Online query tool helps improve service

Scotiabank is number one among Canadian banks at providing customers with online services, according to a Gomez Canada survey released in September. The Internet performance measuring company announced that Scotiabank rose from third place in 2002 to take the top spot in this year’s survey, edging out TD Canada Trust in second place.

Gomez Canada points to improvements in Scotiabank’s customer ser-vice features including a search function called ‘Ask Scotia’ which allows customers to ask a question in their own words and quickly receive information and relevant links. Gomez Canada also noted Scotiabank’s use of a single log-in page for both its banking and brokerage customers.

Earlier this year, Scotiabank was also named Best Consumer Internet Bank for Canada in Global Finance magazine’s 2003 “World’s Best Internet Banks” competition.

Rick Davidson, senior manager, electronic banking at Scotiabank, says “a major factor” in their improved customer service is their ability to give customers instant answers to about 95 per cent of questions they ask online by deploying IntelliResponse software from Comtext Systems Inc. of Kitchener, Ont. The email volume has dropped about 20 per cent, saving the cost of replying and freeing service reps to focus on more complex service calls.

Since Scotiabank can see all the questions asked, Ask Scotia is also like an ongoing customer survey with an unbiased, 100 per cent response rate.

Davidson says the original goal of using the online query and answer tool was to allow customers to find information quickly and easily on the Web site. “As we got more familiar with it, we found the added benefits on tracking the types of questions so we can tailor our Web site and other channels to meet their needs quickly.

“It helps us as a bank get to know customers better and make sure we’re tailoring our content on the Web site and the services we offer to meet their needs,” he continues. “We give reports on what type of mortgage questions customers are asking to our mortgages group, what type of Visa questions to our Visa group so they can make sure they are fitting our customers’ needs.”

The tool is intended for general information about Scotiabank and does not handle questions that are private in nature and relate to a customer’s own specific account.

Backed with a database of 130 answers, in March 2003 they launched IntelliResponse on both the general public Web site and the transactional banking Scotia online through Contact Us. Now they have about 200 answers in the database which can be accessed by questions worded in 1,000 different ways, he says.

Before publicly launching it, they ran a test pilot internally on a small business branch Web site. It got rave reviews from the branches because the staff could immediately get answers which they could pass on to customers or find out how to do a certain process. That implementation took about six weeks. Davidson estimates that they took from four to six months putting it on the public sites, having spent considerable time analysing what customers were asking, building

the knowledge base and testing it fully. “Now, because it was so successful, we are ‘IR enabling’ (we call it) our other internal Web sites for call centre reps, to branch staff, etc.,” he says.

They have also launched it to their commercial customers.

And what about the maintenance? Davidson says that while at first there was a full-time employee working on it for three months with help from some co-op students, they have just one third of one staff complement needed to maintain it now and update questions.

After launching the software and realizing the benefit of it, Davidson brought it to the attention of the division of Capital Markets which invests in high-tech technology. “We liked it so much we passed it on to our investment guys as a potential investment because we think this product is dynamite.” Scotiabank has reportedly bought a 15 per cent interest in the company.

“My job is to find new technologies to improve customer service, reduce operating costs or just improve bottom line,” he explains. “Then, once we identify the technologies, we test them and pilot them and then find different internal customers within the bank to leverage the technology. We see a whole bunch of products that don’t meet our needs as a bank. After you’ve spent a lot of time with [products] that aren’t going to be successful so you don’t implement them or you do implement them and they do create value but not on the scale of this one, when you do find a real winner, it is a really good feeling.”

Ask Scotia’s top ten questions

Of the 250,000 questions asked since March 2003 by Scotiabank’s online visitors who click on Contact Us and access the Ask Scotia service, here are the 10 most frequently asked.

1. How do I contact Scotiabank?

2. How do I locate a branch or ABM?

3. Where can I find information about loans?

4. What are the hours of operation for a branch?

5. Where can I find corporate information about Scotiabank?

6. Where is Scotiabank located internationally?

7. What types of credit cards do you offer?

8. How do I get help for Scotia OnLine?

9. Are there any job opportunities at Scotiabank?

10. How do I open a Scotiabank deposit account?