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SERVICES 
Friday, 8 March, 2002, 09:57 GMT
Banks shun online sales pitch
handshake, BBC
Some banks prefer old-fashioned ways of treating customers
Britain's banks and building societies are turning away from the web in their search for new customers.

A survey reveals that in the next year financial organisations will spend far more on traditional ways of reaching old and new customers rather than invest in new technologies such as the internet.

The cash will be spent to improve the service in call centres and branches, rather than by trying to tempt new consumers with an impressive website.

The survey estimates that in total the UK's high street financial institutions will spend almost 600 million on computer systems that help resolve customer queries and sell them more services.

Service culture

Almost all of Britain's banks and building societies have a website that touts their services. Many have signed up significant numbers of their customers to online banking.

Despite this embracing of the net, a survey commissioned by software firm AIT, BT, eFunds and Microsoft has found that the web will not be a priority for financial organisations over the next 12 months.

Instead, the banks and building societies will be spending money on computer systems in call centres and branches.

Typically, many of the UK's high street financial groups have information about their customers spread across a patchwork of different, and sometimes incompatible, computer systems.

This can make it difficult for companies to work out whom their most profitable customers are and to find out all the services that individual customers use.

More importantly it can stop them finding out who is likely to want more of the organisation's services.

Fickle people

Increased competition and the rising expectations of consumers are forcing the financial companies to invest in computer systems that help them do a better job of looking after their customers.

In total Britain's financial institutions are planning to spend 586 million on such customer-facing computer systems, the majority of which, 471 million, will go on call centre and branch computer systems.

By contrast, spending on net-based customer systems will be 69.8 million.

Companies are keen to ensure they get the basics of looking after customers right before they extend it to the relatively small group of web-using customers, said Iain Parkes, from Coleman Parkes Research that carried out the survey.

"They need to understand the complexity and fickleness of their customers and they want to know what they want on a daily basis," said Mr Parkes.

"The financial sector is unique because other sectors can get away with a much lower level of understanding of their customers."

See also:

22 Aug 01 | Business
Firms vet callers kept on hold
22 Apr 01 | Business
Perils of online banking
27 Feb 02 | Sci/Tech
Shoppers shun shoddy sites
01 Aug 00 | Business
Safety fears for web banking
21 Jan 02 | dot life
How the web watches you shop
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