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THE CONVENIENCE DIFFERENTIAL – WHY SIMPLICITY IN PAYMENTS IS THE NEXT BATTLEGROUND FOR CUSTOMER LOYALTY

By Ian Johnson, Head of European Growth, Marqeta

It used to be that convenience was a thing of luxury for most consumers. Paying for one’s shopping needs with cash, or bank cards, was the absolute norm. Today you’ll find that consumers now expect convenience, and businesses of all types are starting to take note. Technology has introduced consumers to anywhere and anytime commerce, and with such fierce competition existing amongst today’s tech giants the challenge of providing consumers with that much sought after ‘convenience’ factor is turning the payments landscape into the next big battleground. This has been helped along by people’s changing attitudes towards digital banking, combined with a change in consumer expectations.

Changing consumer expectations

Consumers expect their customer experiences – how they shop, and how they pay – to be just as efficient, practical and convenient as everything else in their lives these days. The popularity of contactless bank cards has surged in recent years, thanks to increased adoption from users and merchants. Between June 2017 and June 2018, in-store contactless card payments in the UK surged by​ ​30 per cent​, with​ ​81 per cent​ of debit cards offering contactless capabilities by October 2017, up from​ ​68 per cent​ the previous year. 

Brands and retailers are noticing the importance of convenient payment methods. Our own research at Marqeta found that ​75 per cent​ of people expressing that a smooth payment experience made them feel more positively towards a brand.

Expansion and enablement has gone hand in hand with consumer adoption. People in this digital age expect more because they know that more is possible. This hasn’t gone unnoticed among today’s tech giants looking to infiltrate the payment sector and bring in a whole new meaning to the word convenience.

Next generation payment methods

Technology is already changing how consumers shop both inside and outside the home, with the numerous technological solutions available in today’s payment landscape making it possible for the average consumer to shop from anywhere and at any time. 

Outside of the home, Apple and Google (among others) have earned themselves a reputation as trailblazers that have managed to infiltrate various different sectors. In recent years they have made an attempt at sewing up the payments and mobile wallet markets with​ ​Apple Pay and​ ​Google Pay​, muscling in on territory currently occupied by the likes of PayPal and WePay. Since its launch at the back end of 2014, Apple Pay has slowly but surely been replacing people’s physical wallets and making the process of on-the-go commerce a seamless experience. Its contactless feature capability enables users to pay for their shopping on the go using its secure biometric Touch-ID feature. This has proved popular among millennials, with more than half​ of them in the US and UK being claiming to be comfortable using TouchID and FaceID to authorize mobile wallet payments. It has simplified mobile spending, and with approximately​ ​8.3 million​ people in the UK expected to use mobile payments this year, it is evident that customers are turning to their smartphone devices to shop.

It doesn’t end there for the tech giant, as Apple is joining forces with Goldman Sachs to launch its own credit card. The Apple card will integrate with Apple’s Wallet app and give existing users access to new features and capabilities. This is another example of Apple’s burgeoning influence within the payment space and its ambitions to dominate the market.

One new area of shopping destined to reshape retail is checkout free shopping. Amazon recently laid out its bold plans of revolutionising the in-store shopping experience for consumers with plans to open​ ​3,000 checkout-free stores​, signalling its intent on moving into brick and mortar shopping. For some time now, ecommerce has been position as a direct rival to physical stores, but ever since​ ​Amazon Go​ first introduced us to this new shopping concept when it opened its first checkout-free grocery store in Seattle, US at the beginning of 2018, it is seemingly acknowledging that brick and mortars have their own benefits too.

Convenience is what’s at the heart of this new innovative approach to in-store shopping as customers would be able to link their Amazon accounts to their bank cards via the dedicated Amazon mobile app and purchase their desired products before walking into a store, picking up the prepaid items and then leaving again without having to stop. This hassle-free, cashier-less shopping experience was designed for the ever-busy, time-pressed shopper who wants that added convenience and efficiency when shopping for items in store.

With the convenience differential, it will be up to the payment companies to find ways to standout in an increasingly saturated market. They need to start by appealing to the new demands for convenience and ease at the heart of what’s driving the market forward and delivering effective solutions that can effectively meet these needs. 

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Finance

AI: CUSTOMER FACING EMPLOYEES’ BEST FRIEND IN THE FINANCIAL SERVICES INDUSTRY

By Ryan Lester, Senior Director, Customer Experience Technologies at LogMeIn

 

We’ve all heard the old saying “money talks.” Well when it comes to customer loyalty and retention, good customer experience talks much louder, with 30% of customers leaving a brand and never returning due to a bad experience.

The truth is, there are a lot of companies with similar products and services, but that doesn’t mean that differentiation is impossible. So, what’s the solution? For financial services, large and small, customer experience is becoming the key competitive differentiator and the best way to deliver an impactful experience is to empower customer-facing employees to do their best work. Artificial intelligence (AI) is enabling these employees to create remarkably better customer experiences, resulting in customer loyalty, advocacy, and overall growth.

For financial institutions that have been considering new strategies for improving the quality and efficiency of their customer experience, here are a few ways AI can enable them to deliver the “human factor” that good customer experience demands whilst ensuring customer facing employees can provide a more positive experience for customers.

 

Increase employee productivity

How much of employees’ time is spent searching for answers to questions? Do they ever have to put customers on hold or even step away to get additional help? AI helps provide front-line employees real-time guidance so they can spend less time looking for information and more time solving problems. An AI-powered chatbot, for example, can be listening in the background of a conversation helping point employees to the right data, solutions, and processes to resolve customer issues faster than ever before.

 

Deliver a consistent customer experience

When banking customers engage with their financial institutions, they measure the speed and accuracy of the service through two criteria. First, how quickly can the system access their account and deliver the correct information? Is it faster than a human could type it in and share it? And second, if they eventually do need to be connected to a live customer support agent, is their information captured and passed along accurately? AI technology takes those general queries off the customer support team’s plate, providing a quick, accurate, and effective response. If a query needs a more in-depth response, AI can hand it off to support staff to address.

Not only this but leveraging a centralised, AI-powered knowledge solution ensures every employee has access to the same, updated information, so no matter who the customer speaks to, they can be assured that employee responses are both consistent and accurate across the board.

 

Accelerating employee training and onboarding

Like any industry, employee turnover is inevitable and can be costly. But, not training new employees correctly or in a timely manner could be much more costly. When it comes to financial services there is a lot to learn, whether it is something simple like the process for checking an account balance to all the nuances associated with mortgage loans. AI can support on-the-job training by helping new employees answer questions confidently, correctly, and much quicker than they could before.

 

Improving employee satisfaction

Today’s banking customer has all kinds of new ideas about their banking experience. “The Amazon Effect” has successfully raised consumer expectations to the extent that a consistent, personal, and relevant experience is the new normal. As a customer, how many times have you been told “I’m sorry, I don’t know the answer?” Customers want solutions to their problems and employees want to be able to deliver those solutions as efficiently and effectively as possible. AI assisting in the background helps minimise those negative moments – making employees job easier, less stressful, and overall more enjoyable.

 

Identify knowledge gaps

Do you know all the questions employees are getting asked? Do you know what’s easily answered and what’s not? Real-time insights allow knowledge managers to keep up to date on frequently asked questions and gaps in current resources. This allows them to strategically improve or add content where needed.

 

Augmenting customer service

Whether talking with an AI chatbot or a personable customer service team member, the modern banking customer has high expectations for convenience, speed, and security. Which means that the technology you choose to deploy and how you deploy it is now just as important as who you hire and how you train them.

Today’s AI solutions won’t replace customer service agents or get in the way of the human factors that drive the customer experience. On the contrary, they augment it, allowing the business to do more without adding human resources. The higher the quality of a AI chatbot solution, the better it will be at taking the routine requests off the plate of customer service agents—giving them more time to provide a personalized and positive experience for customers.

 

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Finance

TIPS TO PROTECT YOUR CASHFLOW DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

By Rita Cool, Certified Financial Planner at Alexander Forbes Financial Planning Consultants

 

The full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is as yet unknown, but individuals have already begun to have their lives disrupted by the country’s economic shutdown, with retrenchments, salary cuts and forced unpaid leave making them take stock of their financial position.

The basic principles of financial planning are especially relevant at this time, but in the short term, cash flow is more important to many people.

To help safeguard you and your family’s financial security, here are some tips to follow to make sure you’re making your money work hard for you:

  • Draw up a budget – this is especially relevant if you’re worried about possible retrenchment of yourself or your partner. This will help you know how much you need to cover your basic living expenses and where you can save money. Don’t only look at what you need to spend money on, but also when you think you will need that money. Perhaps you paid school fees upfront at the beginning of the year, or your car registration is only due again next year.

    Rita Cool

  • Check your bank fees. Are you in the best structure for your needs? Are you paying for services that you never use? Consider moving banks to get a better deal.
  • Banks have waived the Saswitch fee payable for withdrawing cash at another ATM other than your own bank, but if you’re doing this, be aware of when this switches back as you can end up paying almost double the bank fees.
  • Did you know that you start paying interest immediately if you draw cash from a credit card and that you do not get three or six months’ interest free?
  • Go through your house while you have extra time and identify potential items which you could sell, as this will free up cash.
  • Where possible, pay cash for items as the interest rate on hire purchase items is very high and you pay around 20% more for those items than the sticker price. If you cannot afford the item and you don’t need it right now, wait.
  • Look around for bargains online rather than driving around. There are some good sales on, and you can support businesses that need your help.
  • At the same time, be aware of spending extra cash you could be saving towards your financial safety net. There are lots of deals available, so balance the need for the 70% off bikini or new laptop with being cautious about the future.
  • Use store coupons and discount vouchers. The main food retailers have loyalty programme structures that can be tailored to your specific spending patterns. Make sure you claim point or vouchers but look out for monthly costs to belong to a rewards program. Ask yourself if your monthly savings validate the cost. Optimally a reward scheme shouldn’t cost you money.
  • Check with your insurance company if your premium can be reduced because you’re driving less during lockdown.
  • Check your current insurances. Do an insurance rebroke. Make sure you are covered for what you need and take things off the list that you do not have any more and add what you have bought since the last update. Make sure you are not under or over insured and that your premium is market related. The cheapest premium isn’t always the best so be aware of exclusions and excesses and make sure you can afford the excess if you need to claim.
  • In most cases you can reduce your monthly insurance premiums by not having a cash pay-out in the future. If you want a pay-out, save the extra premium in an investment product, not a risk product.
  • Be wary of consolidating debt. You might pay a lower interest rate but it might well be over a longer period so the total interest paid will be higher. If you have debt issues, set up a debt plan with dates and goals to reduce the debt little by little. Do not give up.
  • Be aware that payment holidays are not a free loan, you still owe the money and you’re paying interest on it. Check with your service provider.

 

Remember that the pandemic will pass. Try not to panic as this may lead to rash financial decisions, which could have an impact on your finances later down the line.

 

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