"Where to start such a digital transformation is sometimes a conundrum"
Structural and regulatory change, the challenges of lockdown, and historically low interest rates, have combined to make things tough for the financial services sector, and it’s not over yet. It’s a fact not lost on the FCA, which has just launched its fifth financial resilience survey.
Core market stresses are being exacerbated further by the high expectations of customers, who, accustomed to the service offered by online retailers, increasingly demand a similar experience from every organisation they deal with. Those who fail to deliver are likely to find themselves losing market share.
The rising share of revenue coming from ongoing advice services — up to 74 per cent in 2020 from 70 per cent the previous year — and the corresponding fall in initial and one-off fees, starkly highlights the critical need for intermediaries to improve customer experience (CX) if they are to build and maintain the kind of relationships that will preserve their income long-term.
However, in this increasingly dynamic marketplace, advisers can’t rely on product providers’ systems to help them create that difference and must give greater priority to generating and capitalising on their own CX opportunities.
The only way to satisfy the market need for speed and streamlined convenience is to harness digital technology into every crevice of the business, in ways that fundamentally affect how value is delivered to customers.
Only by doing this, can advisers continue to provide the quality of service their customers are seeking out.
Taking the first step
Where to start such a digital transformation is sometimes a conundrum, but organisations looking to make a difference as quickly as possible – the quick wins – should consider the potential role of a single enterprise information platform, as a first step. This would bring immediate whole-business benefits in terms of managing content, processes and cases across the business, releasing it from the previous data silos created by different business lines. Instituting such a system is minimally disruptive and provides a highly flexible platform that can be swiftly adapted to future strategic needs.
An experienced solutions provider will then be able to introduce you to the likes of robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), all of which offer smoother behind-the-scenes operations, as well as providing the speed, accuracy and seamlessness of front office processes that exceptional CX is built upon.
Being on the right path
All of that can only be done successfully when you have a clear understanding of the customer journey, because only then can you create the right content and deliver it through the right channels so that the optimal customer interaction is created at every touchpoint.
To achieve this means looking at the business through fresh eyes. Where are the ‘dead spots’ where things slow down or get stuck? What are the ‘moments of inconvenience’ for your team that require workarounds, or have to be tolerated, no matter how irritating? Having to switch screens or software to find the data you’re looking for is a clear sign that there is an inefficiency in the system.
While creating tailor-made solutions from the ground up is generally preferable, that’s not always practical, given resource constraints. Fortunately, thanks to intelligent capture technology and machine learning, it’s now much easier to incorporate new technology into legacy systems to give them a new lease of life. This is certainly a better option than waiting for the perfect time to retire old tech, which just gives your competition more time to move ahead.
Embracing the new reality
But whether new or legacy tech is involved, there must be robust oversight of any kind of digital transformation project, to avoid a negative impact on customers.
You may be creating a response to exceptional events or looking to ensure the smoothest possible day-to-day running – either requires both institutions and intermediaries to understand each other’s operational frameworks, so they can align their service delivery, then provide it seamlessly to the customer. This is of particular importance where, for example, a digital-only lender uses brokers who do much of their business on the phone.
There is no doubt the pandemic has accelerated what is now an irreversible shift towards digitalisation in the financial services sector. As with any major underlying change, this has created opportunities for those willing to embrace them, while simultaneously bringing with it new challenges, given the operational and cultural change it imposes.
Participating successfully in this new reality means not doing what you have always done but finding ways to better tailor your products, services and processes so that, once captured, your customers have no reason to leave.