the primary focus of Agilent's assistance will be in growing new members with a target of doubling its current growth rate.
Like many other community sites, the Technology Executives Club "has done a tremendous job of building high-value information assets on its community site," said Brian Briggs, Agilent Partners' Managing Director.
Informatica Corporation, a vendor of data integration software and services, has announced that Oi, a telecommunications company in Brazil, has adopted the Informatica data integration platform to "simplify its IT infrastructure and help increase revenue, market share and customer loyalty."
Vera Helena de Ávila Duarte, enterprise IT manager, Oi, said her company's competitive advantage is "the ability to mix bundles, combining wire line, wireless, broadband, and television; this increases customer loyalty and reduces churn. But we needed a single view of the customer and near real-time updates to our enterprise data warehouse to support these programs."
"Oi" is Portuguese for "Hi," and the company's tagline is "Oi, as simple as that."
The Informatica Power Center platform now provides the underpinnings for Oi's right-time enterprise data warehouse, used for business intelligence, and by sales and marketing to power marketing campaigns and fuel up-sell and cross-sell activities.
When the company launched a prepaid service plan called "Oi Control," it used Power Center to link its CRM, billing and in-house pre-paid systems.
The billing system flags customers eligible for a credit recharge, the recharge notice is validated against business rules in the CRM system, and the notice is sent over the pre-paid system to enable recharge for voice and data services.
Company officials say this allows Oi Controle customers to recharge their credits on schedule while the company has been able to respond to the ramping demand for recharging. Informatica has also provided Oi with an infrastructure.