Microsoft: Present in customers’ lives - Karen Cone, Chad Hamblin and Marcelo Marquez

Banks often hear that having a unified view of the customer across all channels and business lines is the key to delivering better customer services and increasing competitiveness, and that this requires significant investment. Microsoft's Karen Cone, Chad Hamblin and Marcelo Marquez are keen to explain why it needs to be done and how to do it in a cost-efficient way.

Banks have a tremendous amount of customer data, which can be coupled with external data sources to create a 360° view of the customer. Once they have this, they are able to become more responsive to customers' needs and develop the personalised banking services that enable them to compete in an increasingly crowded market.

This message is well understood in the industry, but so far banks have not made great progress in achieving it. There is, however, a way to bring customer data and key components of the front and back offices together to manage customer relationships, effectively and cost-efficiently.

"For banks to be competitive with each other and with non-traditional market entrants, it is important to be present in the financial lives of their customers - any time, any place, and any channel and any device," says Karen Cone, general manager, worldwide financial services at Microsoft Corporation.

For Microsoft, helping banks to achieve this presence means bringing together a vast range of solutions in areas like customer relationship management (CRM), customer experience and business intelligence, as well as providing well-established productivity tools like Excel and instant messaging service Lync, and its SQL Server database solution.

"Banks are conscious of the criticality of improving customer experience - it is at the top of their minds," says Cone. "But some don't understand that it is not just a superficial thing. It is about truly end-to-end processes, being present in the moment, and understanding the history of customer activity and feeding in business intelligence to get insight from data.

Chad Hamblin, FSI lead for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, agrees: "There is a strong theme around productivity. It is about process efficiency in the back office and closer links with customers through the front office."

Right tools for the job

There are many solutions in the market that address specific pieces of the CRM puzzle, but banks must choose the right tools not only on the basis of functionality, but also cost.

"There is huge pressure on margins, so banks need to reduce cost while innovating and improving customer experience," says Cone. "Microsoft solutions have a very low cost of ownership and one like Dynamics CRM brings all the elements together, building on the productivity tools with which businesses are already familiar."

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is offered as an on-premises solution, as well as a cloud-based service, all based on the same architecture and platform, bringing together sales, marketing, customer service, social and mobile capabilities, and extended CRM functionality. It is the platform that collates data from multiple sources to create valuable customer insight that can be used across all channels in a consistent way.

"It is about achieving life traceability to know more about customers, and building an aware bank through multichannel transformation," says Marcelo Marquez, industry solution manager for worldwide banking at Microsoft, who focuses on front-office solutions. "The next step in multichannel infrastructure will be a collaborative platform between banks and their customers, because banks must realign their channel strategy to suit their customers' needs. Banks must orchestrate information from customers across the enterprise.

"One of our strengths is the ability to provide the collaborative layer to transform data into knowledge. Customers' get insight into a bank's product and banks understand what their customers need."

Building on progress

Financial services is a key vertical for Microsoft, and its successful transformation programmes for banks have driven time savings, workflow efficiency, greater productivity and improved customer service. Hundreds of banks and financial institutions already use Dynamics CRM for their core business. The fact that so many of its tools - such as Outlook and Excel - are so widely used means that building a solution like Dynamics CRM on top is a relatively quick and non-disruptive process.

"For banks, the crucial thing is to transform data into knowledge in real time - that is the differentiator, not only for customer experience, but also for better risk management," says Cone. "They understand the importance of having a 360° view of the customer and some are starting to make significant progress towards that.

"For more than 25 years, Microsoft has focused on maximising the value of customer relationships in the financial services industry, and has won loyalty and trust through giving the very best in customer experiences. It is a trusted vendor, with a strong balance sheet and little risk of being acquired."