QuestBack: wake up to CRM – Ivar Kroghrud

Across the banking sector, customer experience management is at the forefront of people's minds. No longer hoping to carve a niche through their product offerings alone, financial institutions are placing a renewed focus on what else they can bring to their customers.

"It's a very competitive industry, but the traditional forces of competitive advantage have been commodified, so there's little ability to fundamentally differentiate the products," says Ivar Kroghrud, CEO of QuestBack. "It quickly boils down to building strong customer relationships in order to make it work."

"Customers, especially in retail banking, will reward the banks that are able to provide an outstanding customer experience."

The situation is clear: while everyone needs banking products, they don't generally retain a strong emotional connection to their brand. As such, the field is wide open for banks to create that loyalty - and those that do so successfully stand to reap significant benefits.

"There is powerful technology available in the market to enable banks to start looking forward, and to engage with their customers," says Kroghrud. "And because banks are so bad at this compared with other industries, there's a huge upside for some early adopters. Customers, especially in retail banking, are going to reward the banks that are able to provide an outstanding customer experience."

CRM: the right partnership

Historically, banks have been slow on the uptake when it comes to their customer relationship management (CRM) strategies. Focusing more on the M than the R of the acronym - managing rather than relating to their customers - this has not been a sector renowned for its excellent customer service.

Such reticence stems in part from banks' siloed set-up, which can make consistent service a struggle. Because banks are often formed through a series of mergers, there is frequently little unification between one department and the next. Customers may well be treated differently when dealing with division A compared with division B.

"While any cohesive strategy must work around banks’ existing CRM system, the sheer diversity of legacy systems complicates the task."

For a technology provider looking to implement customer experience initiatives, redressing this situation can prove a challenge. While any cohesive strategy must work around banks' existing CRM system, the sheer diversity of legacy systems complicates the task, and integration is a key determinant of a project's success.

"The technology partner needs to be able to align completely with the bank's CRM strategy," says Kroghrud. "Also, because banking is a risk-averse business, their testing procedures tend to be very thorough, and you have to be able to quickly measure up to very rigorous security checks and review processes."

QuestBack's multichannel platform

As an award-winning IT services provider with a presence in 20 countries, QuestBack is well positioned to meet these requirements. Providing a scalable, secure software platform, the company enables all departments of an organisation to use the platform for their own online research purposes. Without once leaving the platform, banks can collaborate with customers in myriad ways.

"We're already seeing many banks leading the way, using our multichannel platform to create dialogue with their customers and communicate throughout the customer experience journey," explains Kroghrud. "They can create profiles of the customers, using cost-efficient and reliable data to develop good products and forge strong long-term relationships."

"Multichannel approaches are set to become a standard means of communication, with social media in particular being demystified."

The QuestBack platform is based on a functional domain concept, with a broad range of flexible components that can be arranged to fit a department's particular needs. This means that even the most complex CRM requirements can be addressed, safe in the knowledge that all solutions are fully compliant.

A leader in enterprise feedback management, QuestBack aims to work in partnership with its clients to ensure they derive full value from its software. Furthermore, with a multilingual user interface, its products are operational in any language the client should choose.

These solutions were designed with an eye to where the market is headed. Over the next few years, multichannel approaches are set to become a standard means of communication, with social media in particular being demystified.

"It's definitely on the agenda," says Kroghrud. "I think we'll see an end to the purely tactical use of social media, where you read someone's tweet about you and you respond to the customer, and that's the end of it. You'll see a much longer-term use of the data."

Making social media work

Looking ahead, Kroghrud believes social media will become far more closely aligned with existing CRM processes. Overhauling their image as archaic institutions, banks will start to make social networks work for them. Lacking a strategy will be penalised, whereas willingness to engage will constitute a real competitive edge.

One of the key upsides will be access to more and better data. QuestBack's social CRM data hub provides a host of information about customers, with strong reporting and analytic capabilities creating actionable insight into their behaviour and opinions. Ultimately, this could minimise the need for traditional market research strategies, allowing banks to focus less on artificial means of harnessing data and more on their involvement with existing clients.

"Done well, feedback management and social engagement can bring exceptional returns on investment."

"There are three things you need to do to use social media and feedback management effectively," says Kroghrud. "The first is to integrate what you're doing with existing data. I need to use what I know about you as a customer when I engage with you in social media - I shouldn't be asking you questions I already know the answers to.

"The second one is relevance - finding moments of truth in a customer lifecycle where it's relevant to ask for feedback. Thirdly, make sure you have a technology that's able to handle the big data, so the system will remember what happened in previous interactions. The key words to keep in mind for the banks are relevance and personalisation."

Done well, feedback management and social engagement can bring exceptional returns on investment. Compared with transactional data alone, social CRM and feedback data can occasion deep demographic insight. This leads, in turn, to more relevant products and a greater ability to target them at the appropriate customers.

All of these advantages have been evinced across a wide variety of sectors. While headquartered in Oslo, QuestBack serves more than 4,000 customers in over 50 countries across the world. As such, it is well positioned to assess banking in the context of other verticals, highlighting the challenges specific to that industry and applying lessons learned elsewhere.

Telecommunications and airlines in particular are often praised for their effective use of social media, and, as Kroghrud sees it, there is little reason why financial services can't follow suit. In fact, he believes they can go above and beyond the short-term gains typical of these sectors.

"Airlines have been using channels like Facebook or Twitter to effectively manage large groups of customers, especially when there has been poor weather conditions" he explains. "But that has a negative long-term value. For real value, you need a more strategic and integrated sort of use."

Widespread adoption of CRM

With the market evolving rapidly, Kroghrud believes banks are waking up to the competitive proposition offered by strong customer experience management. Already, early pioneers are adopting the same feedback platform for CRM and their internal human capital management, cutting costs across the organisation. It won't be long, he feels, before other banks get on board.

"I think there will be a snowballing effect, so once you see some of the results adopters are getting, it will take probably half a decade for all banks to implement it," he says. "To me, one of the most exciting sectors to work with is banking."


Customer relationship management through a multichannel platform is key to the success of today's banks.
Ivar Kroghrud is CEO of QuestBack.