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Use technology to help customers unravel complex financial scenarios

Technology upgrades can make you more efficient, but is your customer still confused? With self-service tools and better communication, you can help them see the bigger picture.

Technology upgrades can make you more efficient, but is your customer still confused? With self-service tools and better communication, you can help them see the bigger picture.

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17th November 2021

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Duncan Beatty

Technology upgrades can make you more efficient, but is your customer still confused? With self-service tools and better communication, you can help them see the bigger picture.

Up and down the country, people complain about how processes are “broken”. From buying a house or car, to insuring a bicycle, applying for a credit card, or even buying things online, processes are allegedly broken. The reality is that, yes, many processes need bringing up to date. Some are tired and creaking, understaffed and under-managed (as well as beset with inexperience), reliant on antique regulation, open to corruption by bad actors, or laboriously and mind-numbingly slow. But broken? Perhaps not. I would argue that the primary reason for many people’s frustrations about seemingly broken processes is that expectations are high and communication is poor.

Remember that old nugget about the word “assume”? It will make an ass out of you and me. I first heard it in the 1990s, and groaned at it then as I do now. I’ve strangely come to respect and admire it for its simplicity, largely because we continue to ignore it. People make assumptions all the time, especially in financial services. A bank will assume we understand what adjustable-rate mortgages are, as well as amortisation and annual percentage yield (and I’m only in ‘A’). Some institutions love to befuddle us with self-important acronyms such as ATM (why not cash machine, which is what the rest of us call it?). Self-important terminology serves only to complicate things for ordinary folk unaccustomed to corporate language.

The worst part of this scenario is the assumption that customers will know at what stage of the process amortisation becomes important. Nobody thought to tell them. The process went uncommunicated, and the customer was left uninformed and possibly out of pocket. This is a familiar scenario across many industries, and something I’ve had a lot of personal experience with.

Is there a solution? To slow, creaking, understaffed processes … yes. They may not be easy fixes because they’re often run by lumbering dinosaurs, old technology infrastructures, and archaic regulation. But can communication be fixed sooner? Yes.

Help customers make better financial decisions

We are living in an era of advanced communication technology. We can FaceTime from the UK to New Zealand in a heartbeat. We can travel abroad and our phones will connect to the nearest partner network for instant reception. However, when it comes to corporate situations, many organisations have been slow in adopting better communication practices around available technology. Yet, the main issue isn’t necessarily the technology itself, but rather how it’s used.

Let’s look at that house-buying scenario, for instance. While the complicated process continues – of going from selling with an estate agent, to conveyancing, surveying, searches, and the rest of it – the reason each stage gets stuck in the mud is lack of information communicated to the customer at each stage of the process. Some firms are doing better than others by having secure document upload environments, where you can share docs with solicitors. But what if you didn’t know which doc to upload in the first place? Assumption rears its ugly head at most stages of the house-moving process, when a simple joined-up process would be the best option for the customer.

Imagine the customer has a dashboard with the various stages of moving house illustrated simply, with self-service functionality built in, so that dealing with estate agents, mortgage brokers, banks, solicitors and so on, was all in one place. Important financial decisions often leave customers confused about what their options are. With the ability to see the bigger picture, and the pieces of the puzzle that complete the picture, customers can make better judgement calls over their financial (and legal!) situation.

We helped DF Capital with self-serve capabilities

While automation is fast becoming the go-to technology for making processes lean, the ability to provide communication to customers shouldn’t be ignored. It’s still arguably the most important facet of providing services. It means too much to organisations’ bottom lines to be neglected. For instance, “74% of people have stopped dealing with a company and moved to a competitor due to feeling the company was disorganised”. This is a statistic based on perception, not experience. It’s an incredibly high number, and if it doesn’t compel you to improve how you deal with customers, I don’t know what will.

From bolstering lines of communication to offering more complex and useful self-service functionality, there’s much to improve and achieve. We have our own example to share, where we helped DF Capital create frictionless self-serve digital capabilities, so its customers could make more informed decisions. It’s proof positive that financial institutions are embracing the challenge.

Automated processes will play their part in empowering customers to make better decisions, but unless organisations take the opportunity to apply wisdom in other areas, communication will still suffer.

The key to overall success is letting technology free up resources to help elsewhere. If that happens to be communicating with the customer as they go through a complicated financial scenario, that’s the win-win we’re all looking for. If we continue to make assumptions about how much someone should understand, while we talk in a foreign, mysterious financial language, 74% of people will consider their options. And that could be the lose-lose we’re all trying to avoid.

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