When customers visit Northway Bank, the branches are literally all ears, and that's allowed the bank to put relationship building into overdrive.

The institution's attempts to increase branch profitability have included the deployment of a CRM engine from Econiq that's doubled household relationships in its first year of use, a success rate resulting from the solution's ability to record customer interaction and turn it into targeted sales. "Econiq takes the guesswork out [of suggesting various programs to customers] for the associate. It [prompts] the associate who might not be comfortable making suggestions [on their own]," says Richard Olson, an svp at the Berlin, N.H.-based bank who oversees consumer and small business banking.

Econiq captures customer information and tailors bank promotions and programs to particular customer sets served by the bank's staff. "We record life events such as buying a holiday home on the coast. Traditionally, there has not been a way to record that information. Econiq generates referrals from there. Every day, customers give away information to their tellers, but banks are very, very poor at listening," says Joe Blake, a vp at Econiq, who says the firm's case studies have shown double the typical CRM marketing-to-sales conversion rates of about four percent. And at Northway, some sales associates have doubled cross sales at new product introductions to nearly three percent from 1.75 percent.

Econiq's solution is driven by patented "listening" technology that tracks, interprets and records all front-end customer transactions and interactions. It has different engines that record and interpret keystrokes at consumer interaction points such as teller stations.

"We call it listening at the technical level. The tellers are listening [while the system] is doing the recording [and interpreting] of the keystrokes," says Colin Piper, president for North America for Econiq.

But "listening" isn't just recording customer feedback. Econiq can check the core system to see if the bank has an e-mail trail or automated statements for a customer. If it doesn't, an Econiq prompt pops up [on the teller terminal] and says "we are trying to go green. Would you like to sign up for e-statements?" Or the system might discover that a customer's loan will be paid off in six months, providing this prompt for the teller: "Would you like to extend that loan or use those loan repayments in a savings plan?"

The product's "reporting" engine shows managers how the branch is performing in terms of what products are sold, loan values, customer responses and other metrics related to compliance and efficiencies. The "sales" engine instructs tellers to capture customer information, which is then combined with their transactional data to create a customer's profile.

The "coaching" engine supports and guides tellers through their interactions with customers. A "control" engine allows business users to configure without support from IT and the service engine helps automate the branch and tellers tasks.

"It's recording the keystrokes of my sales employees so I have confidence that what [appeared to have] taken place was in fact what took place," says Pierre Cardenas, svp of retail at Amplify Federal Credit Union in Austin, TX, another Econiq user. "We have been able to get away from trying to track our sales [ourselves manually]," he says, adding that he has been able to reassign a full time person whose job was to track sales. Amplify has deployed Econiq for only six months and is still conducting a full evaluation.

Econiq can run as a hosted service, which can cost as little as several hundred dollars per bank branch, according to Piper, who declined to get more specific about pricing. Cardenas says Amplify runs it as a licensed product on its own servers. Econiq's Web site claims ROI is between three and six months. It also deploys in four to six weeks, which is faster than the industry norm.

"As far as deployment times [of most sales systems], it's often months by the time such a system gets implemented, people get trained and so forth," says Forrester Research senior analyst Ellen Carney.

Econiq, which Blake says presently has six customers, joins a crowded field of bank sales productivity systems, according to Carney. Some examples are Portrait Software's Dialogue product, SAVO Group's sales enablement software and Verint Systems Inc.'s "Actionable Intelligence" products.

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