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CUSTOMER SERVICE HAS AN ROI TOO – BUT IT’S NOT ALWAYS EASY TO DELIVER

We are in the age of ‘now’, with customer demands shaping competitor landscapes, as well as entire business systems. This has never been more true than in the financial services sector – where net promoter scores stand for everything, technology is rapidly advancing customer interactions, and physical touch points (especially those on the high street) are under pressure to prove their worth.

Against this backdrop, there is a strong case to show that high quality customer service can deliver real business value in the financial and payments sector – something that has already been proven multiple times, by multiple other industries. Indeed, across a broad range of sectors, 84% of organisations that improve their customer experience have reported an increase in revenue.

In the financial services world, this point has been made clear by the challenger banks, such as app-based Monzo, Starling and Atom, which have shaken up the industry. The growth in popularity of these digital-only financial services, where customers can apply for mortgages and manage their current accounts directly from their smartphones, has often been put down to their ability to both offer a high-quality service to the always-on customer, and quickly bring new platforms and services to market.

To stay competitive, traditional financial services firms need to add value to their offerings, boost customer experience and journeys for these ‘now’ consumers, whilst still driving efficiencies. They need to, in effect, make customer service demonstrate ROI, and fast.

Matt Phillips, VP Banking, Diebold Nixdorf, UK

More than a challenge

Traditional financial services organisations have for a long time suffered from large, complex and inflexible infrastructures. These systems have been built up over many years and with numerous layers, making it hard to drive agility and competitive differentiation. For instance, Capgemini recently found that many core banking systems were originally developed in the 1970s and 1980s, making most banking system solutions over 30 years old and counting.

This, understandably, makes the digitisation of services, such as online and mobile banking, extremely difficult.

Another challenge is the fact that those within the financial services sector are under increasing pressure to implement engaging digital transformation strategies, often with limited resources. This not only puts budgets under strain, but also puts the teams required to transform the customer experience with innovative technologies under pressure – pushing some organisations to the limit.

Taking a holistic view

In many instances however, a mind-shift from treating customer services as a separate entity, to putting the customer at the heart of every operation, helps organisations to find a more practical way forward.

This is customer-centricity in its purest form and it involves taking a digital focus to improve and evolve the customer journey – enhancing every touch point and improving the end-to-end customer experience.

This approach can make the overall customer journey more holistic. But to be successful, it must be underpinned by intelligent platforms which can build a picture of how a customer is banking, what platforms they are relying on at different points in the day or month, and what products they might need help with.

A practical way forward

The reality of putting the customer at the heart of every operation requires a mind-shift. But at a processes level, it also involves a change in how internal teams work, how different departments collaborate, and how different platforms communicate.

Making operational changes like this is no mean feat and there is a new industry trend of banks embracing service providers as a way of provisioning resource effectively, getting access to new skills quickly, or freeing up internal staff.

This so called ‘as-a-service’ phenomenon has been prevalent in other industries for decades. In the retail sector, it’s a tried and tested model, with the British Retail Consortium recently finding that 70% of retailers are outsourcing an element of their operations, with warehousing and IT being the most likely functions to be outsourced. This helps them to reduce costs and optimise how their businesses are run.

The transformation from traditional resourcing, to an ‘as-a-service’ economy is well underway in the UK, with analysts expecting the XaaS market to grow 38% by 2020. For the financial sector there are clear benefits to be gained, if organisations are able to boost operational efficiencies, and provide internal staff with the time they need to evolve their current customer service offering.

BankData in Denmark is just one example of a financial organisation that is already using an as-a-service model successfully. Rather than spend precious time managing its own huge ATM network, BankData is working with a service provider to implement enhanced ATM monitoring tools, newly automated processes and services support across its entire self-service network of 11 Danish banks. This means that internal staff can focus on future-proofing the bank’s services and placing customers at the heart of every new innovation.

Even some banking services start-ups are exploring as-a-service options to improve their growth performance. For example, mobile-based Coconut, which combines banking and accounting services so that freelancers can pay/ get their bills paid easier, is partnering with a banking-as-a-service provider to run its back-end technology.

Future-focused services

Ultimately, adding value to every touch point is crucial when it comes to putting customers first, and thus gaining ROI. It is encouraging to see more financial services firms find new ways to boost their offering, with many increasingly turning to service providers to do so.

Every platform needs to add something to the journey if a customer-centric strategy is to be successful, and the ‘as-a-service’ model holds the key to striking the right balance between making a customer-centric approach successful, and efficient. Long live the ROI of customer service.

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Banking

THE CO-BRAND CREDIT CARD MARKET – SINK OR SWIM

CREDIT CARD MARKET

By Chris Vinnicombe, VP Financial Services at Acxiom

The co-brand credit card market is the result of the partnerships between many of the world’s largest credit card issuers and consumer goods businesses like airlines, hotels, and retailers. By leveraging existing technology investments in digital, data, and analytics, the co-brand credit card market has attracted affluent consumers over the years. Indeed, it has remained a powerful component of retail loyalty programmes and strategies that generate revenue not only for the issuer, but for retail partners as well.

 

The market today

Historically, rewards have been critical to retaining and attracting consumers. However, businesses are increasingly finding that this benefit alone is not enough. In today’s world of data, one-size-fits-all loyalty programmes show little customer intimacy, since they don’t pay attention to individual attitudes, behaviours, and expectations.

Co-branded credit cards have faced competitor pressure to sweeten the rewards pot to draw customer traffic and differentiate their card programmes. Above that when consumers around the world are used to relevant adverts, offers and suggestions, the market increasingly seems out of touch when the offers don’t hit the mark.

It is now time for credit card companies to take a hard look at their proposition to determine which offerings consumers still value and to create benefits that are digital first, easy to use and truly relevant to how they live.

 

Increasing cardholder engagement

Today, engagement has become a significant part of this challenge. Cardholder engagement is critical in the market since it measures who has an active relationship with their card, rather than those where it sits unused at the bottom of a draw.

One of the issues is that many cardholders feel they are of little interest to the card issuer after starting the relationship. When offerings remain the same and don’t reflect consumer lifestyle changes, it leads to a decline in spend and balance activity.

For example, if a person is consistently purchasing long-haul, luxury summer holidays on their card and receiving a reward of discounts on Christmas staycations it just won’t be claimed. Ultimately, if the user isn’t likely to claim a reward it defeats the whole point of user offerings in the first place and will lead to a decay in the relationship over time.

To change this dynamic, card issuers need to focus on becoming far more customer-centric, addressing pain points, fulfilling desires and engaging with the consumer as an individual. Whether they are frequent travellers, trend setters, have an affinity to luxury products, cash back collectors, etc. Keeping up with interests and offering tailored rewards will create a more personalised experiences for customers and increase loyalty.

 

Customer experience – reach for the skies

A key example of this is the airline sector. Co-branded credit cards play an important role for airlines and their card issuers, each of which benefit from credit card engagement and purchasing behaviour. The cards also play an integral role in frequent flyer programmes, helping drive flyer loyalty.

Nowadays, airline customer interactions can come through many channels like customer service centres, online travel agencies, websites, and more which can create a complex ecosystem of customer data. The co-brand card partners see significant transaction data that identifies travel activity and purchasing patterns that are strong triggers for airline marketing programmes. All these interactions generate crucial information on passenger needs and preferences that enable up-sell/cross-sell, pricing and preferred experiences (i.e. early boarding or flight update notifications).

 

Better together

For the co-brand credit card market to work, partners need to work together seamlessly. Sharing customer information is vital to the interwoven marketing capabilities needed to be successful.

It all starts with the data foundation. A shared space for data to be safe provides a privacy-compliant environment that allows marketers and partners to connect different types of data while protecting and governing its use. This is the bread and butter for people-based marketing that enables partners to engage consumers across today’s highly fragmented landscape of channels and devices.

These data safe havens provide the ability to ingest customer records from partners, as well as core campaign and engagement logs used where businesses can measure and analyse success. This data can also be enhanced by third-party sources (demographic data, propensity models) to enrich the view of the consumer and create new insights to support new audience creation for marketing programmes.

However, organising, managing, and deriving insights from large sets of consumer data is complicated. To overcome this, companies should rely on connectivity solutions that integrate data to provide a single view of the customer. These identity resolution services resolve first-, second-, and third-party data, exposure and transaction data to represent real people in a privacy-compliant way.

Having this omnichannel view of the consumer can then be utilised to support consumer targeting, personalisation, and measurement bettering the offering to the user and maintaining relevance in the customer’s wallet.

Ultimately, data is helping the co-brand credit card market to stay relevant to consumers today. It is no longer enough to offer one-size-fits-all rewards to card users as competition in the industry hots up. Increasing customer loyalty and engagement is name of the game and using data from across both partners is helping firms to be more competitive, responsive and personalised than ever to drive new business uptake while keeping existing customers coming back for more.

 

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Banking

FOUR WAYS OPEN BANKING AND AI WILL REVOLUTIONISE ACCOUNTANCY

BANKING

Ed Molyneux, CEO and co-founder of cloud accounting software company, FreeAgent

 

It’s been just over two years since the term Open Banking became a tangible reality in the UK. Since then, the nine largest banks and building societies in Great Britain and Northern Ireland have signed up to take part in the initiative, meaning they must allow regulated businesses to access their customers’ financial data, as long as the customer has provided permission.

Open Banking was imposed by the Competition and Markets Authority to spur competition between banks and make customers’ banking information more accessible to third parties. And this phenomenon has already been transformative for accountancy, providing third-party financial service providers standard ways to access consumer banking transactions, and other data from financial institutions – a seamless alternative to the teetering piles of paperwork traditionally associated with accounting. Paired with other new innovative technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), Open Banking has the power to change the day-to-day lives of accountants and more broadly, the world of finance.

This article examines the fundamental ways Open Banking and AI can and are already being utilised by accountants.

 

Real Time Insights

Through the use of Open Banking, accountants can have real-time access to their clients’ most up-to-date banking data every single day. This means no more chasing clients for the necessary information that you need to do your usual day-to-day work. This also benefits your clients, as they can continue with their daily workload knowing that their bank transactions are being shared with you directly, accurately and automatically. Suddenly their do-list looks a bit shorter!

 

Adios paperwork

Traditionally, accountants have had to deal with an enormous amount of paperwork, including invoices, expense receipts, bank statements and other important documents. Combined across the profession, this amounts to mountains of paper that have to be analysed and filed. One of the greatest benefits of technology and digital accounting is that it alleviates the stress of keeping important information in physical files. As well as less mess in the office, this means invoices, expenses, receipts can be kept in one place – online. This enables accountants to be more efficient on a day-to-day basis as they are able to easily find documentation by simply typing in what they are looking for to search for it.

Luckily for accountants, and also for the environment, Open Banking and cloud software platforms ensure that important data can transfer seamlessly and safely between your bank and your financial accounts. Already, cloud accounting software makes it possible to have one tidy dashboard that gives an overview of the business in its entirety. As well as being the guardian of files, using technology to set up a bank feed will allow accountants to track incomings and outgoings, link invoices and payments and view interactive charts of all their clients’ accounts.

 

Working from anywhere

The last five years have seen the progression to flexible working increase significantly. Millennials in particular have a desire to work out of the office. A survey conducted with over 19,000 working Millennials across 25 countries revealed their top five priorities when looking for a job, with 79% stating flexible working was a must. Further analysis from BBC 5 Live revealed a 74% jump in the number of people working from home between 2008 and 2018.

As well as the natural increase in the number of people working remotely, accountancy is one of the many professions being affected by the current turbulence being caused by the Covid-19 virus. This month, the government announced everyone should work from home if they can. Now, more than ever, people are away from the traditional office space and working instead from the confines of their own home, with technology acting as the glue that in many cases is keeping their business together. For accountants this means remote access to financial data is an absolute essential.

 

Add consultancy to the equation

With more efficient processes and easier methods of making and tracking transactions, technology and Open Banking will ultimately free up a whole lot of time for the accountants. Clearing up the calendar will make room for new kinds of work and enable accountants to spend more time on consultancy and value-added services, where previously these may have been perceived as a bonus service or from the client-side, a service at a much larger additional cost.

As well as consultancy, these technologies will have other, less direct impacts on the client-side. For example instead of needing a shoebox full of receipts, Open Banking and AI will lead to more confident and self-managed clients. If a client is keeping accurate books themselves, then the accountant no longer has to do all of the numerical admin. Rather, the value add lies in providing higher-level insights around the numbers and offering useful advice such as “it is time to put your prices up, as your profits are lower this year“.

Ultimately, AI and Open Banking are opening the gateway to a more efficient and effective accountancy industry. While benefiting the clients by making new space for consultancy and added value services, new technology ultimately streamlines an accountants’ entire job. Because they are constantly dealing with stacks of financial information, the consequences of misplacement of one document or inefficiently tracking systems hold higher stakes than usual. Luckily there is no need for accountants to grapple with old-school methodology anymore as AI and Open Banking are already readily available and at their fingertips.

 

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