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CUSTOMER CARE TODAY WILL BUILD RESILIENCE FOR FUTURE CRISES

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Cathal McGloin, CEO of ServisBOT writes, “The COVID-19 pandemic has created major spikes in calls to financial sector helplines dealing with customers who are concerned about temporary business closures, or seeking information on mortgage holidays and insurance cover.

 

Easing the pressure

With call volumes surging at many contact centres, moving customers from a voice to a text-based channel and encouraging some of them to self-serve via your website or mobile app helps to reduce pressure on contact centre agents. A call-deflection solution doesn’t have to be complex, costly or time-intensive, but it can be extremely effective in managing additional call volumes more cost-effectively, while still providing your customers the information that they need to allay their concerns.

If customers are able to interact with a chatbot initially and this resolves their immediate queries, this can significantly reduce call volumes and the business can still enable the bot to handover to a customer service agent for customers that require further assistance.

 

Setting up a Chatbot in 48 hours

Whether your interactive voice response (IVR) is based on legacy technology or is a modern cloud-based solution, it’s possible to deflect customers from an inbound voice channel to a messaging channel. We know, because we have done this for a client who considered this impossible with their legacy on-premise IVR system. Spinning up a solution took just 2 days and allowed them to successfully deflect calls, automate the response, and still offer customers a path to live chat.

 

Employing a Chatbot as a Call Deflection Solution

Financial services businesses can launch a very simple bot. The bot can be as simple as just pointing a customer to the COVID-19 FAQ page or it can be an extension of an existing customer service bot that offers multiple capabilities. On day one it may just be used to quickly assess queries and handover to a live agent. However, by gathering the training phrases from customer chats, the bot can be made progressively smarter and add capabilities, so that it can be trained over the course of  a week to start automating your customer service

After a week the bot can start automating to become more self-sufficient and take more of the burden from your customer service agents, allowing them to handle more complex customer issues.

Using a chatbot opens up a whole new path to automation.  Once customers start to engage with your intelligent virtual agent, the bot can handle simple requests, direct them to the relevant information on your website, or help them transact in a self-service manner. All of this can happen without the need for them to engage with an agent unless they specifically request this, or the bot escalates the request to an agent. It can even be integrated with your live chat systems so that the bot works in parallel with live agents when needed.

 

Future proofing

During crisis periods, when interactions with concerned customers need to be handled well, call deflection using a chatbot or virtual agent takes the pressure off contact centre agents. It also introduces an automation path that can help customers around the clock.

Once your chatbot has been trained to respond to common customer queries round the clock and reduce the pressure on your contact centre staff, your employees can focus on providing the best care for your customers who urgently need to speak to them. Introducing virtual assistants sends a clear message to your customers that they are your priority and increases the resilience of your business against future emergencies.

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2020: THE YEAR THAT CHANGED US ALL

There isn’t an industry that hasn’t felt the impact of 2020. Every sector has had to adapt to deal with the storm we’re calling COVID-19. Companies have had to be agile, preparing its workforce for immense change, all while reassuring its customers and partners that things will continue as usual. Despite the turmoil, however, the pandemic has encouraged change that will futureproof and improve many businesses. In a recent poll by BIAN of 139 professionals from the finance, technology and consultancy sectors, over half (55%) believe that COVID-19 has encouraged its organisation or customers to prioritise digital transformation initiatives.

 

The non-profit organisation that promotes and provides a common framework for the banking industry also found that one in five respondents believe that the pandemic will be the primary driver for change over the next several years.

 

“The pandemic has highlighted just how vital digital transformation initiatives are to the present and future of business, said Hans Tesselaar, Executive Director of BIAN.

 

“If we look at the financial services sector, for example, we saw just how quickly the use of cash declined. Stats showed that the use of cash halved because of fears over cash potential harbouring the virus. The lack of choice now means the portion of the nation who favour cash will be forced to shop and bank online.

 

“Banks will need to play a vital role in ensuring that the demographic of cash-first users can navigate this digital world. They will also need to ensure that their systems can withstand the additional activity. At such a difficult time, customer experience will be paramount to a bank’s success both now and in the future. The coronavirus has forced a lot of changes to our everyday lives. I expect, when we start to recover from this pandemic, that many of these changes will stick, including our continued use of digital services.”

 

This aligns with the fact that 37% of professionals believe the changing of customer demands will drive the most significant change of the next few years. This is followed by Open Banking (24%), the development and implementation of AI (14%) and the adherence to regulation (5%).

 

When we look at Open Banking, it is clear that the initiative and regulation has already had a tremendous impact on the financial services sector. The poll revealed that 72% of those asked are already benefitting from Open Banking. A further 22% are currently investigating the impact it will have on their business.

 

The success of Open Banking has also contributed to the growing concept of Open Finance. A term described by KPMG as “the extension of Open Banking data-sharing principles to enable third party providers to access customers’ data across a broader range of financial sectors and products, including savings and investments.” The research found that over half (53%) of respondents believe there is a demand for Open Finance in their country, based on the success of open banking.

 

“Open Banking is transforming the financial services sector for both businesses and consumers. A recent publication by Open Banking UK shows that the users of open banking enabled products in the UK have doubled in just over 6 months and stands at 2 million now”, said Arnab Mitra, Programme Manager at BIAN.

 

“It has enabled FinTechs and banks to provide enhanced customer experience, increased access to data and services while providing customers with the opportunity to increase their financial wellness. Open Finance attempts to take Open Banking to the next level, with the possibility of broadening the scope to savings, mortgages, pensions, investments and insurance policies and more”

 

Tesselaar added “to make the most out of the opportunity presented by Open Finance, banks, technology providers, FinTech players, academics and consultants must collaborate to define a revolutionary banking technology framework that standardises and simplifies the overall banking architecture. Through greater collaboration, we are able to future proof the industry, weather any storm that comes our way, but we need to control the costs”.

 

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TECHNOLOGY: THE SAVING GRACE OF THE MONTH-END HEADACHE IN FINANCIAL REPORTING

The end of the month is a challenging time for many accountants and financial analysts as they race to close their books and complete their reporting on time. Whether they are using Oracle Cloud or on premise solutions, the final hurdle has its highs and lows. With accounts to reconcile and financial statements to analyse, accountants and financial analysts are left with little time before the crucial deadlines are in front of them. As a result, time needs to be maximised so that they have all the answers at their fingertips when presenting to the business, board members and executives. These are the aspects of the role that financial analysts adore – and manual intervention shouldn’t be the blocking stone of success.

Preparation for month-end reporting involves financial analysts spending long periods of time focused on analysing spreadsheet after spreadsheet. Tiffany Newkirk, Financial Solutions Manager at SplashBI, explains that month-end reporting shouldn’t be as problematic and frustrating as it is. To move forward, financial analysts need to incorporate technology to provide a visual representation of the data so their role becomes as efficient and sustainable as possible.

 

A new beginning

Overtime and stress are two common issues that accountants and financial analysts experience when completing month-end close reporting. As many as one in four financial analysts describe the pressure of financial reporting being overwhelming, resulting in employees leaving the job they love; a situation that no senior management team wants to occur.

According to a recent survey, as many as 73% of accountants and financial analysts are still operating in a manually intensive, spreadsheet-driven system that limits or removes any time for analysis. In the same survey, 84% said they would prefer the financial close process to take up less time, that could in turn be devoted to more strategic financial projects. From a health and wellbeing perspective, the drive to utilise technology will help improve the efficiency and accuracy, especially at this turbulent time, and allow more time to be spent exploring the results and having the answers readily available for senior-level discussions.

 

A long-awaited transition

Companies of all shapes and sizes have long sought ways to streamline their processes so that accountants can spend less time collecting numbers and more time analysing the impact and results with senior stakeholders. Finding the right equilibrium between speed, accuracy and employees’ needs is key, and financial experts need to embrace technology and its visual qualities in order to achieve this. 

While spreadsheets are a useful tool, they can be prone to errors, especially if formulas are entered incorrectly. Management teams want to understand the implications of the data in front of them, and with the aid of financial experts, bring the data to life in a much more visual and empowering way, ready to spot the next business opportunity. Working solely in a spreadsheet rarely allows this to happen.

Instead, technology can help drive smarter decisions, by making the data come to life and presented in a variety of visual formats. By combining the numerous, disparate systems required to achieve a successful month end close, financial analysts and CMOs can view real time data at a click of a button to make informed decisions in the future. 

 

Conclusion

In an increasingly digitised world, real time financial reporting and accurate forecasting are more vital than ever to achieve a sustainable and efficient business model. Given the circumstances faced throughout 2020, effective financial management provides businesses with a competitive advantage and greater insights to drive profitability and efficiency.

Letting go of tired and archaic practices will drive financial roles forward and open the door for a myriad of opportunities when accountants and financial analysts expand their reliance on technology and move away from traditional methods. Moving forward, organisations that don’t incorporate technology into their month end reporting will be left behind, and not reap the rewards. It’s time for the face of financial reporting and analytics to change to become a seamless, stress-free and data-driven process.

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