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Key strategies Featured

9:32am EDT July 22, 2002

When the directors at Key Small Business launched an online solution center earlier this year, they were confident the solutions would satisfy their customers.

That's because they undertook an extensive testing process that included surveying customers to find out their top interests. They then tackled the more difficult task of matching those interests with partners who could fill customers' needs.

But designing the Web site clearly is just the beginning of the long-term project, explains Mike Butler, vice chairman of e-commerce and small business services.

"It's been a tradition within our business to do a lot of surveys of our customers and listen to what they need," he says. "We've found the small business customer is usually out of time and needs help to get things done, like with making deposits or getting their loan."

From these findings, Butler and Bob Stoeser, vice president of e-commerce, decided to develop a destination site where small business owners could find solutions for their day-to-day needs. Key's goal was not to position itself as an expert that can solve problems but as a resource center linked with the right partner-providers.

To gauge those needs, Key launched a personalization tool that asked visitors what components they would find useful on the site. The surveys revealed four distinctive topics: sales and marketing, accounting and bookkeeping, human resources and e-commerce.

But before Stoeser and Butler launched their search for qualified partners to handle those needs, they stopped and double-checked the accuracy of the results. Stoeser says he was concerned about whether the personalization tool evaluated what Key customers really wanted. Because they were testing on a public site, he wanted to ensure there was a difference between answers from Key customers and other visitors to the site.

"We were able to determine that 80 percent of our audience is (made up of) Key customers, which was real important to us," Stoeser says. "We wanted to meet our customers' needs."

Assured of the results, Stoeser and company set out to find partners. Stoeser says he wanted partners that matched a focus of growing and managing a business with impeccable customer service.

"Customer service is very important to our customers," he says.

Key's last -- and perhaps biggest -- concern was customer privacy and security issues. Profiles indicated that although customers want to play in the e-commerce game, they want their information to be secure. Explains Stoeser, "We make sure that the security in these particular relationships matches if not exceeds the bank's."

Key launched the solutions center Aug. 30 at www.key.com. And, even though it's up and running, the site is a constant work in progress.

Says Stoeser, "I've been known to put together three and four page e-mails about usability that I want to fix within a 24-hour period." How to reach: Key Small Business, (888) KEY4BIZ; (888) 539-4249

Courie Weston (cweston@sbnnet.com) is a reporter at SBN.