Where do you bank? If you’re like millions of other consumers or small businesses last year, you moved one or more of your accounts from a large bank over to a community bank or credit union. The shift is really no surprise. It is a direct result of continuing turmoil in the financial markets and a desire for better, more personal service. This growth opportunity for community banks, who are actively promoting to attract new accounts and customers, inevitably leads to the question: “You can run the promotion, can you handle the result?” My answer is “Yes, but not without the right technology.” What to consider then? Adaptive case management (ACM) of course.

In this article in my case management series, I explore how ACM can and already is playing an important role in meeting operational challenges for community banks to help them cost effectively capture and service new business.

Like most firms, retail banks want to do more with the resources they have. A community bank may well be able to afford a $100 checking account promo, but what about the $2,000 it costs the operation to open the account? The operational costs reflect both the systems and productivity challenges that all banks face -- not just community banks. For community banks though, in order to grow while still preserving the service that attracted many of their customers in the first place, it is imperative that they bring down costs while maintaining a personal experience for the customer.

Here are three strategic areas where case management -- as both an approach and a technology -- can make a difference:

1. Focus on Customers, Not Products

As banks grow, ACM can enable them to intelligently cross-sell products, the “holy grail” of customer engagement. What was perhaps once performed by a representative with a personal relationship with the customer can now be assisted with case management technology that can bridge channel, information and process gaps. With this assist, it becomes possible to “know your customer” and intelligently suggest product options each time a discrete account opening activity and associated cost occurs. This reduces the transaction costs involved and also saves the lost opportunity cost. I think this short and fun “Productivity Hero” video does a good job illustrating how these challenges appear to the front-line customer service representative and to the customer, as well as how they can be addressed.

2. Integrate Process and Content for Better Decision Making

Information is truly useful when you can incorporate it in context to improve how work and business decisions get done. The knowledge workers in today’s community banks, like the customer service representatives or the loan officers for example, have the challenge to manage documents that now arrive not only by paper but also across multi-media and multi-channel inputs. Adaptive case management helps drive productivity for community banks. It can “sit lightly” upon the bank’s information technology architecture and be used to integrate documents and systems information with the relevant process(es), thus assuring that information will be available to those who make critical decisions, when and where they need it. Case management can do this in a highly cost-effective manner -- with good and timely ROI -- so community banks can afford to grow.

3. Respond to Unpredictable Events and Exceptions

Adaptive case management enables knowledge workers to interact with information and perform work in their own unique ways to best respond to changing circumstances. In effect, to deal with business as it happens. That means the ability to manage error exceptions as well as unusual circumstances. This is one of the distinctive elements of ACM -- the concept that the process participants are at times involved in defining specific actions for a case and at other times involved in responding to actions taken in a case. Rather than modeling the entire business process ahead of time, you have an environment that supports access to information and progression through tasks as needed to achieve the goal. While this is not the same as the unique personal interactions that community banks once had with their customers, it does enable more personalized and personal service to occur. The added advantage is that these interactions are now less costly and more streamlined because they are no long bogged down in a paper chase or manual efforts. Thus fees and rates can be more competitive without sacrificing profitability.

At the End of the Day, “Service will Win, It Always Does”

Bryan Wandel

Community banks have always garnered their competitive strength by being customer focused. Bryan Wandel, head of Information Technology for First United Bank and Trust, talks about just that in this short video on how his community bank improved their customer experience with case management. It’s a good listen and a chance to hear directly from a banker. In a LinkedIn Retail Banking group that I follow, bankers have been engaged in an ongoing discussion of the fate of community banks. Most if not all are convinced that service is their key differentiator and that circumstances favor community banks. They see growth ahead both organically and through mergers. Granted that many who are engaged in this discussion currently work in community banking, I find the points they make are compelling nonetheless. So I’ll end with one of my favorite comments from their discussion: “Service will win, it always does.”

Editor's Note: You may also be interested in reading other Deb Miller articles: