CommBank's customer service lags tech rollout

Customer service levels at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia have not yet improved despite the completion of a rollout of a new customer management platform to all of its branches, the bank admitted today. The platform -- dubbed ComSee -- was internally developed by the bank, and allows it to operate with fully electronic documentation as well as capture customer signatures into its computer system.

Customer service levels at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia have not yet improved despite the completion of a rollout of a new customer management platform to all of its branches, the bank admitted today.

The platform -- dubbed ComSee -- was internally developed by the bank, and allows it to operate with fully electronic documentation as well as capture customer signatures into its computer system. Its rollout is just one part of the bank's 'Which New Bank' AU$1.5 billion transformation project announced in 2003.

But the bank's chief executive Ralph Norris told shareholders via a Webcast this afternoon that the effort involved in re-training staff had stopped anticipated improvements to customer service from being realised.

"We are not yet achieving anticipated improvements in customer service levels, however we believe the CommSee training has been a significant factor here, as we have been withdrawing staff from the frontline to attend training," said Norris.

The executive confirmed more than 30,000 staff had already been retrained in sales and service techniques under the ComSee programme, with 260 branches having been refurbished.

However it wasn't all bad news for Commonwealth Bank customers.

With up to 1,000 customer service representatives attending training in any given week, Norris said he expected customer satisfaction levels to rise once the technology's implementation had time to bed down in the branches.

"We have had a chance to review customer satisfaction levels in those branches where the software has been fully functional since June," Norris said. "We are seeing a definite improvement in customer service profile in those branches, although it is very small at this stage."

He also indicated his support for the new platform in general.

"CommSee is a world class technology system which we have been able to execute within budget and deliver on schedule throughout the bank's branches," he said.

According to Norris, the 65 CommWay projects aimed at improving customer processes are also already leading to substantial efficiency gains, a simplification in personal loans processing and significant reduction in turn around times on credit card and other inquiries.

The chief executive also said his company planned to extend the CommSee platform into its business banking division, which has been losing market share over the past decade.

Further changes afoot at the bank include an ongoing technology review which will see the different applications used across the bank's groups simplified.

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