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SMART MESSAGING – FROM TRANSACTIONS TO INTERACTIONS

SMART MESSAGING

Simon Rodway, pre-sales solution consultant, Entersekt

How an intuitive and secure messaging system can have an outsized impact on the bank–customer relationship.

Fierce competition in banking shows no signs of abating, but while cost-cutting and consolidation have characterised the industry for decades, a lot has changed in recent years, especially with the disruptive entrance of the social, retail, and technology giants. It’s not so much what you offer anymore; the game changer is how you make your offering available.

People expect from their banks what they enjoy about other digital services: highly relevant interactions that add value upfront and can be completed without much effort. To come out ahead in the next few years, financial institutions must go beyond simply “doing digital” and focus on the actual customer needs and preferences that self-service channels were intended to meet.

They must also communicate the value they can deliver through a more intelligent approach to technology and user experience design.

 

Simon Rodway

Stepping into the role of trusted advisor

Rich or poor, Boomer or Millennial, we can all benefit from a little expert guidance on money matters. Curiously, though, in the age of spam and robocalls, consumers say their banks don’t do enough to inform them of relevant products and services. Many people even express doubt about institutions’ commitment or ability to assist in financial decision-making and, ultimately, improve their bottom lines.

A trusted financial advisor is something missing in their lives, people insist, and analysts tend to see banks’ slow progress filling this gap as a serious missed opportunity. After all, traditional banks continue to score highly with consumers on trust and the security of their data, which is a necessary ingredient for a winning set of services promoting financial wellness. Data will determine what insights banks gain on their customers’ concerns and pain points; their grasp on the routes users typically take to complete tasks or make decisions; and the relevance and quality of their recommendations.

Some readers may have received notices from their bank that go something like this: “You have spent 30 percent more this year on entertainment than you did last year.” Although well-meaning, many of these messages are not terribly useful sent in isolation and without context. What if your bank coupled this insight into changing spending patterns with other data and diplomatically nudged you towards a savings vehicle, perhaps with a HD flat screen TV as a potential prize for early registrations?

This example may skate close to a sales pitch, I know, but imagine this communication taking place in-app with a call to action linking directly to a budgeting tool. That small addition might complete the experience in a satisfactory way.

By providing the accountholder with a fuller picture of their financial position and a direct route to the tools they need to make changes (if that is what they want), the institution signals that it takes their financial wellbeing seriously; that it is expanding its role from mere deposit taker to trusted advisor; and it invites them to engage more often on financial matters great and small.

 

It takes two to start a conversation

Adverts and marketing messages have their place, absolutely, but their formats don’t lend themselves to these more immediate interventions. They skew towards a different order of product, one that kickstarts an entirely new chapter in life: mortgage, retirement annuity, student loan. However jaunty the copywriting and light the design, they also feel different. They are less an extension of the moment than a break in it; less about everyday opportunities to make improvements and more about the faraway future; less about grasping an opportunity and more about a making a commitment; less about me and more about you.

In-app communications specialist Twilio has found that 89 percent of consumers want to interact with businesses using messaging services, broadly defined, with two-thirds preferring mobile-based services for that purpose. Eighty-five percent say they would like to reply to these messages or engage in conversations from that point – a markedly different experience to SMS or no reply emails.

The content of these interactions may have varied enormously in respondents’ minds, but the key words here are “interact”, “reply”, and “engage”. Consumers want a two-way communication channel that supports timely exchanges on matters that are important to them. It’s the difference between a welcome interaction and an annoying distraction.

 

Mobile

Digitally engaged customers are happy and loyal customers. They sign on to more services, bring in more revenue, and are more likely to recommend their bank to friends and family. The effect is strongest on mobile. A survey by Citi has found that users of mobile banking channels felt better informed about their banks’ offerings and were more confident about their financial position in general than non-users did. This, said Citi, resulted in, “a more optimistic view that banks can help to better understand their financial situation, with 82 percent of mobile banking users feeling confident that a bank can truly help improve their state of financial wellness, compared to 62 percent of non-users.”

Nothing beats the mobile for a reliable, highly personal channel to the customer, one that cuts through the noise of daily life, can be securely accessed everywhere, and integrates seamlessly with self-service functionality in the banking app.

However, if financial institutions are to follow this new path, it’s vital they protect the sensitive transactions taking place across their various channels. Imperative to this is communicating prompts and actionable advice reliably and securely wherever a user might be. If they can guarantee this, over time they will invoke trust and reliance from the user, and significantly improve engagement rates, and make the bank-user dynamic simpler and safer.

Business

FIVE PITFALLS PROFESSIONAL SERVICES MUST OVERCOME DURING THE PANDEMIC

By Andy Campbell, global solution evangelist at FinancialForce

 

The pandemic’s impact on the global economy has, and is continuing to be, one of the most severe in modern history. To put this into context, economists have already asserted that it has been three times more severe than the financial crisis of 2008, and we’re not out of the woods yet.

Even before the pandemic, businesses were navigating a wholly different landscape. The shift to a services economy, alongside the increased expectation for higher quality customer service and experience, were already piling on the pressure. Throw the pandemic, and subsequent shift to remote working into the mix, and the need to make changes – and fast – becomes even more explicit.

Much like the natural world, adaptation is key to businesses’ survival during periods of turmoil.  Many services companies aimed to improve certain business functions and processes by beginning to adopt cloud-based systems, with a particular focus on the front-office. Although this is a positive development towards process optimisation, inefficiencies will remain until enterprises unite around one overarching cloud strategy.

Creating that strategy and employing it, particularly at pace, is not the simplest process, and there are common pitfalls that many businesses, especially global ones, are likely to encounter.

 

Andy Campbell

Outdated and error-prone processes

Operating at a global scale comes with its own unique challenges. Regional teams on the ground with their own local capabilities and knowledge are a benefit for multinationals, but a side-effect is that they often develop their own tactical, highly localised solutions. These run alongside those systems operating at a global level and cause friction.

This friction is most commonly seen between the delivery level, where quick fixes take place, and the global level, where greater consistency is needed. A disjointed approach to applications development leads to inefficient business processes, as well as centralised solutions that are rigid and difficult to maintain.

The business world turns at a rapid rate, and out of sync processes slow down a firm’s ability to respond to quick-fire changes. A fragmented systems architecture, for instance, impacts data quality, as well as its timeliness. Outdated and potentially incorrect data leads to delays and misinformed decision-making. Instead, a unified strategy is required to oversee the entire opportunity-through-delivery process and ensure decisions are based on accurate and timely data.

 

Front and back office – forever separate

Disparate systems, data sets and processes also lead to conflicts between the front and back office. Both offices are all too often siloed, preventing optimal visibility across the organisation throughout the sales-to-delivery process. As each is working with different datasets, in terms of both accuracy and detail, it can counteract the contributions made to business growth, and act as a barrier to the development of fresh new services.

By creating opportunities for an exchange of information between the front and back office, businesses can ensure that there is collaboration when comparing data between the two, enabling more opportunity for development and seamlessly tying the front and back office together.

 

Shortcomings in customer experience

Customer experience is further cementing itself as a key competitive differentiator in businesses across sectors. However, elevating customer experience calls for more than just using spreadsheets and custom software to manage the delivery process. These methods restrict the company’s flexibility when confronted with changes to the market or customers’ needs.

Maintaining agility in customer interactions is a crucial step towards success to ensure that they remain informed at any given time. By deploying a single system to oversee the whole opportunity-through-delivery process, an organisation is able to deliver cohesion and unity throughout the customer service.

 

Disorganisation in ongoing projects

The trifecta of remote working, complex projects and project managers with unique methods of monitoring progress, has resulted in a decrease in visibility into project status for many businesses. Subsequently, employees often end up using ‘side systems’ to complete tasks, which brings difficulties as these systems are not completely integrated into the global process.

The problems initially formed from a lack of clarity into projects soon manifest themselves into most areas of the organisation. For example, being unclear of when projects will be completed or what resources will be needed and when will eventually hinder the success of future projects. Misunderstandings surrounding available capacity can cause sales teams to over- or under- sell the sales quota, bringing additional problems for the delivery team.

The negative impact this can cause both for resource utilisation and the effectiveness of project delivery are considerable. In order to optimise the delivery of both internal and external service projects, businesses should look to deploy robust platforms for management and automation that can organise workflows and create greater visibility.

 

Revenue leakage

Revenue leakage is often referred to as ‘the silent killer’ of businesses as, unless you’re looking for it, it can remain unnoticed until it’s too late. Disregarding the importance of looking for revenue leakage is a common error that needs to be rectified as it can occur at any time throughout the customer lifecycle and cause substantial damage.

Gaps may commonly appear between sold revenue and earned revenue that, at first, may not appear to be a major cause for concern, but can eventually result in significant revenue loss.

Causes of revenue leakage include problems with data entry and detached systems, to name just two. Organisations which lack a single system to oversee business functions such as planning, producing, and selling, are in danger of seeing revenue leakage.

To avoid these five faults, financial services organisations can benefit from using the right cloud solution to encourage collaboration between the front and back office, enabling them to balance real-time resource demand against resource capacity, forecast capacity long into the future, and more easily convert won opportunities into billable projects.

The past year has made it clear that increased flexibility and agility should be a priority for organisations to keep up with any unforeseen developments, no matter how unlikely they may seem.

 

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Business

HOW FINANCE TEAMS CAN UTILISE MODERN TECHNOLOGIES TO PREDICT AND MITIGATE RISK

Carol Lee, CFO of Wrike

 

There is no denying that the finance function plays an important role in every aspect of ‘doing business’. Although much of ensuring strong financial health, tracking revenue, and managing budgets will take place behind the scenes, all are key ingredients which, ultimately, determine whether a business is successful. This is even more relevant in today’s climate.

Thanks to the ongoing pandemic and resulting economic flux, each and every business has faced financial challenges in recent months. As revenues continue to falter, budgets are tighter than ever and profitability is essential.

Amid the economic uncertainty, CFOs and finance teams are set to play an important role in recovery efforts moving forward. Ensuring financial wealth and a solid revenue stream has never been more important. For many, it has also never been more difficult to achieve.

 

Real-time finance

The modern finance team needs to be about far more than month-end and retrospective quarterly reporting. The pandemic has highlighted how important this statement is, with sudden shifts in consumer demand for certain products and services driving drastic changes in revenue for many businesses. For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, many supermarkets will have seen their revenues increase, whilst restaurants and gyms witnessed significant dips following necessary closures.

In order to survive this time of turmoil, finance teams need to be able to quickly and efficiently adapt to these changes in customer behaviour. Planning projects that are expected to yield profit is no longer enough. Finance teams need to ensure that these projects maintain profitability throughout their lifecycle, controlling financials from the planning phase through client delivery. As such, tracking budget spend in real-time in order to keep margins positive and meet customer expectations is key.

Visibility needs to be front of mind, especially in our new remote working landscape, where face-to-face communications has had to take a backseat. The right performance metrics, delivered on time, can enable finance teams to track and obtain a deeper understanding of how projects and finance strategies are progressing and delivering against set objectives. They can help to determine stress points in the business and articulate events and triggers for certain financial actions to be taken.

When utilised alongside the right modern technologies, they can even help to save projects that aren’t delivering, flagging potential problems and recommending where adjustments should be made.

 

Predicting and mitigating risk

Whether it’s unforeseen additional costs, tight margins, or budget burn, these are the factors that can make or break the success of a project and, ultimately, a business. By using real-time insights, finance teams can play a pivotal role in keeping the entire organisation on track. In order to take this one step further and mitigate any potential risks before they wreak havoc, finance teams need to be able to predict and plan for a series of different outcomes. This is where modern technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can help.

Tools with these technologies can help finance teams to get one step ahead and tackle at-risk projects before they cause any issues. By identifying signals and patterns based on hundreds of factors – including past campaign results, work progress, organisation history and work complexity – they provide extremely timely diagnosis and help to minimise risk throughout the entire organisation. For each project, an automated risk assessment prediction will be issued. For both medium and high risk levels, the machine learning model will also provide a list of factors that could contribute to potential delays. The insights that these reports provide can help to save entire projects.

Once a finance team knows what the potential risk might be, they can turn their attention towards what is truly important – managing and mitigating it. This can be done by assessing a project’s ‘risk tolerance’. Put simply, how much risk can you allow before you need to act. This is an essential part of any project management process, helping finance professionals to decide on the most effective response and ensuring that resources are being used in the most effective way.

As organisations across every sector fight to get back on their feet post-pandemic, ensuring long-term profitability will be a key focus. Many businesses will turn to their finance teams to lead the charge and provide the solutions and recommendations which will ensure future economic survival. As such, having a plan in place to make sure that all projects stay on track and that any potential risks to the business are mitigated before they cause a problem needs to be a priority. By investing in modern technologies – such as AI and ML – today, finance teams are setting themselves up for success tomorrow, no matter what is around the corner.

 

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