Managing Your Relationship With MRM

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Relationship management fever has set in the credit union community, cropping up in dozens of vendor products and scrambling the minds of many an IT manager.

But, like its amorphous name-member relationship management, business intelligence, e-customer relationship management-relationship management is hard to pin down.

CUs in the thick of implementing member relationship management (MRM) solutions recently shared their experiences with The Credit Union Journal, calling MRM a "paradigm switch," a foreign "culture," and a "journey."

What are the strategic challenges and how can a CU avoid failure in MRM technology initiatives? Monterey Credit Union, Boeing Employees' CU and Pennsylvania State Employees' CU (PSECU) offered their insights. Among the first: technology is just a tool-Unlike Internet banking solutions, MRM technology is not the end product.

"While it would be great to provide a consistent, singular focused view of each member in real time, we also realize that implementing the technology infrastructure to integrate our various systems is simply one phase," said Barb Bowker, assistant vice president of IT Support at Harrisburg, Penn.-based PSECU.

"Typically you build a software solution for a narrow set of parameters," suggested Ross Ramsey, vice president of marketing at California based Monterey CU. MRM, on the other hand, presents boundless options that CUs must discover.

"Relationship management tools do a lot of things, but the specific things you want them to do, you have to noodle through," Ramsey said.

Hence, MRM demands a lot of intellect. "The tools are just that. It's really the people that are going to make or break this," concluded Ramsey.

Training Is The Key

From senior management to tellers, employees must understand how to use the collated core processing, business intelligence and CRM data. With such a technology, that's no easy step.

"Perhaps this is the biggest struggle," said PSECU's Bowker. "Up until recently, we didn't necessarily hire or train staff to be sales/relationship-oriented."

Successful MRM rests in part on employees across the CU making appropriate use of the data. "The organizations that have had success are those which have made the commitment to an enterprise-wide effort," Bowker posited.

The Tukwila, Wash.-based Boeing Employees' CU reports progress in its training effort. A year ago, about 15 staff members interacted with the technology, according to Butch Leonardson, vice president of IT.

"We now have 65 users and 20 departments using business intelligence," he reported.

Leonardson said the staff has become quite attached to the technology. "Marketing is now to the point where they cannot do without business intelligence. All it took was six or seven success stories, and then people started connecting the dots in their own environment."

The first step in training staff: management must decide just how to define the effort. "Collectively, as a senior management group, we need to get our arms around what all the capabilities are so that we can figure out what the training needs might be," Monterey CU's Ramsey said.

Once a solution is purchased and systems are integrated, understanding the scope of MRM takes time. Credit unions said they need anywhere from one to two years to develop effective programs. Why? MRM is a whole new world.

"Probably the biggest pitfall we've run across is the sheer magnitude of the initiative," PSECU's Bowker explained. "To truly implement relationship management would require comprehensive changes to our corporate culture, our business processes, and our employees."

Both Boeing Employees' and PSECU emphasized that MRM is a venture into foreign territory. Most CUs don't focus on the "importance of managing member relationships," said PSECU's Bowker. "That's not to say that we don't do it, but we have yet to make it a truly focused effort."

For Boeing Employees' Credit Union, that means that, in the spirit of member service, CUs need to wake up every morning looking for the competitive edge, said Leonardson. The mantra: "I wonder what I need to know about my members that I don't know."

With that in mind, the BECU's initiative is "gaining on it's own momentum and picking up speed," Leonardson reported. The technology has enabled data at the daily transactional level, instead of relying on transaction averages.

The Floodgates Open

"The floodgates opened with transaction level data," Leonardson continued. "Suddenly a whole universe of possibilities opened up by channel, product and time of day."

Monterey CU, with $135-million in assets and 25,000 members, has been talking about member-managed relationships for more than ten years and last year purchased the TouchE product provided by the John H. Harland Company.

Boeing Employees' CU, at $4 billion in assets and with 300,000 members, adopts the term "business intelligence" for its Sagent Technology, Inc. platform and uses resultant data to enable the member to manage the relationship.

PSECU, with $1.7 billion in assets and 270,000 members, is currently in the investigative phase of MRM, but has begun using cross-sell products in conjunction with MCIF data to step into MRM culture.

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