Internet Sales & Marketing: Planning and Perseverance Are Key to Creating Self-Service Web Site

American Banker, November 13, 1998 | Go to article overview

Internet Sales & Marketing: Planning and Perseverance Are Key to Creating Self-Service Web Site


The broad, internal benefits of a self-service Web site can be its undoing, bogging down its creation as line-of-business heads vie to have their ideas incorporated.

The Challenges and options that face a financial institution when setting up a self-service Internet site are daunting, but they should not be allowed to paralyze an organization's bid to capture high-value customers-college educated, 30- to 50-year-olds of medium to high income.

Even so, moving to the Internet is difficult. The Web represents an interesting hybrid of customer service and sales capabilities. It potentially combines the value add of the retail branch relationship manager with the costs and efficiencies of the automated telephone response systems.

While the cross-selling appeal of the Internet is evident, most organizations wrestle with how to get started. This can often be attributed to confusion over ownership-both directional and funding-of the project. Is electronic service an extension of the call center, thus owned by operations or IT, or is it a new relationship management platform owned by marketing or strategic business development groups?

Tied Up in knots

Working internally to answer this question can lead to significant delays. Each contingency has its own requirements. The result is often a daunting list of full-service features along with personalization ideas, marketing capabilities, and technical specifications. As the requirements grow in features and complexity, time lines and costs increase. Uncertainty around ownership, functionality and costs reinforce the decision to delay the introduction of the self-service platform.

Most financial institutions are struggling to cost-justify Internet self-service projects. There are typically two strategies for justifying expenditures. The first approach is a reduced cost-of-service model, such as FedEx's, to increase customer satisfaction while reducing the cost of service.

The second approach is usually more strategic and is driven by marketing or business development executives. This approach analyzes the added value created by the new channel.

Both of these cost justification approaches have a similar critical variable that is left to speculation: How many customers will use the channel and how often?

There are other critical, behavior-related questions like will customer service calls increase or decrease? Almost all investment analysis tools incorporate these variables and, therefore, organizations struggle to predict answers. Understanding who and how often your customers will utilize the self-service platform will impact your attempt to size the infrastructure to support the channel.

There are enormous options available when designing a self-service site. Unlike traditional IT projects or mainframe-based customer service platforms, Web site's can be frequently updated. This enables institutions to take a less-than-perfect approach to getting a Web site up sooner rather than later. By doing so, an institution can begin to answer the questions of who is accessing the site and how often. You can then track the impact on your call center activity. Based on that information, meaningful economic models can be developed.

There are two types of electronic customer service transactions. The first is data access through a voice response unit (VRU) providing consumers with access to checking account balances.

The second is providing workflow or servicing. …

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