Siebel tools target customer neglect

It rained business intelligence (BI) applications in Los Angeles on Monday when Siebel Systems Inc. showered the industry with 20 new analytic applications at its annual user conference.

The applications are classified into four different groups – customer analytics, financial analytics, supplier and supply chain analytics and employee performance management.

Siebel said that these applications will help its users better understand its customers, which will lead to greater customer satisfaction, loyalty and result in financial growth.

Mike Lawrie, CEO of Siebel based in San Mateo, Calif., said companies are no longer decreasing spending but are looking to grow. Siebel sees the front office – the place where employees interact with customers – not the back office as the place where that growth will begin.

“But growth is harder to achieve because the markets are more mature and there are more competitors,” Lawrie said. Additionally, Lawrie said the IT industry has yet to experience the impact of the maturing Chinese and Indian markets. Because China and India are producing IT professionals in droves, those markets have a lot of potential to put a dent in companies’ revenue throughout the rest of the world.

Also, he said the drive for efficiency has led to customer neglect. To that end, Lawrie said Siebel’s customer relationship management (CRM) tools can resolve this. But to do this users must have the ability to translate their technology investments into business value by effectively analyzing their data.

The Alberta Treasury Branches (ATB) of Edmonton is a government-owned bank with about 600,000 customers that has to compete against Canada’s big five financial institutions. As a result, Ken Casey, senior vice-president retail banking delivery at ATB, said because it can’t compete with them in price, it can only compete in service.

While most banks are shutting down branches, forcing its customers to rely more and more on automatic banking machines (ABMs) and Internet banking, ATB is opening up more branches every year and increasing its front office interaction with its customers, Casey said – a strategy that has so far been very successful, he added.

ATB started looking at CRM back in 1998, Casey said. But the company held off making an investment until 2001 when it implemented Siebel’s Call Center Solution. ATB is now running version 6. After eight months, Casey said ATB had already reached its targets; it had increased efficiency in its call centres by 25 per cent, increased referrals by 35 per cent and had increased sales by 50 per cent.

Now, because ATB is opening more branches, it wants to extend CRM into those locations. In February 2004, it chose Eontec Ltd., an Irish provider of retail banking solutions, which coincidentally Siebel acquired in April 2004. ATB chose Eontec’s solution because it was based on J2EE and was modular, so upgrades would be easier. Also, Casey said ATB had the comfort of knowing that Eontec had already made inroads into the Canadian financial market – CIBC was already using the system.

The Siebel-Eontec system will allow the tellers to be able to access up-to-date information about it customers. Eventually, ATB plans to integrate its branches with its call centre, ABMs and Internet banking so customers can access real-time information from their accounts from multiple sources, Casey said. Right now ATB is working with IBM Global Services to build a custom middleware solution to enable this integration.

But Siebel’s acquisition of Eontec says something about the company’s new focus on vertical industries, Lawrie said. Looking ahead, Lawrie said Siebel not only plans to tailor its products to fit different verticals but plans to offer its CRM products in modules, so customers can buy bits and pieces to integrate into a custom solution.

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