Newcastle wins awards

At the recent Financial Sector Technology (FST) Awards, the Society won

`Most Innovative Use of Customer Relation Management (CRM)’, and `Best Use

of Contact Centres’.

The ceremony was staged by the FST magazine at The Savoy Hotel, London, and

was attended by more than 300 key figures in the UK finance industry. It

showcased the talents of IT specialists and recognised excellence and

innovation in the UK financial sector.

This latest success also adds to a string of recent awards for the

Newcastle, including being named Innovator of the Year for a second year

running in 2002 by national finance magazine the Mortgage Finance Gazette.

In 2001 the Society’s online savings account, NewcastleNet, saw it win Best

Use of New Media in that year’s FST Awards.

Colin Greaves, general manager at Newcastle Building Society, said: “Winning

two FST Awards in one night is a stunning accolade for the Society and

underpins our commitment to leading-edge technology. We have invested £2

million in technology that vastly improves the way we handle customer calls.

I would say we won the FST Awards because we were able to demonstrate the

real benefits that this investment has delivered.

“Customers like to have their calls handled first time by staff best able to

look after them. They don’t like having to wait for someone to get back to

them. We were able to show the judges that 83 per cent of customer calls to

Newcastle Building Society are now handled first time and by the right

staff, which is a significant achievement.”

Mr Greaves stressed the success should not just be viewed as an award

celebrating technical excellence.

“It truly reflects on the Society as a whole, from the support and direction

at the very highest level in creating an environment that stimulates

innovation; through to multi-disciplined teams involved in the development,

and those who deployed and now use the systems,” he said. “It really has

been a team effort.”

The Newcastle was awarded `Most Innovative use of CRM Technology` largely

for its `Martini` principle of customer service, whereby appropriately

skilled staff can access customer details and answer correspondence

`anytime, anyplace, anywhere` within the organisation. This includes the

head office, branches or even at home. It means the Society’s capacity to

manage peak periods of demand is greatly improved and customers receive a

highly efficient service.

The technology used for this is called Document Image Processing and

Workflow. It was developed and implemented in conjunction with BT Syntegra,

BT’s consulting and integration business, and international software and

solution provider Eistream.

A new telephony system was also installed last year, in partnership with BT

and Nortel. This provides a skills-based routing system which, in essence,

creates “virtual” call centres in the branches. Again, the technology gives

the head office far greater capacity during peak workload times by routing

calls directly to highly-skilled staff in the branches, and to home-working


The award for Best use of Contact Centres recognised this drive toward


Robert Hollinshead, the chief executive of Newcastle Building Society, said:

“As with all financial service organisations we are operating with finite

resources in a fiercely competitive market. It is also a market where the

volume of demand can fluctuate significantly from one day to the next. These

awards show just how successfully we are using technology to meet these twin

pressures of competition and capacity. They also recognise the high quality

of our staff.”

Newcastle Building Society is the largest building society in the North-East

and one of the strongest mutuals in the UK. It has more than 650 staff and

assets in excess of £2.8 billion.