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Sun 1 Mar 2009 04:00 AM

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Customer focus

Umair Chaudhary, Chief Operating Officer, UAE and Gulf, at Barclays Bank, reveals how the installation of a CRM system from Microsoft has transformed how the bank deals with its customers.

Umair Chaudhary, Chief Operating Officer, UAE and Gulf, at Barclays Bank, reveals how the installation of a CRM system from Microsoft has transformed how the bank deals with its customers.

What was the business situation at Barclays that prompted your decision to implement a CRM application?

We launched our retail bank in early 2007. It was very important for us to take care of the customer service aspect; because when you launch a retail bank it means that you are dealing with a lot more customers than you deal with if you are only a commercial bank.

When it comes to customer service, managing the turnaround times and complaints becomes a very, very important part of the overall process, and without a proper system it is difficult to track what is happening.

Earlier, we worked on Excel sheets, for example. A call comes in, you record the complaint or request, and then through those Excel sheets you track whichever department is supposed to do something for the customer.

However, that is obviously a very inefficient way of managing service. That is when we started the CRM initiative; we automated this whole process so that all the front-liners have access to the system, which is linked into all the back-office areas.

Our turnaround times are defined, and we are able to track performance. We can track what kind of complaints and requests have come in, so that we are more pro-active in our customer service.

Did you evaluate any other solutions besides Microsoft CRM?

There were one or two others. But Microsoft CRM was the one which suited us the best. It had Microsoft's name behind it, which was obviously important for us.

How did you manage the implementation and how long did it take?

It took us three months or so, starting from the initial framework of how we wanted to go about doing and designing it. It's not just about technology, though obviously technology is one piece of it.

A big part of it is the people aspect. There are so many people in the organisation, who are not used to getting tracked, for example. So, it is also about cultural change for the organisation; a cultural change that is very good for our customers. There is a saying that ‘whatever gets tracked gets done'.

This is very true for customer service. If you have customers making requests that you can't track, then how can you go out and improve the turnaround times? How can you prove who has done what in what timeframe?

How did you go about training staff on the system?

During the three months, I defined a core team first. That core team was the project team. It included a project lead, and had team members from the different areas of the business - operations, service, branches, the front-line, back-office and middle-office. This team then sat down and understood what the system can do for them. Obviously, the Microsoft folks were with us.

Then we decided on how we wanted to implement it, because when you implement a system like that you have to make a lot of decisions within your business, depending on the way your business is set up. After designing it, we went out and trained all the users. We had someone train the trainers, and then they went out and trained everyone. And then we kept testing them, even after three months, to see the level of understanding.

It was a continuous process. You cannot implement a system like that at once. It has been a very easy system to use and the implementation in three months was well ahead of schedule. Employee satisfaction with the CRM application is very high.

Which departments primarily use the CRM system?

In the front-end, there are the branches, call centres and service centres. On the back-end, there are the people in operations, credit, product management and many other areas. The entire bank is part of it.

Today, there are nearly 1,000 employees that access Dynamics CRM. When a customer asks a question to the front-office, they may have the solution, which they will provide right away. But if there is a request that will take more than one day, or more than the time that it takes on the call, then it has to be logged.

When it gets logged, it goes to whichever unit is supposed to do that function and that can vary within the organisation. After the successes we have achieved, Dynamics CRM was rolled out to other countries like India, Pakistan, and Egypt.

The efficiency gains we have realised have encouraged other countries to even use many of our developed templates, and procedures.

Which indicators have seen improvements since the system's implementation?

I can tell you this, for sure. You can imagine that before CRM, there is no way to calculate whether your various targets are being met, but as management you know very well that things are not being done the way they should be done. Now that we are tracking it all, we know that whatever internal indicators that we have for getting back to customers are being met.

I don't think that you can put a dollar figure on how much we have saved. But I can tell you this, for sure - there has been a marked difference in how we did business pre-CRM and how we are doing business post-CRM. CRM helps you create management awareness, because without the help of the reports coming out of the system, how can management know the key areas to focus on?

It is easy to understand that if this information is being tracked on Excel, it is very, very difficult to collate and track how much time it has taken for customer requests to be fulfilled.

When we started, there were things that we were doing in five days or six days, and when we started measuring it we realised that that was not good enough. We kept on doing process improvements over and over, so that we were able to achieve a time that was acceptable to customers. We managed to drop these tasks to two days and we are still striving to improve our service levels.

One of the main benefits is that we have managed to eliminate repetitive calls, because from the first moment ae request is made, it is logged and tracked. Now we have very clear service level agreements (SLAs) and key performance indicators (KPIs) that we measure on daily basis.

The CRM reports are also discussed in every management meeting, which helps with our continuous improvement process. We are also very pleased that we have advanced our ranking in customer service from fifth among foreign banks in the UAE to second, according to a third party survey.

What was the most challenging aspect?

Whenever you change processes in an organisation, it is a cultural change. And when you change cultures, you are obviously changing the way people work. So, in the very beginning, when you launch, people are actually quite cautious in terms of how they will be monitored.

But during the training, everybody understood how important it was for customer service, and that customer service is a top priority as far as our strategic direction is concerned. So everyone embraced it with open arms and they were very, helpful to each other in terms of learning the systems.

When the tracking started to happen, they were actually looking at their own processes within their teams and saying, ‘hey, this is being tracked, we need to improve this', So, overall, it had a very good effect.

How do you plan to build on the system going forward?

Dynamics CRM started as a stand-alone system with some integration to the different bank's applications. There are many ways to launch CRM, we started with a focus on customer service, then moved to the sales team, and other departments at the bank. You can also link it to all your core systems, which obviously makes it easier. But we wanted to launch it very quickly and start logging complaints and service requests.

The second phase, which we are evaluating, will be to start linking it to the other applications in an online manner, which essentially will ease the way the front-liners log or track the complaints. Sometimes, they have two systems to manage, which is still fine. But when it is all linked all together, it will be even better.

Microsoft Dynamics, Tel +97143918385, www.microsoft.com/gulf/dynamics

Key benefits• Operational efficiency

• Employee productivity

• Customer and revenue retention

• Customer satisfaction

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