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Long Time Coming

Long Time Coming

Developing a successful CRM program is a journey, not a destination — and no organisation knows that better than the National Australia Bank

The retail bank also divides customers into six major customer segment types, with customers assigned to a segment according to a financial needs analysis and profitability assessment. These are:

1. Custom business

2. Packaged business

3. Agribusiness

4. Private

5. Premium

6. Retail

The bank has refined those segments further to help it define its customers more accurately, to the point where it now has a few hundred sub-segments for highly targeted marketing purposes. It then uses NCR's Relationship Optimiser - developed in conjunction with the bank - to manage the entire customer interface, from the timing and number of communications with customers to the appropriate channel and the nature of the offer.

During the first six months after implementing Relationship Optimiser in March 1999, the NAB initiated close to 100 distinct campaigns. Interestingly, the vast majority of campaigns (more than 70 per cent) are intended to expand the NAB's "share of wallet" among existing bank customers. Although it recognises the importance of attracting new customers, the bank has consciously chosen to focus its main effort on mining opportunities with current customers, according to a TowerGroup Research Note.

That Vision Thing

Crouch says the magnitude of the required investment was one of the biggest challenges to be overcome along the journey to CRM. Without management approval, buy-in to the vision it would have been impossible to realise, he says.

Fortunately, the NAB had manned its executive with numbers of visionaries who had a clear idea of what they wanted and how they wanted to operate. "And we haven't, to be honest, deviated that much from it except in technology, where different solutions have evolved along the way, but the vision hasn't changed," Crouch says.

Of course the NAB could have joined other banks and high-end organisations in waiting for an off-the-shelf CRM solution before trying to fulfil its relationship management vision. Crouch would argue that giving itself a head start has proved a real positive, precisely because the biggest issue is not the technology, but the organisational culture. He says although technology may have been the enabler for the CRM strategy, and comprises the biggest component of the investment involved, it is by no means the most complex piece of the NAB CRM effort.

"You know, everyone is calling for CRM and [where it has failed] I think the finger points to the technology problem," he says. "And I think in many cases it's not a technology problem. It is culture, and the discipline around when you deal with the customer . . . the disciplines around certain events and making sure you act on those events in a time frame. There are a whole lot of disciplines for people that are important to make this work."

Since the NAB introduced the relationship banking concept years ago it has constantly reinforced the message to staff, more recently backed by the Growth Through Excellent Relationships mantra of CEO Frank Cicutto. The message is that maintaining good customer relationships involves a continuous process and the dedicated efforts of all staff.

"The pieces are coming together," Crouch says. "I wouldn't say that we are finished. In fact, if anything, we put more emphasis on the need to really understand and know our customers. This has been a big part of our investment program in the past, and I don't anticipate that changing. I think we just continue to understand our relationships, focus on how we're going to better support our customers, be aware, treat them as individuals - all those sorts of things are now part of the culture of the bank."

And making it a part of the culture has been at least as important as the technology to the success of the NAB CRM effort, he says.

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