REVIEWER: Aaron Garner, senior vice president of strategic marketing for Sovereign Bank.

BACKGROUND: Sovereign Bank is a $35 billion banking firm with 510 community banking offices in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Once the merger of Pennsylvania-based Main Street Bank, scheduled to occur later this month, has been completed, the bank will have $36 billion in assets and 550 banking locations.

PLATFORM: In our current setup, Harte-Hanks is serving as a service bureau for our data; Allink Agent is not installed on our systems.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Harte-Hanks Allink Agent helps marketers capitalize on changes in customer behavior either in daily batch or real-time processing. It is a marketing engine that reviews each customer transaction and interaction and triggers personalized, multichannel communications whenever a customer makes a significant transaction or indicates some other form of changing behavior. We anticipate the system will, over the course of its first year in usage, generate cross-sell opportunities that will amount to nearly $3.5 million.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Highlights of the product include the ability to identify significant and uncharacteristic changes in a customer's account balances and velocity, and provide bankers with a hot alert the next morning. This approach provides us the ability to identify cross-sell and retention opportunities that previously went undetected and to respond to changing needs the morning following a significant change in a customer's account. This results in the ability to more effectively meet customer needs, retain our customers and enhance the bank's revenue stream.

STRENGTHS: In our industry, it's important to identify significant changes in our customers' behavior and to be able to respond immediately across the most appropriate channels. With traditional marketing tools, customers have frequently satisfied financial services needs with competitors by the time you detect and respond to increases or decreases in their balances. Allink Agent allows us to identify and respond to our customers' changing needs while the stove is still hot, which results in both a higher level of service and more opportunities to retain and bring in new business. In terms of sheer functionality, the strengths of Allink Agent include its use of rules-based technology, its ability to easily identify problem areas among our client base and the quick ROI for what we believe will be an extremely beneficial technology. All of this was turned on in a matter of weeks ­ primarily with Harte-Hanks resources, freeing our marketing and systems units to concentrate on existing projects and execution.

WEAKNESSES: The system did not immediately provide us with alerts that encouraged a "closed-loop" process. Allink Agent would provide us with everything except what happened with the follow-up after the customer made branch contact. Fortunately, Harte-Hanks' new nTouch software has corrected this.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We selected Harte-Hanks over several other solutions because we found that the other choices lacked the proven results in our industry and for the rules-based technology that was already available within Allink Agent. The rules-based technology was important to us because it enabled us to combine Harte-Hanks industry expertise and proven results with our knowledge of our customer base, our customers' financial needs and their preferences.

DELIVERABLES: Allink Agent opens communication between the branch personnel and the customers, which then leads to an open discussion. This is entirely different from the way we conducted business in the past. The Allink Agent system automatically identifies the cross-sell opportunities, retention opportunities and also opportunities where it is in the bank's best interest to improve the relationship with the customer. Because of the ability of the Harte-Hanks team to get our program started in just two months, we are now able to continue our very aggressive rollout schedule to all of our branches.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Harte-Hanks worked diligently with us to ensure the project came in on time and within budget. The Harte-Hanks team set up everything for us in our first phase of the rollout, helping us conserve our internal resources. Harte-Hanks was willing and able to handle all of our demands and our aggressive time frame.

DOCUMENTATION: Because this is a services solution provided through Harte-Hanks, we do not need documentation. We send them our data, and they reply with leads.

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