Banking giant Abbey will complete the roll-out of its 12,000-seat customer relationship management (CRM) system this September, after a two-year change programme.
During the implementation, Abbey has undergone major structural changes, selling off parts of its business to concentrate on its core retail banking business.
Improving customer service has been one of the key goals of the reorganisation, said Graeme Yorston, Abbey's IT director.
"Customer service from all banks is generally not great but okay. We've really been focused on making sure our customers are receiving excellent service, making ourselves stand out," he said.
Abbey first decided to use CRM software from Siebel two years ago. It started installing Siebel 6 eFinance 12 months ago.
"One of the real challenges for us was scalability. We have 12,000 staff using the system at 700 locations dealing with 16 million customer records. And we wanted three-second response times," said Yorston.
To tune the system to the required level took three months longer than anticipated, he added. But Abbey's roll-out plan has already brought benefits.
The first part of the system went live in early 2003. And while it installed the software and trained staff on a regional basis, Abbey was also keen to have parts of its call centre go live simultaneously.
"Our customers might go into the branch one day, then phone the call centre the next. It was an important part of improving our service that the agent would have that information in front of them.
"Now the customer doesn't notice any difference in service," said Yorston.
The final UK regions will go live this September. After that, Abbey will install the software in its offshore operations.
By using the same software in offshore locations the bank hopes to maintain a consistent quality of service in these sites, said Yorston.
Once the system is live everywhere, Abbey also plans to enhance the software with a shared diary, to allow call centre agents to book customer appointments in branches.
The bank is also examining the possibility of upgrading to the latest version of Siebel's software.
"It's quite a major planning exercise, so we'll obviously have to see whether we need it," said Yorston.
"But previously, implementation costs have been high. So Siebel's promises to reduce that with the 7.7 version play well."
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