Competition within the banking and finance industry will only get keener. As a result, a range of business channels have been strategically developed, positioned and upgraded to attract new business and retain existing customers.
"Our integrated channel management manoeuvres all delivery channels available to our 200,000-plus customers," says Shera Lee, senior vice president and head of consumer banking & channel management, Fubon Bank (Hong Kong) Limited. The bank is one of the few in Hong Kong that has established channel management as a intrinsic functional unit monitoring the business and development needs of the bank's 22-branch network, call centre and electronic services — all individually operated but integral and indispensable parts of a tightly knit whole.
The rise of Internet banking has made simple transactions such as e-billing and time deposits both easy and convenient. To stay competitive, banking and finance institutions must offer a comprehensive product portfolio and deliver "true values". "It's information that can help differentiate our Internet banking services," Eugene Poon, first vice president and head of CRM & e-banking, Fubon Bank (Hong Kong) Limited remarks. "Customers do business with us because of the convenience but we also give them investment information that can help them make the most appropriate investment decisions."
On the banking and customer service level, Fubon's electronic platform can provide a whole spectrum of services and also leverages sophisticated IT infrastructure to implement a series of marketing and CRM exercises.
In the near future, as the bank's IT capabilities grow even stronger, other services such as online insurance and corporate banking will be developed. "Mobile phone banking will also be a trend," Mr Poon predicts. "Other countries have already developed these applications and services and it's only a matter of time before Hong Kong follows suit."
In fact, Fubon has been utilising mobile phone technologies as part of a two-factor authentication service for higher-risk activities such as bill-payments and funds-transfer. "A customer must first register a mobile phone number with us," Mr Poon explains. "An SMS message containing a one-time password will be delivered to the mobile phone when a customer needs to log on to the account."
To provide comprehensive assistance to its customers, support includes a downloadable starter kit, online FAQs, as well as up-to-date information and instructions on the bank's website. "Our call centre, backed by a technical team, is standing by to offer step-by-step assistance," Ms Lee says. "Indeed, enquiries can be answered via any of the bank's channels."
Compared with branch operations, phone banking is cost-effective and operates into the wee hours. Fubon's phone banking services comprise two mainstreams: a 24-hour automatic response unit; and a 60-staff manned service hotline that performs inbound servicing and outbound telesales services. Nowadays, most banking enquiries and transactions, personal loans and credit card services can be performed via phone.
Ms Lee outlines additional opportunities. "Our call centre is an effective channel to generate business leads," she notes. "Based on customer information analyses, we can identify and contact high-potential customers. However, since investment transactions are not completed via the phone, the role of our call centre is to initiate conversations and identify the customers' asset management needs." To safeguard the bank's reputation and maintain a sense of goodwill, these "warm calls" are only made during sensible calling hours. Staff are trained to handle all aspects of the bank's services. Mr Poon adds, "This way, customers will only need to learn one phone number."
One of the key philosophies in Fubon's channel management is that customer experience be aligned across each channel and its staff. This provides continuity and seamless access for clients. "Whichever the channel being used, it's Fubon that's answering customers' needs and so we must maintain a high level of consistency in our services. In so doing, we uphold our reputation and help increase customer loyalty," Mr Poon notes.
As part of Fubon's bigger picture, channel management will adhere to its role in furthering the bank's development plan, in particular, wealth management. "There is a lot of room to explore and we anticipate unparalleled demand for multi-channel wealth management services. The ability to offer customers greater convenience via alternative channels will give us a real competitive edge," Ms Lee concludes.