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Who, When, What, How – CRM Embraces All

Specialists discuss the changing role of CRM, personalized communication, power of social media channels, measures & special projects:

Finance companies are focusing on increasing customer engagement and enhancing customer experience. Communication plays a critical role in terms of timing, relevance and what organizations want to communicate or to engage with their customers.


Canara HSBC Oriental Bank of Commerce Life Insurance Co has invested in a customer communication management system that ensures customized and interactive communication with customers through varied delivery modes. This tool is further supported by a CRM solution that provides a 360-degree view of the customer and has analytical capabilities that the company is starting to unlock to deliver experiential and targeted customer experience.

Sachin Dutta, Chief Operating Officer at the insurance company, believes that there is immense opportunity to leverage on communication platforms already available via social media. This reduces the time that one normally takes to get familiar with new communication. “Therefore, our WhatsApp bot and chatbots provide platforms for customers to converse with us as per their convenience and device and time of choice. We made our IVR flexible and highly customized to cater to the needs of customers. We will be investing in more bots like voice bots and email bots to expand our servicing avenues and continue to pursue excellence in this area,” says Sachin.

Kotak Mahindra Life Insurance Co uses Send Time Optimization (STO) to reach out to the customers at their most preferred time. Everyone has a different pattern when it comes to checking emails. Over the few months, the insurer has identified a pattern for each customer and the best time to send out a communication to them which will ensure that they have enough time to read the email as well as get the maximum benefit from it. This has helped the company to increase its delivery percentage and overall open rates.

According to Subhasis Ghosh, Senior Executive Vice President & Head – Marketing & Group Insurance at Kotak Life, every customer has his preference of consuming information – some prefer SMS (short content) and other email (more detailed). Sending communication to the customer on their preferred channel has helped the company to minimize wastage and create a higher engagement, he says.


To personalize the customer experience, Kotak Mahindra Bank has been issuing persona-based communications. For example, messaging on fixed deposits is a short-term goal-based communication for millennial customers, while for women customers, the same messaging is customized to saving money for emergencies and ease of investment.

Puneet Kapoor, President – Products, Alternate Channels & Customer Experience Delivery at the bank, says: “Our net banking home page experience can be hyper customized by each customer according to his interests. For example, if a customer uses bill payments, fund transfers and FDs the most, then he can customize the home page widgets for the most-used services to get easy and quick access.

Speridian CRM, which is built on Next Best Action (NBA) framework, uses AI for recommendations, business intelligence and to synthesize tactics, strategies, and business insights which considers all the possible actions during a customer interaction and recommends the optimal offer.

Mohammad Omer Kundi, Practice Manager – Global Banking SME at Speridian Beacon, says: “By continuously suggesting ‘what to do next to a customer, CRM NBA allows iterative and interactive forms of dialogue that customers identify as natural thereby delivering a first-class customer-centric experience. CRM NBA is a paradigm shift from being product-centric to becoming customer-centric. NBA is not necessarily about knowing the best product or message to serve up to a customer, but when to offer it and how to communicate it.”


The levels of adoption for social media have increased and customers are more familiar with the social media platforms compared to earlier times. BFSI companies are seeing this as a good opportunity to stay engaged with the customers.

Sachin says: “Social media has connected people digitally and has emerged as a platform where customers can do a lot of research, go through blogs and make themselves aware of new market trends, etc. It is also emerging as a tool to exchange views. We do provide WhatsApp as a mode of communication if the customer opts for such services.”

Social media has been the place where irate customers would go when the traditional channels of approaching the company would fail. However, in recent months, Kotak Life has noticed an increase in the number of customers approaching the company via online to tell positive stories.

Says Subhasis: “We have noticed that as platforms have matured, customers have become more comfortable with interacting about private policy details in that environment. There are lesser requests for call-backs once the customers notice that such avenues are working. We use a third-party application to aggregate all these multi-channel tickets into one dashboard for easier and quicker handling. This single view approach has helped us reduce both first response and resolution times.”

Puneet maintains that at Kotak Mahindra Bank, interactions with customers on social media result in the staff getting a sense that inclusivity will matter more than ever. “To facilitate this, we are using stories as a content format,” says he.

Concurring, Mohammad Omer says: “CRM uses the objections info to improve ad campaigns on search engines and social media platforms. A useful tactic is to create custom ads based on customer objections. Speridian CRM offers templates that meet all quality requirements, and which can be optimized for optimal results.”


Call centres will have to elevate communication through digital channels to thrive in the post-covid world. Scalability being the key, organizations will need to adopt solutions powered by advanced automation which not only offers data security but also provides stability to human operators. The ongoing pandemic has opened newer channels for customer interaction. Kotak Life’s newly launched digital platforms account for a whopping 67% servicing, easing out the pressure on its traditional channels – namely call center and email desk.

Sachin expects the IVRs to become more responsive and intelligent with technologies like voice recognition-based verification becoming norm. Use cases for insurance are currently less but companies are experimenting. “Also, we believe that IVRs are perfect use cases for voice bots or virtual assistants provided by all technology leaders getting integrated and powering the IVRs in the future. We are also seeing increased adoption of video calls, video-based verifications including KYC which is helping businesses do well during covid times. Such reliance on voice and video-based technology shall emerge even stronger in the next 12 months,” says he.

With inbound calls forced to seek alternatives, consumers too have adopted a mobile-first approach and have turned to net banking. Kotak Mahindra Bank’s customer experience center is receiving a lesser number of calls. There has been a reduction in the number of calls to agents. Puneet provides details: “We have witnessed a huge change in customer behavior. The nature of calls is no longer only for seeking simple information. Customers now call for resolving multiple and complex queries. A total of 43% of calls and conversations are complemented with WhatsApp communication. This has led to a 9-11 points higher Net Promoter Score (NPS) for us.”

He maintains that in outbound calls digital processes/ products assisted by employees get sold on calls. If the effort is low, customers are quite comfortable engaging with virtual relationship managers. Besides, long conversations are not a deterrent if they add value, and video is still the future.


Due to the pandemic, the Kotak Life team had decided to ensure that even though they were not able to meet customers face to face, they still are with them throughout. This led to focussing the attention of the customer on online mediums for any assistance they need. The company constantly communicated its digital tools through its campaign called ‘Ease hai ….hamesha’ across multiple channels – KAYA (chatbot), WhatsApp, OPM (policy manager app), and easy claim’s process online.

Subhasis shares the details: “The campaign was successful in reducing calls on our toll-free number and footfall to the branches. We went one step ahead and added this campaign as a part of our welcome and onboarding communication, which helped educate our customers from the start about the various digital tools at their disposal to ensure that we stick by our promise of ‘Hum hai….hamesha’.”

Canara HSBC OBC Insurance Co used a video calling facility where in addition to normal inbound, customers can interact with its agent virtually over a video session. The company comes up with initiatives like video-based verifications to make the experience seamless for the customers who prefer to interact with them digitally. Sachin added: “We interact via social media platforms for business as well as in creating awareness. All such facilities have helped us, and our customers operate and engage with us digitally. We expect the trend to continue and gain further momentum and shape the way companies communicate and engage with our customers.”


Canara HSBC OBC is focussing on working with the millennial age group to drive increased uptake of insurance. The company understands and foresees that future generations will consider technology and baseline services as given and would want the insurer to interact with them on how they interact with all other companies over the web.

According to Sachin, investments in technology are driven largely by keeping the future in mind and hence are being developed with the intent of making it fit for purpose for any generation. “We understand the needs of people who have opted for pension plans with us and understand the needs of millennials who may be interested in protection or savings proposition. That is the range we operate in and our solutions, therefore, need to be flexible and brutally simple to each of these generations,” he says.

Kotak Mahindra Bank has been using WhatsApp as a complement to voice conversations. “Last year, we were the first bank to integrate the video KYC process in the account opening journey. Additionally, we have also been using live chats with customers,” says Puneet.

CRM Functions

Speridian’s CRM system helps to generate leads, segment them and qualify them so salespeople can customize their outreach. The optimum offer rejection is handled in CRM by Sales Objection Process; next, it provides sales reps with a historical overview of all customer interactions and valuable intelligence on how to approach every objection. The CRM system has its ways of handling sales objections before they have happened, while they are happening, and after they have happened.

Says Mohammad Omer: “Preventing sales objections is a function in our CRM system, it creates a database, including previous customer objections, regardless of whether the objections were successfully handled or not. This way, agents have enough saved information to deal with new objections, even if they deal with a client for the very first time. Another important thing CRM does is link leads to objections. This will help the agent customize his approach to a particular customer.”

He shares details of other functions like automating handling of sales objections. He says the CRM does not simply drive customers your way, but it examines their buying capacity (foremost in terms of budget and influence), giving salespeople a more or less clear picture of the objection they might have. In relating leads to the common objections function, the CRM generates emails and messages for each of the tagged objections, allowing the salesperson to prepare just the right content for each target audience.


Kotak Life has started promoter referral campaigns that piggyback on its Net Promoter System framework. These are directly integrated with its CRM.

Kotak Mahindra Bank offers segmented communications basis propensity analysis. Customer propensity is analyzed to understand which offer will provide the most value to a particular customer and he receives communication basis that analysis. This is further augmented for cross-selling opportunities.

Explains Puneet: “Our CRM was effectively mobilized during the lockdown. It enables pre-qualified offers uniquely tailored for individual customers and MSMEs, thereby helping us boost new acquisitions as well as cross-selling of products and services. In addition, it provides a powerful lead management system on a customer’s transaction behaviour, thereby giving a 360-degree view of a customer’s profile to our banking relationship managers. This helps us offer the right product at the right time to the right customer.”

Speridian CRM omnichannel insights and reports provide comprehensive information on how overall support is performing across channels. The reports provide a rich visualization and ability to filter across channels, queues, agents and date ranges to better understand performance and troubleshoot problem areas.

Mohammad Omer says: “Some of the useful KPIs include conversation engaged based on channels, abandoned rate based on channels, transfer rate based on channels, average wait time based on channels, reports based on how the agent is performing on channels and sentiment zones by channels.”

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