The latest New Zealand bank to go online, WestpacTrust, is measuring the benefits from this latest venture in terms of customer feedback, says general manager of online services Philip Doak.
“Because of our size, we already have a relationship with one in three New Zealanders,” he says.
“What we’ve aimed to do with the Web site is enhance their experience of dealing with us, so it means they will stick with us and buy more, in terms of the deeper and wider solutions we can offer over that site.”
The effectiveness of the Internet is supporting the bank’s strategic goals, and it’s impact on the overall sales objectives is one of its key attractions, he says.
“That means enhancing the quality of their online experience, and how it drives their overall perception of us as a company to deal with. That’s the key issue.”
To that end, the bank is developing an internal management information system to help it evaluate the quality of the relationship being experienced by the customers who use the Web site. The system will also use that information to provide new ideas for further products and services.
The bank will be evaluating the number of customers using the site, but Doak says this is only one part of evaluating whether or not the bank is getting value for money form its on-lien investment.
“What we’re interested in is getting a measure of how customers are interacting with us across all the touch points, and we want to optimise all of those.”
As part of this, the bank has set “seamlessness” between the various channels as a key principle. For example, first-time users of the Web site can use their telephone banking password the first time they log on. While they will then be given a new password, this ability means they can go online and set up their account themselves.
The interlinking of the two is also important because, as the recent KPMG study of banking in New Zealand pointed out, most customers who go online are already using telephone banking.
This fact also adds to the need for the banks to get as much value as possible from Web-based transactions – with two new and expensive to run channels going, those costs need to be recouped somewhere, and the only way is to add value to the online environment.
The call centre back up is also crucial, he says. The type of calls to a telephone banking centre are comparatively straightforward: they tended to be purely about the bank account.
“With the Web site, they can range from a customer saying ‘there’s a transaction recorded here that doesn’t make sense to me’ to ‘I’ve just downloaded a new browser and now I’ve got this strange thing on my screen’. That does mean we have to provide far more resources into the call centre, but it also deepens our relationship with the customer.”
Competitors are also rushing headlong into the online area, he says, and these are not necessarily from the traditional banking sector.
“One of the things the Internet has done is change how we define our industry. It has opened up a log of capability for new companies to engage with people – in the Australian context we’ve had competition from eLoans, for example, and in the US there has been a proliferation of different contenders using the Web to leverage their way into the financial services space.
“It’s all added a level of competitive intensity that is going to continue to make life interesting.”