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CRM applications enable companies to satisfy a customer’s unspoken needs and forge personal relationships. But when companies fail to integrate their off-line and on-line data in real-time, it’s nothing but customer service mismanagement. That’s the conclusion Cupertino, Calif.-based Chordiant Software reached after tracking how 10 of the top 100 financial services companies responded to credit card applications placed on-line and through call centres.

For each bank, a credit card application was placed over the Internet and then using the same information via phone three hours later. Of the 10 banks, not one had a clue that a Web application was already in and that the applicant filed both applications with no problem. Most companies didn’t pick up on the duplicate files even weeks after the applications were submitted. Six companies actually sent two separate letters to the applicant. And four of those companies sent different responses, making the replies look like random Magic 8 Ball pickings.

Lack of integration hurts a customer’s chance of earning a credit card when the company runs two credit checks (some companies denied the applicant for “excessive number of recent inquiries”). It especially hurts a company’s relationship with customers, says Theodore Iacobuzio, a senior analyst with Needham, Mass.-based TowerGroup. “The real issue is that it is not the seamless experience customers expect,” he says. “In this industry, attrition rates are very high. There is no brand loyalty, and people move balances like crazy. Companies can’t give them another reason to do that.”

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