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THREE QUESTIONS FINANCE LEADERS SHOULD BE ASKING THEMSELVES DURING THE PANDEMIC

Chris Pope, Global VP of Innovation at ServiceNow

 

We’re living through unprecedented times, dealing with a situation completely out of our control. But while finance leaders have no way of managing the pandemic itself, they do have influence over how their business responds and adapts to the chaos left by COVID-19. And for many, it’s exposing cracks in their planning.

Enabling remote working is not a new thing; it’s a concept companies have grown with as they utilise technology to scale globally. But never has working from home been so robustly tested as it is right now.

Many organisations have adapted successfully as remote working has moved to an absolute necessity, but others are faring less well and it’s posing big problems for them. After all, how can a business react to the crisis if the staff it relies upon to keep things going are not equipped to carry on working?

It’s never too late to improve and technologies like the cloud make it possible to do so. But whether thriving or failing with remote working, there are three questions every leader should be asking themselves right now:

 

Question 1: How successful is your remote working strategy proving so far?

Success doesn’t mean perfection, but it does mean a content workforce doing the right work, at the right time, without wasting time or adding unnecessary cost to the business.

The measure of success or failure of your remote working strategy can’t be based on complaints about team members only having one screen to work on at home, or about kids occasionally interrupting video calls – those are normal distractions and that’s life.

A successful strategy needs to start with evidence of an understanding workforce, one that’s used to a flexible culture and is showing they’re prepared and able to adapt to these changing circumstances.

Success can be measured by teams having access to the tools they need to do their jobs properly and having solutions for their clients as quickly as possible, no matter where they’re logging in from. The ultimate goal is for the workforce to function as smoothly as it did prior to the virus outbreak.

 

Question 2: What will happen once the crisis subsides?

Strategy up until now would have likely focussed on digital transformation and using technology to help teams do their best work. But a very specific and catastrophic event has happened, and it will rightly make the C-suite nervous it could happen again. The ability to work remotely has shifted from a ‘nice-to-have’ for many, to a ‘must-have’ for almost everyone.

So, building and future-proofing a strategy which enables employees to work seamlessly, without costing or losing the business money, should be a key focus for finance leaders once we’re back to some kind of usual routine.

Leaders also need to prepare for a percentage of their workforce questioning why they need to return to the office. If employees have adapted and thrived through remote working, why should they spend thousands of pounds and hundreds of hours on daily commutes when they can achieve what they need to from home?

It’s essential that finance leaders make sure they’re prepared for the whole host of working-culture questions they’re likely to face on return to the office.

 

Question 3: How do you rethink your remote working strategy?

This is a crisis that’s going to take years for businesses to recover from, and it’s going to change the way people think about work. With buy-in from the C-suite and secure access to the cloud, it provides an opportunity for finance leaders to reimagine the working structure of their company.

There are many businesses where the very nature of their industry makes it impossible, or at least impractical, to allow a blanket policy of working from home. So, the first job in rethinking the strategy is understanding which roles could be done remotely. Using data, leaders can scrutinise which functions could be automated, freeing up teams to do more meaningful work, whether that be conducted in the office, in a cafe or at home.

For a company that’s solely on-premise, true remote working faces obstacles. But for teams working securely in the cloud without the constraints of outdated, manual, costly, and inefficient work processes, there are huge productivity and satisfaction benefits to be gained.

Those who have already embraced digital will stand the best chance of making it through these troubled times and set themselves up to thrive in the future. But a successful remote working structure comes from innovative thinking and a true desire to make working easier and more satisfying for your teams. So, for businesses yet to go digital, it’s not too late to use this as an opportunity to catch up.

 

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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