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EDM-Enabled Web Self Service Better be Top of Mind for Financial Services Firms

(by Guest Blogger, Gib Bassett)

On June 25 (2007), I saw this news posting on DM Review's website – "IBM and KANA Study Shows Untapped Potential for US Financial Services Web Sites to Better Serve Clients," and was intrigued to see to what extent Enterprise Decision Management (EDM) concepts were mentioned.  It's been a long time now that web-based customer service capabilities have been promoted as a timelier, lower cost method of maintaining and growing customer relationships than other options, but what is interesting is that the study, titled "Service Done Right: Why Great Online Customer Service Matters More than Ever," shows cultural and generational factors driving many financial institutions to take web based customer service much more seriously:

"The study, commissioned by IBM and KANA Software, Inc., comes at a time when financial institutions are looking for new ways to improve the customer experience for established customers and a growing population of younger customers that increasingly interact with businesses through e-mail, chat and the Web."

In the past, web based self service was typically all about the business; take advantage of this new technology to lower our costs, retain our clients by allowing them to find responses themselves more quickly, and perhaps even up or cross sell to them in a somewhat captive forum.  Now, the tables appear to be turning as technically sophisticated youth increasingly expect the same level of interactivity and usability in self service websites as they find in text messaging mobile phones and video games.

As I suspected, there are number of issues cited in the study addressable via EDM technologies such as business rules management systems (BRMS).  Consider this:

"Financial services firms ready to implement new self-service channels face significant application integration challenges due to complex IT infrastructures that are siloed and run on multiple platforms from different vendors, each with unique data types and interfaces. As a result, integrated online channel development - including new Web 2.0 technologies such as instant messaging and blogs - is most often piloted versus rapid implementation across the enterprise."

BRMS driven by EDM concepts are ideal solutions to this problem.  By virtue of their ability to run in heterogeneous environments, separate and manage the simple and complex rules underpinning customer service policies from disparate systems, and deploy real time decisions to any interaction channel, these BRMS can help financial institutions rapidly move from a pilot to an enterprise scale solution.  Given the following facts cited from the report, based on interviews with 72 top companies, it looks as if quite a few firms stand to benefit:

"Ninety-five percent of Web sites did not provide answers to basic questions such as 1) What do you charge for canceling a check?; 2) Can I make an insurance claim online?; and 3) Can you buy and sell shares on the London Stock Exchange for me?"

EDM compliant BRMS enable business users to maintain policies governing questions such as these, the answers to which likely vary from customer to customer – so it’s no simple HTML editing project.

"Sixty-seven percent of firms did not provide satisfactory answers via e-mail and only six percent offered the ability to escalate inquiries to e-mail or telephone channels."

Even if powered by a Business Process Management (BPM) solution, processes such as these will again tend to vary by customer and be very difficult to maintain and change.  BRMS employing an EDM approach separate the logic driving business processes and make it available to business users.  Given the extent of the customer service problem and increasingly competitive markets, financial services firms should begin immediately evaluating an EDM solution lest the next report be about how poor web customer service has led to numerous customer defections.

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