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Author: Simon Duffy

Over 60 per cent of the UK’s households now have internet access and as a result more and more of us are turning to the internet for advice. Surprisingly some of the advice people search for is specialist often best given by experts. 94 per cent of people surveyed in the Birmingham Midshires ‘Not so average Jo’ campaign chose to review important information on the Internet, rather than booking a face to face appointment. Results reveal the percentage of people seeking advice on specific topics; • Holiday/travel plans 75 per cent • Medical ailments 57 per cent • Savings 43 per cent • Mortgages 23 per cent • Investments 22 per cent • Hair and beauty advice 22 per cent • Legal advice 21 per cent • Pensions 13 per cent • Relationship advice 8 per cent 46 per cent of people are confident they can find the correct financial information they require and 50 per cent of these say they will research online before booking a traditional face to face appointment or seek professional advice as a second opinion. A staggering 55 per cent of people will visit a financial price comparison web site when making decisions about personal loans, credit cards, savings and mortgages. 46 per cent will also visit an IFA’s web site. Typically 50 per cent of people are spending between 30 minutes and an hour researching these topics online. Over the last 10 years the internet has given consumers greater confidence when choosing any product or service. However, particularly with financial products there is now really no excuse for having an uncompetitive credit card or personal loan. There are an array of personal finance comparison sites in the UK all offering to compare credit cards, personal loans, savings accounts, mortgages, motor and home insurance products, all within a few minutes. Before these sites existed it would have taken hours of research for the average customer to have even a basic understanding of the most competitive products on the market at any one time.

About Author

Simon Duffy writes for the Financial Blog a UK Finance Blog talking about all aspects of personal finance.

Author: Andrew Waldenson

For the past number of years, discount tools have been regarded as nothing more than a piece of junk which would either break or stop working in a short period of time. For the most part, these assumptions that were made were true. Whatever job such tools were used for were either not as accurate For the past number of years, discount tools have been regarded as nothing more than a piece of junk which would either break or stop working in a short period of time. For the most part, these assumptions that were made were true. Whatever job such tools were used for were either not as accurate or not as precise as those big brand name tools. But times have definitely changed recently with better education, technology, and resources. In a market where prices for big brand name tools have sky-rocketed, the need for discount tools has increased. Discount tools are now made of high quality metals and plastics which provide equivalent results to those same high end tools which may cost two, three times as much. It is a smart and sensible route to take for those who are limited as far as money goes. It is also a good insurance policy for those who may leave tools out in the open or unattended in the back of a truck or on a jobsite. With the technology and knowledge nowadays, most tool makers have the resources to create high quality products at a discounted rate. Going the discounted tools way also has its advantages for seldom used tools. What is the point of paying top dollar for an expensive power saw you may use twice a year, when you can invest that extra money you would save in another tool you may use a lot more? The benefits are countless and are undeniable. So forget the old theory that discounted tools are cheap and unreliable. A new age is upon us. With better resources, discounted tools are no longer “unpredictable.” With an increasing market and a demand for tools growing daily, discounted tools are a great option for everyone for everyday life.

Author: Samuel Greengard

CRM Climbs to Higher Ground

The customer may be king, but somewhere between rhetoric and reality, most organizations have discovered that courting and keeping customers is a royal pain. Over the last decade, global competition, downward pressure on profit margins, and easy access to product information and pricing for competitors and consumers have made it increasingly difficult for companies to achieve that goal. As a result, many organizations have turned to customer relationship management (CRM) systems not only to provide a technology foundation and business framework for managing complex tasks and to help them become more efficient and profitable, but also to maintain customer loyalty. Unfortunately, on their road to CRM success, they have often taken a few detours. "Too often, organizations haven't connected data to real-world practices," says Greg Comrie, senior vice president of solutions delivery at AGSI, a consulting firm headquartered in Atlanta. To avoid that problem, many companies are combining the operational and analytic sides of CRM to create a more sophisticated and holistic view of the enterprise. The two aspects traditionally have been used separately; the operational side relies on call centers and sales force automation (SFA) while analytics taps into existing business data. But together they're ushering in new opportunities and possibilities for predictive modeling, cross-selling, marketing and more. "Over the last decade, organizations have become so focused on technology and systems that they have lost sight of the customer orientation and how to achieve their goals," says Gareth Herschel, research director in the Atlanta office of IT consulting firm Gartner Inc. "The focus is now moving toward an integrated organizational approach. The goal isn't only to improve efficiency and save money for the enterprise but deliver benefits to the customer." Today's CRM encompasses the entire enterprise, from the warehouse to the finance department. Challenges abound, such as determining how to extract the right data, how to use it to maximum advantage and how to put concepts into action on the front lines of business. Although there's no simple solution, a growing number of organizations are learning that an integrated and orchestrated approach can pay dividends. The Numbers Game In any era or within any industry, understanding and interacting with customers effectively is necessary for success. The rise of CRM systems has sometimes masked the fact that technology is merely the means to an end -- not an end in itself. "In many instances, failures have occurred not because of the technology, but the way it's used," Herschel explains. The amount of data that organizations must sort through to help them understand customers and the marketplace also complicates matters. Operational CRM is essential, but "simple querying and reporting will not reveal answers to challenging questions such as: Which customers are likely to respond to a campaign? And given that they do respond, how much are they likely to spend?" points out Anne Milley, director of technology product marketing at SAS Institute Inc. in Cary, N.C. Many businesses are attempting to remedy the situation. Instead of viewing operational CRM and analytic CRM as two distinct activities, they're trying to meld them together into a single, seamless system. Historical data and demographic information can provide insights that, when properly used, enhance the abilities of sales staff, technical support specialists and others. Companies can also create more targeted and effective marketing campaigns, Web sites and customer-service offerings. And they can identify key performance metrics, such as how long a customer should remain on hold, and adjust staffing levels to match the precise need. Targeting products and services more exactly is the goal at Dreyfus Service Corp., a New York City-based subsidiary of Mellon Financial Corp. The mutual fund company, which administers more than 200 funds and manages about $170 billion in assets, faces an array of ongoing challenges such as dealing with nervous investors who often shift out of mutual funds when market volatility increases. Dreyfus wanted to find a way to forge closer relationships and boost loyalty, explains Prasanna Dhore, executive vice president at Dreyfus.

That was easier said than done. Although Dreyfus had assembled a 1.2 terabyte, 4-million-household database for all marketing, sales and strategic planning, transforming the data into action presented steep challenges. For one thing, there was no simple way to combine elements in a useful and effective way from such a huge volume of data. For another, the company had to ensure that agents used the information effectively and approached customers appropriately. Finally, getting the departments to work together created political and practical problems. In 2000, Dhore and a team of statisticians analyzed the data, including demographic information, credit and loan applications, spending habits, and transactional history. Then, using customer relationship management software from SAS, they developed a system that predicts which customers are mostly likely to redeem shares or close their accounts. The system flags warning signs for these behaviors, which include surges or decreases in the amount of contact from customers and increased numbers of transactions between funds. Using data gathered with the analytics software, Dreyfus revamped its operational CRM processes and the way it uses an Onyx Software Corp. package to manage and track customer relationships. No longer does the company wait for customers to call; it contacts them and pitches products and solutions specifically tailored to their needs. This approach includes phone calls, e-mail and direct mail. "The focus is on discussing products that meet the needs of that customer based on their age, wealth, portfolio and recent investment activity," Dhore explains. The results have been remarkable. Dreyfus has watched overall customer attrition rates drop by 50 percent. What's more, over the last five years, the shareholder redemption rate has declined from 22 percent to around 7 percent annually. That compares to an industry average that hovers around 25 percent. "We have used the system to create an ongoing dialogue with customers. We're much more in tune with their needs," Dhore says. Organizations that connect operational and analytical CRM often achieve order-of-magnitude gains, Comrie notes. When they remove much of the guesswork and replace it with solid data, they can embrace customized, real-time decisions at the point of maximum impact. "There's better information for making decisions and better workflow for executing a CRM strategy," Dhore says. The end result is a far better return on investment and happier customers.

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