Getting Connected

By Ercolano, Louis | Independent Banker, March 2001 | Go to article overview

Getting Connected


Ercolano, Louis, Independent Banker


Sorting through your 21st century voice, data and communications options

In this era of new competitors, consumer-branded virtual banks, e-payment facilitators and financial portals tugging at your customer's loyalty to your bank, what can a community bank do to distinguish itself? How can you prepare your bank to compete against all those targeting your bank's customers?

In general, financial firms are moving toward a customer-focused strategy based on long-term customer relationships. To accomplish this, community banks are striving to create products and alternate interaction vehicles to reach more customers. Your bank's telecommunications operations are critical to the success of this strategy.

When choosing a telecommunications solution, community banks have several business-related problems to consider. Specifically, management must consider the following issues:

* maintaining a customer base;

* expanding its customer base;

* improving cross-selling to existing customers;

* improving service delivery and customer satisfaction;

* maintaining and increasing performance and efficiency in communications systems; and

* improving efficiency and containing expenses.

A reliable and secure telecommunications system is important to the successful operation of all the behindthe-scenes processes that build customer loyalty. The right telecommunications infrastructure can help your bank grow and retain customers.

Merging Traffic

When was the last time your bank evaluated combining voice and data traffic on a single network between your branches and your operations facilities? Think about adding to your bank's planning process a competitive assessment of whether to have a service company handle all of your bank's local service, long-distance and data traffic. And consider consolidating local phone service with a single point of contact and single invoice. This can eliminate administrative overhead associated with invoices for individual branch and processing center locations.

Another way to improve your bank's telecommunications cost efficiency and productivity is to subscribe to local digital service using a local high-speed TI line that offers high-- quality, flexible local voice service back up with redundant and diverse elements. To be sure your customers can always get through to your bank, partner with a telecommunications company that has a reliable, secure network protected against service interruption.

It's also important to consider the ways that your bank's existing customers can contact your bank employees. For instance, maintaining a voice mail system will allow your employees to retrieve important afterhours messages from customers.

If appropriate in your marketplace, consider providing in-bound toll-free services so customers can easily contact your bank even when they are out of town. Toll-free services expand customer service delivery beyond normal branch office hours and support out-bound contact to increase response to direct mail campaigns.

If your bank offers customers the ability to do financial planning and management anytime, not limited by business hours, it will be ahead of the competition. Having customers quickly and easily access their account information over the telephone through a toll-free interactive voice response system is a common service. Interactive voice response provides self-service capabilities for routine account maintenance, portfolio pricing and transaction authorization services

If the volume of customer telephone inquiries rise, a call center may be appropriate to service customer inquiries and cross sell new product offerings. …

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