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Creating opportunity from high risk

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Creating opportunity from high risk

Richard Waldman, Group Sales Director at Ultimate Finance 

It’s fair to say that the past ten years have been very tough on SMEs across the UK. It started with the financial crash of 2008 and has continued to 2018, where we’re still no closer to finding out exactly what Brexit will look like. That’s why it’s so disappointing to see that just 69,300 SMEs received loans from banks last year, equating to just 1.2% of UK SMEs.  Of those applications, around 20% of SME bank loans were rejected and considering that the Government’s Bank Referral Scheme has only resulted in £15m of support since launching in November 2016,clearly more needs to be done.

The “Computer says no” approach

Since the economic crash, the focus of many banks and lenders has been to protect themselves. Unfortunately, this means many SMEs continue facing rejection due to being viewed as high-risk businesses. Some banks and alternative lenders have stringent criteria that SMEs must meet before they are considered for financial support. Lenders with this mentality will turn away SMEs that miss just one of those criteria. With the ‘computer says no’ attitude still rife, it’s no surprise rejection remains high.

This attitude means many believe that there are a large number of “high risk” SMEs throughout the UK, but this isn’t strictly true. The figures actually highlight that it is lenders who have tightened up their acceptance criteria.  Being turned down for a loan shouldn’t be seen as the end of the world though – needing additional funding or falling on hard times doesn’t instantly make an SME a bad business. However, one too many rejections may cause business leaders to become disheartened and consider closing their doors, rather than finding the good funding partner they need.

 Increase the options available

So what’s the worst case scenario for businesses that keep getting rejected? It could put budding entrepreneurs off starting-up their business or make it impossible regardless of their hunger. Similarly, it could be the difference between SMEs struggling to scale-up taking the next step and plateauing. When you consider that Britain’s 5.7 million SMEs are the growth engine of the UK economy, not giving them the support needed to thrive can have a huge impact. This is where brokers with strong links to the right funding partner are vitally important.

Although there will always be businesses that don’t qualify for finance due to serious red flags, the vast majority of SMEs should be able to access the financial support they need to thrive. One way for business that are uncertain of their funding options to source financial support is to contact brokers who can assess their needs and quickly match them to specific lenders who they know have an appetite to assist.

SMEs that have been turned down for simple bank loans can evaluate what assets the business has available which could be used as security for additional funding (short or longer term).  Asset finance offers financial support placed against high-value assets such as factory equipment or plant and equipment.  This gives the business security to place the debt against, creating a much more attractive environment for lenders to work in.  Similarly, an unpaid sales ledger is a perfect asset to generate additional funding under an invoice finance facility. Trade finance can be used to help bolster a company’s cashflow by helping to pay suppliers for goods which are to be sold onwards and bridging finance can be used to generate funds for a business using the equity in any property held.

Benefits can be achieved by using brokers who work alongside flexible alternative lenders that can provide a wide variety of options to fit the needs of any SME. With the right partnerships in place, brokers could be the key to unlocking finance for so-called ‘high risk’ SMEs so they don’t suffer in silence.

 Turning high risk into high reward

By viewing so-called high risk businesses as an opportunity, brokers can create long-term relationships with potential clients by constantly adding value through high-level business consultancy. This starts with standard tasks, such as connecting companies struggling with credit scores with credit management experts, or identifying the correct type of funding arrangement required to assist the business and putting them in touch with appropriate lenders who can help.  It shouldn’t stop there though.

While this work is taking place, brokers can stay front of mind by supporting SMEs that had been unfairly deemed “too high risk” by lenders previously. In fact, it’s likely the broker that takes them under their wing, supports them and connects them with the right lender will become the partner that SME turns to whenever it needs help in the future. It will turn what could have been a one-off interaction into a potential long-term relationship that proves fruitful for both the business and the broker.

Time for change

SMEs are increasingly finding the need to seek financial support to hit their full potential thanks to the complexities of today’s business market. If they are constantly rejected, it may have a very negative impact on the company both financially and in terms of morale. By prioritising flexible funding partners with a broad portfolio, brokers can increase the likelihood of turning high risk SMEs into long-term clients. Doing so, while positioning themselves as an indispensable business advisor will inevitably help everyone involved and create a more sustainable business environment.

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Retailers need to deliver better rewards to ensure customer loyalty

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Retailers need to deliver better rewards to ensure customer loyalty 1
  • 62% feel retailers need to improve the ways they reward consumers for shopping with them
  • 55% believe that loyalty programmes rarely offer them the things they actually want or would use
  • 48% want retailers to focus on making the shopping experience better for them, rather than a loyalty programme

Rewards programmes are not delivering on their promise to drive customer loyalty for retailers, according to the latest research from Adyen, the payments platform of choice for many of the world’s leading companies. The majority of customers (55%) say that rewards programmes do not offer things they actually want and that customer experience holds almost equal influence when it comes to loyalty (48%). 

 

The findings come from a report conducted by Adyen exploring how agility will be key for the retail sector as it emerges from the Coronavirus pandemic. The research polled more than 2,000 consumers in the UK in 2020.

 

The results showed that, while rewards and loyalty schemes are still welcomed by many customers, the majority (62%) feel that retailers need to improve how they reward their shoppers.

 

“Every customer counts – especially in the context of the pandemic. Anything retailers can do to keep customers coming back for more is worth exploring. But it goes beyond a loyalty or rewards scheme. The customer experience, both online and in store really matters. Making it as easy as possible to shop is equally as important as other incentives. And, if you do go down the rewards route, a one-size-fits-all approach rarely delivers. You must make the effort to understand your customers and offer something they really want,” said Myles Dawson, UK Managing Director, Adyen.

 

Nearly half of the respondents (48%) want retailers to focus on making the shopping experience better for them, rather than delivering a loyalty programme.  When it comes to an experience that will drive loyalty, customers want a seamless link between online and physical stores. 60% of consumers said they would be more loyal to retailers that let them buy out of stock items in store and have them shipped directly to their home. And 53% said they would be more loyal to retailers that let people buy online and return in store.

 

“The high street is under increasing competition from online retailers who put convenience and usability at the centre of their customer experience. To succeed now, businesses must harness the best of their physical and digital worlds to create amazing experiences. This will increase conversions and also raise the prospects of customer loyalty.

 

“For those consumers that want loyalty schemes, it must be as seamless and easy as possible. 61% of respondents were more likely to shop with a retailer that linked their loyalty scheme to the payment card. By doing this, businesses can track customer buying behaviour and shopper data which lets them offer a more personalised shopping experience,” Dawson concluded.

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The pandemic has changed consumer behaviour and retailers need to adapt

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The pandemic has changed consumer behaviour and retailers need to adapt 2

By Mary Keane-Dawson, Group CEO of TAKUMI

It’s no secret that the retail industry has been badly hit by the pandemic, with the recent collapse of Arcadia and Debenhams providing a harsh reality check as to what the future could hold for brick-and-mortar stores. With all non-essential shops being ordered to close last month, with no re-opening date confirmed, it is inevitable that a natural shift to online platforms would occur.

Online giants, ASOS and Boohoo, have established themselves as the new industry leaders. Both e-commerce giants bought failing Arcadia brands and Debenhams and ruthlessly closed all the retailers’ physical premises. The shift to online in the retail sector has never been more apparent.

Retail brands need to establish their digital presence to serve their consumers’ changing behaviour and to remain competitive in the retail industry.

Capitalising on changing consumer behaviour

The pandemic has meant consumer needs have adapted, which in turn has led to a shift in consumer behaviour. Retailers need to capitalise on changing consumer behaviour to remain relevant, but more importantly profitable.

The ‘stay at home’ message from the government, which has been almost constant throughout the past 12 months, has meant many consumers have started to become more reliant on online channels and platforms.

Supermarkets, such as Aldi and Co-Op, responded to this change in consumer behaviour by deciding to serve their customers on delivery apps, such as Deliveroo. As fewer people were ‘popping to the shops’ due to lockdown restrictions, supermarkets reacted by offering an instant delivery service, essentially where the ‘shop pops to you’.

The shift to online platforms and influencer marketing

Retail brands need to follow suit and adapt their ways of working to reflect this shift to e-commerce. Ted Baker, the premium fashion retailer, has admitted its disappointing online sales figures last quarter could be due to its slow response to the shift to ecommerce. The retailer is aiming to “significantly improve” its online shopping platform because of this.

As the shift to online platforms accelerates, retailers need to start investing in digital marketing, for example influencer marketing, to ensure their brand stays at the forefront of their consumers’ minds. Evan Horowitz, CEO of Movers+Shakers, a creative agency, explained in our whitepaper in August how the pandemic has led his company to increase its influencer marketing as “influencers are more influential than ever”.

As such, many traditional retailers have started exploring the benefits of influencer marketing. Wickes, in partnership with TAKUMI, launched the UK’s first ever home improvement industry TikTok campaign to reach a new audience with authentic and creative content and to drive awareness of its range of products. Our whitepaper, Into the Mainstream: Influencer Marketing in Society, which surveyed over 3,500 consumers, marketers, and influencers across the US, UK, and Germany, found that almost three-quarters of marketers (73%) upped spend on influencer marketing in the past 12 months, with spending significantly increasing in the retail (79%) sector.

It seems inevitable that more brands will continue to invest in influencer marketing with social media’s popularity increasing as we start to enter a post-pandemic world.

Using social media as a tool to respond to changing consumer behaviour

With marketers upping their influencer marketing spend, many social media platforms have also responded to the growing popularity of ecommerce.

Instagram redesigned its layout to ensure its Shopping and Reels tabs were given more prominence. The Instagram shopping feature allows brands to attach a virtual shopping tag to their ads on the platform. People can click on a tagged item and then be re-directed to the brands’ product webpage.

Similarly, TikTok’s rising popularity has led it to launch its own ecommerce offering. Last October, TikTok announced a partnership with Shopify. This partnership will enable Shopify merchants to create, run and optimise TikTok marketing campaigns that will attract consumers from TikTok’s growing user base.

Instagram and TikTok are slowly evolving from content platforms to ecommerce hubs. This transformation coincides with the rise in consumers shopping online following the pandemic.

What’s to come for retailers, post-pandemic?

Consumer behaviour is changing and the pandemic has accelerated the shift towards social media and ecommerce. Retail brands need to recognise that the shift to online is here to stay.

To remain relevant, brands need to allocate appropriate budgets to digital marketing channels. Interestingly, our whitepaper found it was marketers from traditional media channels that were increasing their influencer marketing spend the most, demonstrating that the shift to digital marketing has already begun. Retail brands need to start to prepare themselves for the post-pandemic retail environment to avoid ending up like Arcadia and Debenhams.

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5 Trends Driving the Future of Customer Service in 2021 and Beyond

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5 Trends Driving the Future of Customer Service in 2021 and Beyond 3

By Matt McConnell, CEO of Intradiem

2020 ignited radical shifts for contact centre operations with the move to a remote work environment. Our customers say this trend is more of a permanent transformation – one that uncovers trends that include more flexible operations and greater efficiencies in leveraging contact centre data.

Trend 1: The Remote Agent Model is Here to Stay, Permanently

Historically, many IT teams discouraged remote working for customer service teams, but it was quickly proven virtual contact centres could work and offered a significant upside. The average annual cost to physically house a call centre agent is approximately $8,300 per agent in the United States. If a 200-person contact centre decided to move only half of its agents to home offices, that translates to $830,000 in annual real estate cost savings.

Working remotely also opened the doors to reach talent and hiring beyond a specific geography. For example, call centres based in rural locations who may have exhausted their local talent pool can bring in quality agents from anywhere in the world.

Trend 2: The Role of AI will be to Support Human Agents, Not Replace

Despite many years of buzz, it’s worth acknowledging that AI cannot entirely replace one-on-one human interaction in customer service (yet, or maybe ever). Many interactions with chatbots or other entirely automated CX tools only drive the escalation of customer issues rather than resolving them at the first touchpoint.

Instead, AI is best used to assist and manage agents to help them work more efficiently. For example, AI-powered technology can reduce handle time by auto-populating call notes or automatically log agents into or out of applications to further save time.

AI will provide an added layer of support as a management tool to keep agents on track in remote environments. AI also enables better connectivity for customer service teams and enables agents to receive consistent communications and Information they need to excel in their role in serving customers.

Trend 3: A Swift Migration to the Cloud

Call centres have been notoriously slow to move to the cloud. In the past, this has not been an issue when centres use on-premise technologies. With fully remote call centres, companies must reconsider their approach to the cloud.

Call centres can no longer rely on on-premise data with a decentralised workforce. Often their information is locked up in data centres, while operations remain outside of the office. Moving to the cloud offers more flexible operations, easier access to data and substantial cost saving, but only if call centres tap the right partners to make the most of the shift.

Trend 4: The Emergence of Predictive Analytics

Call centres generate an enormous amount of time-sensitive data that must be gathered and analysed in real-time to effectively manage their operations. Without real-time capabilities, Insights gathered on a Monday may only be contextualised later that day or week. This is not impactful as the time to act has passed and call centre conditions have already changed.

Looking beyond 2021, we will see call centres take their analytics a step further to go beyond real-time analytics, and into predictive analytics.  This will leverage real-time data at scale to offer preventive support to both agents and customers, moving call centres from reactive to proactive. Instead of waiting for a customer to call with an issue, centres can leverage historical data to reach out pre-emptively.

The same approach can be used to identify agents who struggle or may be experiencing burnout earlier in order to reduce attrition rates. A smarter mindset on data will revolutionise how call centres operate and in turn, companies will see higher customer and agent retention.

Trend 5: Real-Time Technologies Will Be Applied to the Back-Office

We will also see companies increasingly apply call centre technologies to their back-office operations. They will start to leverage back-office data in real-time to cut down on wasted hours and better track employee activities.

This part of the business has not been managed with the same technology investment as the call centre, leading to inefficiencies where back-office employees may struggle with certain tasks or spend time in non-work applications. Now, companies will be able to use AI-powered technologies to drive productivity gains in the back-office — leading to significant savings to the bottom line.

2020 served as the inflection point for call centre transformation. The shift to remote work unlocked new uses of technology and opportunities thought impossible before. We are now at the tip of the iceberg, as successful call centres will continue to innovate and think differently on how they can improve their operations in the new year and beyond.

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