By Jaime Scott, CEO and co-founder of quality assurance and agent improvement platform, EvaluAgent
The potential of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation to transform customer service is certainly nothing new. However advances in AI-adjacent technologies, such as chatbots, have both made AI-powered technologies more accessible, and led to increased attention around the potential of AI to revolutionise the way businesses interact with their customers.
Particularly given the additional strain that the COVID-19 pandemic has put on customer support teams across the financial services industry, through a combination of increased queries from customers and staff shortages through either illness or furlough, customer service teams are highly likely to be under increased pressure.
Subsequently, using AI to automate certain aspects of customer contact could allow customer support teams, and the businesses they serve, to offer a higher level of service while cutting down overhead costs and improving cash-flow.
But how exactly might this look?
Automating simpler queries
Time spent on complaint-handling directly correlates with customer perceptions of good service, as evidenced by research from Forrester, which revealed that more than three quarters of customers (77%) believe that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to demonstrate good customer service.
Simply enough, customers want their query handled quickly and efficiently. To this end, as AI –specifically, related technologies such as smart chatbots and Natural Language Processing (NLP) – becomes more widely accessible, we are increasingly likely to see businesses automating more basic, transactional customer-facing tasks that require less of the emotive, empathetic touch a human agent can provide, in order to speed up response time for simpler queries. For example, Barclays recently made headlines for using AI to streamline its reporting process for lost or stolen cards, allowing the business to improve the speed at which it replaced missing cards by 67%.
This automation will also free up a lot of agents’ time during the working day, which allows them to spend more time and energy assisting customers with the trickier, more emotive queries; solving more complex issues that will make more of a difference to customers in the long run. After all, in a sector as intricate as financial services, customer loyalty is built on compliant handling. No two complaints are quite the same, and should not be treated as such.
For example, while queries such as balance checks could easily be handled through a combination of an online product and a chatbot, queries such as insurance claims will require a far more nuanced, expert touch to handle to the customer’s satisfaction.
Research shows a clear correlation between query complexity and a desire for direct human contact rather than technology. While customers prefer more convenient, automated channels, such as email and self-serve, for simpler queries, the preference for human contact (either face-to-face or telephone) increases during more complex, emotive queries such as making a complaint, or resolving a more difficult or embarrassing matter.
For example, while the survey found that automated self-service platforms were preferred by 25% of consumers for handling “simple” queries (compared with 4% for complex queries), telephone calls were preferred by 35% of respondents for complex queries, compared with 23% for simple enquiries.
Empowering customer support agents
By automating simple queries, the rise of AI will increase demand for human interaction from customers and make skilled, capable agents all the more important to businesses looking to differentiate and stand out from the chasing pack.
This need will incentivise businesses to provide their agents with more extensive, specialised training, with an emphasis on emotional intelligence and soft skills in addition to advanced product knowledge. Agents are then empowered to better become the customer service experts their employers and customers need; leveraging their empathy, authenticity and effectiveness to build a genuine rapport with customers and increase customer loyalty.
Furthermore, this training can be augmented with personalised coaching and feedback, delivered through digital platforms and even augmented by AI that helps to highlight areas for improvement. Through this, agents are empowered to constantly upskill and advance their skillset, promoting a culture of continuous improvement across the customer support team.
Offering truly bespoke customer service
AI, through its capacity to collate and analyse huge volumes of data almost instantly, has particularly interesting applications in the customer support space, in terms of improving agents’ access to customer data.
For example, AI is capable of immediately gathering all relevant data from a company’s CRM system, arming the agent with the tools they need at the beginning of a customer call to effectively and sensitively handle the query.
A simple example of the customer information that could be gathered and used includes previous interactions the business has had with a specific customer across various contact channels, such as email and even social media. Subsequently, agents have all of the information needed in one place ahead of engaging with a customer; saving both the customer and the agent time, and significantly increasing the agents’ capacity to handle the complaint to the customer’s satisfaction at the first time of asking.
Companies can use this data to create more detailed profiles of their customer base, focused around specific customer needs and preferences, such as favoured contact channels and even time of contact, to deliver a personalised service at scale, specifically tailored to unique customer needs. This can in turn increase customer satisfaction and retention rates.
Simply enough, AI will revolutionise how financial services customer support teams service their customers, but not how you may think. The volume of enquiries can be reduced, and so can costs. However forward-thinking leaders, those looking to build a strategic competitive advantage and increase customer loyalty, will recongise its true power.
Namely, AI can – and will – empower more compassionate, skilled agents who are able to provide an impeccable level of service across all channels and get crucial contact right first time, so financial services businesses don’t just survive, but thrive, throughout COVID-19 and beyond.
The case for AI technology adoption in financial back-office roles to improve efficiency
By Tomas Gogar, AI CEO, Rossum
In this era, digital transformation isn’t anything new. Nonetheless, it can still cause a lot of confusion and resistance for some companies, many of which are often slow, unwilling or unable to implement the necessary changes to embrace technology. As a result, entire industries are barely scratching the surface when it comes to shifting to the digital world, and many, from the insurance industry to logistics and delivery are still catching up on the digital transformation.
The banking and financial sector have been notoriously slow in adapting to the online world. They paid the high price for it, giving way to a flurry of incredibly successful new disruptive players, built on cutting edge tech from the ground up. From Transferwise, Revolut or Venmo, to GoCardless, this new generation of fintech companies addressed consumers changing expectations in a way that traditional retails banks simply couldn’t.
To catch up, incumbent players have prioritised the user interfaces, giving the appearance of a digital offering, and oftentimes leaving the back end infrastructure untouched, and hence the processing power, accuracy and speed unaffected. Back-office functions, although they are essential to the smooth running of a business, have seen very little change and as a result, too many people in these functions are still tied up typing information into spreadsheets and software forms – in fact, manual data entry is a prime example of how much resources the offline legacy wastes. Take Accounts Payable for example, invoice data entry in this sector is estimated to eat up roughly 100 human lives worth of time every single day.
With the significant increase in the number of employees working from home due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the back-office challenges have suddenly come to light, and finally, companies that got away with minimal changes so far, are realising that they need a structural digital overhaul, and fast. We believe the solution to this is artificial intelligence backed software solutions.
Previous technology based solutions essentially did half the job, heavily depending on human fact checking. Consequently, these solutions were actually quite cumbersome and time consuming and costly to implement and maintain, and offered only incremental improvements. Now with AI, automises data processing completely removing the need for human fact checking (and human error!). Additionally, deployment is massively simplified with an average setup time of one week, compared to about 6 months for previous technologies. AI solutions are also highly adaptable to new formats and scenarios, allowing businesses to test them in say one department and to quickly roll out a single unified solution across all functions of the business. Data can be extracted from any invoice layout with no template or rule set-up, saving significant and effort. Rather than trying to change and standardise a highly fragmented environment (there are about as many invoice formats as there are businesses), AI can work with it, and optimise the overall process and offer a unified answer to a fragmented ecosystem.
Taking Accounts Payable as an example again, this is a sector that has relied by and large on Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software solutions in an attempt to remove some of the manual labour involved in reading processing and filing invoices. Although OCR did improve the processes to a certain degree, ultimately these types of solutions still required a long and expensive set up processes and a lot of manual labour to actually capture the data accurately with templates and manual data entry. Now, with AI software, like the one we have created, this is a solution that makes data extraction simple and easy, saving time and man power, as well as building on existing infrastructure. It has the ability to transform this industry.
In conclusion, for a sector that has been slow to adopt digital change, AI is THE technology answer that is finally fixing the invisible pain points that businesses had simply accepted as unremovable. AI applied in this way offers a viable way forward and businesses that were notoriously slow and resistant to embrace the digital transition, incentivised to make a change, may actually end up at the head of the pack. Skipping ‘older tech’ and jumping straight into AI solutions, the best scenario available by far, is indeed the smartest, fastest and most cost effective way to transition into the digital world.
InsurTech is helping to drive the digital evolution of the UK motor retail industry
By Alan Inskip, Tempcover CEO & Founder
If the last nine months have made anything clear, it is that the pandemic has fundamentally changed both buying and driving habits for UK motorists. The latest Tempcover research has revealed that online-only used car sales had increased fifteen-fold during the pandemic among 2,000 survey respondents.
Before lockdown, just 4% of used car sales were fully-digital. The vast majority of those surveyed opted for either a physical purchase (50%) or a digitally-assisted purchase (45%), relying on a combination of digital tools and an in person viewing or road test before buying.
While car sales overall are down on last year’s figures*, one in six (17%) of those surveyed had bought a used car during lockdown, with two thirds (64%) relying on a fully-digital purchase journey. Digitally-assisted purchases counted for one in five (20%) used car sales, while in person sales fell to just 15% – no surprise considering the ongoing social distancing measures.
And when it comes to arranging insurance for their recently-purchased vehicle, our survey participants displayed an equal balance between telephone and online as the preferred method (48% each). Nearly a third of those (28%) said they wait up to ten minutes for their policy to be confirmed, and a further 22% wait as long as 20 minutes to get cover.
The switch to digital insurance, driven by InsurTech
In the midst of rapid and significant market changes, many traditional insurers have lacked the agility and flexibility to adapt accordingly. InsurTech can provide immense value in bridging that gap, as the digital solutions are entirely scalable, with the flexibility to substantially increase in size and across multiple geographies, with minimal disruption.
The ongoing decline of physical transactions in the motor retail industry is a perfect example of how InsurTech is adding value. Several national blue-chip dealerships, with both physical and digital showroom floors, are already streamlining their online purchase process by offering temporary driveaway insurance policies to cover the vehicle for a fixed-term, usually between five to seven days, as part of the purchase journey.
The entirely online one-step user experience is the first of its kind in the traditionally outdated and inflexible driveaway insurance industry and it is dramatically simplifying the process of how insurance is purchased and consumed. Due to the flexibility and agility of the digital solution, each retailer has its own unique URL, where the customer can obtain a simple single-cost policy in just 90 seconds through an entirely digital process, which fits in line with the evolving consumer purchase trends.
For the dealers, this technology means more efficient stock clearance times and greater profitability. For the buyers, it takes the stress out of searching for annual insurance on the spot, and provides the driver with near instant cover so that they can immediately drive their new car, while giving them the opportunity to thoroughly research the best annual policy to suit their needs. An added benefit is there’s no risk to any existing No Claims Discount, as it’s a separate and standalone policy.
While there is a chance these trends will reverse to some extent post pandemic, it is clear that the consumer appetite for digital purchase and consumption is here to stay, and InsurTech will continue to lead the way in making motor insurance more easily-accessible across digital platforms, while offering consumers the best value for money.
Five ways enterprises are using the public cloud
By Michael Chalmers, MD EMEA at Contino
The public cloud is the most significant enabler in a generation. It’s causing a massive shift in how businesses are operating and tearing apart previous business models.
Amid challenging economic times, it’s inevitable that spending within IT is dropping. However, the cloud is the only segment that is still growing. The public cloud is increasingly becoming a central element of enterprise IT.
Contino asked 250 IT decision-makers at enterprise companies across Europe, USA and APAC within companies of over 5,000 employees about their views on the state of the public cloud within their organisation at the beginning of 2020. Nearly all of them (99%) saw a significant technical benefit compared with on-premises.
Here are some other ways public cloud is being used by enterprises:
- Widely, albeit not yet business wide.
A whopping 77% of enterprises are using the public cloud in some capacity. Overall, 50% of businesses are utilising a hybrid cloud, 22% single private cloud, 20% multi-cloud, 7% single public cloud and only 1% are using only on-premises.
But only 13% of businesses have a fully-fledged public cloud program. The largest set of respondents (42%) have multiple apps/projects deployed in the cloud. 24% were still working on initial proofs-of-concept, and 18% were in the planning stages.
83% of respondents said they want to grow their cloud program. Almost half (48%) do wish to grow, but with caution, while 36% want to move as quickly as possible.
Only 4% plan to revert to on-premises but are in no rush to do so.
- To enhance security and compliance versus on-premises, although these are still also seen as barriers to adoption.
A massive 64% of respondents stated they find this more secure than on-premises, and only 7% see it to be less secure. 72% found it easier to stay compliant with business data in the cloud versus only 4% who found it harder. However, 48% cited that their biggest barrier for not using the cloud was security, and 37% stated the need to remain compliant was the most prevalent blocker.
Other challenges also posed a barrier: a lack of skills, the cost to purchase and cloud-native operating models not working with existing investments made up 29-32% of responses.
19% stated that lack of leadership buy-in is the biggest barrier, reflecting that a significant number of IT departments have a need for this solution but have not been provided with the support to do so. However, relatively speaking, this was one of the least-cited barriers.
- For improved efficiency, scalability and agility, but vendor lock-in is still a major concern.
The top three cited technical benefits of public cloud were better efficiency, agility and scalability versus on-premises. However, 63% of IT professionals were ‘somewhat’ or ‘very much’ afraid of the commitment that can come with investing in the cloud. This is another major barrier that is preventing businesses from migrating to the cloud.
Only 23% are not afraid of being locked in and a meagre 5% have no fear at all. However, the fact that 77% of businesses are using the cloud shows any risk of being locked in is outweighed by the benefits of the cloud.
- To align IT with the business.
This is by far the most cited business benefit of the public cloud. 100% of those surveyed witnessed varied business benefits versus on-premises. Other major benefits include the ability to focus on new revenues (43%), accelerated time-to-market (43%), and increased ROI (40%).
- To accelerate innovation and increases cost-effectiveness.
Innovating in the cloud was quicker for 81% of respondents. What’s more, not one person surveyed said the cloud slowed down their innovation. 79% have saved money with the cloud and only 5% have found it more of an expense than on-premises.
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