Michiel Lely, VP of Practices, EMEA at Verint
It’s no secret that banks have looked to move many of their services to online solutions in response to the growing consumer demand for digital, and in an effort to manage cost. This has manifested itself in dramatic fashion across the banking industry, most notably on the high street. Since January 2015, more than 1,000 bank branches have closed in the UK. But are banks acting too rashly in replacing that human touch with digital channels, and do they risk alienating their customers who crave a more human experience?
To answer this question, we studied the preferences of 24,000 consumers from 12 countries across the globe. We also asked more than 1,000 organisations worldwide about the digital and traditional customer service channels they are prioritising and investing in. The results are loud and clear – banks need to work hard to get the balance right between the human and digital customer experience.
It all comes down to the human touch
Despite the rapid rise of technologies like AI (artificial intelligence), wearable technology and the plethora of automated services and channels available, consumers across the world still crave the human touch in today’s digital-first world. In fact, four out of five (81%) UK respondents preferred that human customer service interactions remain a part of customer service in the future.
As branch closures continue across the UK, banks should heed this warning. While managing their account online is the most popular way to contact banks in the UK (49%), going into the branch comes second, as the preference of almost a third of customers (32%). Closing branches therefore means that banks are hitting a significant portion of their customer base, by making it harder to use their preferred contact method.
While there is clearly demand for digital services, which is only going to get stronger with the rise of Millennials and Generation Z, the human touch remains vital. Banks need to ensure that they are educating their customers on the benefits of other contact channels, and ensure that they are comfortable using them. By removing one channel, they are responsible for taking the customer on a journey to another. Those who fail here could risk losing valuable business to more customer-centric competitors.
A digital experience for the technological age
Banks are responding to technological change and leading the way in the adoption of digital technologies – including biometrics for authentication and security purposes, and AI. They offer customers new ways of engaging with them across digital channels. However, despite the promise of a digital future and the demand from younger generations, only 10% of UK consumers said they preferred to contact their bank using mobile apps, for example.
There is certainly more work to be done to improve the digital experience. More than half (55%) of UK consumers and 91% of businesses globally feel that customer service online, and via mobile devices, needs to be faster and more intuitive to serve users. As banks look to lead their customers on a digital journey, demonstrating that the new experience is founded in greater speed, deeper insight, and better desired outcomes, is crucial. But it won’t be easy.
Getting the balance right is a complex task
Banks need to strike a balance between embracing the digital technologies of the modern age, while taking care not to alienate those that have a more traditional preference for their customer service. This means embracing the full range of potential contact channels and offering a truly omnichannel experience. This is particularly important as consumers contact banks for a huge range of reasons, from a simple balance check to complaints, fraud, and far more complex matters. And this complexity is a crucial factor, adding another layer to the question of which contact channel consumers prefer.
Our research showed a strong trend across dealings with all organisations, but particularly banks, that the greater the complexity of the query, the greater the preference for more traditional human lines of communications. Almost a third of UK customers prefer to go in-store (32%) for complex enquiries, while 37% prefer to connect via phone. The closest digital channel for complex customer service situations is live chat, but only 7% of consumers opt for this.
To fulfil the communication needs of all their customers, banks need to make sure they have a full tapestry of both digital and traditional channels. This includes factoring in the range of customer preferences for different contact channels, and their preference based on the complexity of the query.
A final word of warning
As consumers become more digitally savvy, banks continue to evolve customer engagement strategies, implementing more cost-effective digital channels. But there is a clear word of caution: consumers still want that human touch – as our research across 24,000 consumers clearly highlights. This dynamic means that banks must be aware that in their eagerness to embrace the digital future, they cannot neglect human interaction, or their customer-centric past.
How can businesses celebrate Halloween virtually?
Bring the spooky season to life by virtually gathering the team for fun activities during October. Even though this year’s celebrations will look a bit different, don’t let the restrictions of remote working stop the fun. Plan a virtual Halloween party and lead up to it with spooky but socially distanced activities to build suspense.
- Host a virtual halloween party
The Halloween tradition of a spooky soiree should definitely be on the cards for your remote team. Flesh out a part of your team’s schedule near the 31st October for some creepy fun.
Consider those devilish details, pre-arrange your party activities to avoid any deathly silences (and even more terrifying, ghosting!) at your event. Take inspiration from our virtual Halloween celebration ideas to make it the best virtual halloween party ever.
- Organise a murder mystery game
Has anyone on your remote team been acting suspiciously on Slack lately? A virtual murder mystery game could get to the bottom of the matter.
After selecting a theme, designate a host and have them secretly select a perpetrator before writing up clues for the rest of the team. Have the team follow a virtual scavenger hunt of hints before making their grand accusations at the virtual Halloween party.
To delve even deeper into the murder mystery, have the host create characters for each team member with big personalities to match!
- Host a costume competition
It wouldn’t be Halloween without a costume competition, complete with a prize for the most impressive outfit. Whilst there are some foolproof classic Halloween options like ghosts, witches, pirates and vampires, drawing new ideas from our current moment can yield some hilarious results.
- Collaborate on a spooky party playlist
Sure, Spotify has a whole host of spooky playlists (this one called Spooky is a fine example), but it’s much more fun to create a new one as a team.
From the Monster Mash to Rhianna’s Disturbia to Van Halen’s Running with the Devil, feed in the funky favourites ready for the virtual dance floor.
- Challenge your team to a virtual pumpkin carving competition
A low-cost way to ignite some creativity in your team, set a challenge to create the best Jack-O-Lantern with a prize for the most frightening result.
There are no fancy tools required to carve your first pumpkin. Check out some pumpkin carving tutorials to get you started and remember, safety first, advise your team to go slow if it’s their first time experimenting with this special Halloween skill.
- Get creative with your virtual backgrounds
Host your morning check-in in an eerie forest. Catch up for your one-on-one (1:1) in an abandoned fairground. Hold your all-staff meetings while being chased by zombies.
The spine-tingling opportunities are endless when you’re using video chat and Google images.
Getting started with one-on-one (1:1s)? Download our Ultimate Guide to Running 1:1s to help you get the most out of your meetings.
- Stream a Halloween movie together
Hosting a team movie watching party can be an amazing way to bond through the shared experience of terror. Set a time and date to tune in together then have a full debrief at your team catch-up the next morning.
Choose a movie that’s easy to find; classics are always a good option (and tend not to be too terrifying) – try Alien, The Birds or Jaws.
Alternatively, you can stream it all together using Netflix Party.
- Start a horror book club
A spooky novel can also be a fun way to engage with your team that can last over several weeks. Horror is one of the all-time great book club themes and experiencing a terrifying novel with others can stop you from going down a spooky rabbit hole alone.
Assign a host of the club and get them to ask the group questions about the books scariest moments and most terrifying themes. Sharing any spooky facts about the book can also give your book club an edge. For example, did you know that the idea of Dracula came to author Bram Stoker in a wild nightmare that was suspected to have been caused by bad seafood?
Have lots of book lovers at your workplace? Start a virtual book club and keep the book club tradition going throughout the entire year!
Employment Hero, one of Australia’s fastest-growing tech companies
Five key challenges CIOs in insurance will face over the next 12 months
By Andrew Jenkins, Principal in the CIO & Technology Officers Practice at Odgers Berndtson, discusses five challenges CIOs will face as the world emerges into the new normal.
Even before the pandemic, CIOs in insurance had their hands full. Many insurance companies – which have historically been digital laggards – were increasingly embarking on ventures to embed customer-focused products, integrate disparate systems and data structures, and use technology to implement organisational redesign. Now, with companies six months into the pandemic, these programmes have become that much harder to implement and a number of new hurdles have emerged that technology leaders will also have to overcome. These are five of the key challenges CIOs in the insurance industry will face over the next 12 months:
1.) Implementing Agile transformation in a remote environment
Pre-pandemic, Agile transformation – the process of adapting the values, principles and practices of an organisation so that it can react rapidly to change – had been gaining traction among insurers. This was particularly true of those that saw the benefits it could bring in driving a customer-oriented approach to product development. However, Agile relies on teams physically co-locating together and using the power of shared knowledge and rapid communication. With the UK and other countries shifting in and out of lockdowns, CIOs will face an uphill battle when trying to introduce Agile programmes among entirely remote workforces. At the very least it will require the implementation of technology that can enable the same sort of collaborative environment a physical office provides.
2.) Changing the cultural mindset about the customer journey.
Insurance is a very commoditised industry and has historically focused on digital transformation to drive cost efficiency – the aim being to provide the most competitive premiums. However, market share is increasingly being consumed by firms that are investing in their approach to customer engagement and using technology to transform the end-to-end customer journey. For the leadership teams of many insurers this might seem like an unorthodox approach to digital transformation. CIOs will therefore need to work hard to bring their fellow executives round to the idea that digital innovation for the customer is more profitable than digital innovation to reduce back-end costs – it’s a cultural mindset shift that will also need to permeate through the organisation if the CIO wants to truly transform the approach to customer engagement.
3.) Adapting the business model to make greater use of public and private cloud platforms
Using cloud platforms – whether that is working with a cloud provider or investing in a private platform – can improve the speed to market for new products, enhance the claims experience for customers and help firms expand globally. There are now insurers that have built leading policy, claims and underwriting platforms simply in partnership with Google. However, like customer engagement, CIOs face an embedded mindset within the executive team, where the idea of cloud investment is often still viewed as just a method to modernise legacy infrastructure. CIOs will need to change the hearts and minds of fellow c-suite executives if their company is to truly unlock the power of cloud technology.
4.) Implementing technology to maintain and build culture in a mixed workforce
A mixed model of on-site and remote working is the future of work. Especially as countries seesaw between implementing and lifting lockdowns, workforces will be made up of hybrid digital and on-site employees. Working closely with the people function, CIOs will need to consider the sort of technology that can maintain team cohesion, ensure visibility so that remote and on-site employees are performance managed equally, and that will enable people to mimic the ‘watercooler’ moments remotely. Most employees now expect a blended remote and on-site working lifestyle. Insurance firms will therefore need a technology infrastructure that replicates for remote employees both the collateral learning that comes from sitting next to someone and the collective engagement that comes from office camaraderie.
5.) Adopt newly defined leadership traits
When Coronavirus began to upend both the social and business environment, certain leadership traits quickly emerged as the most successful for navigating organisations through the crisis. The best c-suite leaders demonstrated a desire to communicate consistently and to convey a message of ‘we’re all in this together’. When managing the most distressing aspects of the virus’ impact, they used compassion, empathy and humility to connect with their teams and displayed genuine authenticity, regardless of the function they led. Importantly, the most successful leaders were, and still are, making brave decisions at speed, and are now either building upon or adapting their organisation’s cultural identity to instil a sense of purpose in the workplace. Due to the demands of the pandemic, CIOs have found themselves in the hotseat and their role is central in guiding organisations out of the crisis; adopting these new leadership traits will be paramount to their success in achieving this.
CIOs in insurance face a particularly tough challenge – an industry that is on the one hand taking steps to redefine itself digitally, but on the other is still working under traditional approaches to technology, all of which is taking place during a global pandemic. To come out stronger on the other side, CIOs will need to convince their fellow c-suites of the benefits of investing in the customer journey, help their business unlock the power of the cloud, and make remote-working a long-term success that coincides with transformation. Finally, and while it may seem obvious, they should remember that the world has changed, and that this change demands a new quality of leadership.
LightArt’s Project Demonstrate What The Future Hold For Real Estate Market
This piece explores how LightArt byTom John Or-Paz seeks to leverage art to improve neighborhoods at scale in the branded real estate sector.
Tom John Or-Paz’s LightArt Project Demonstrates What The Future Hold For Real Estate Market
Urban neighborhoods across many cities of the world have been recording a rapid rise in gentrification over the last few decades. Sometimes, multiple neighborhoods in the same city are gentrified simultaneously, as in the case of Washington DC with close to 150 gentrified neighborhoods between 2000 and 2013.
Depending on who you ask, gentrification could either be seen as a blessing, a curse, or a mix of both. Urban theorist Richard Florida observes that gentrification is a symptom and potentially a cure, for the scarcity of quality urbanism.
In his words, “the driving force behind gentrification is the far larger process of spiky reurbanization—itself propelled by large-scale public and private investment in everything from transit, schools, and parks to private research institutions and housing redevelopment.” This peice explores how LightArt, a new player in the branded real estate industry seeks to leverage art to improve neighborhoods at scale.
The process of gentrification and its impact on real estate
There’s no single all-encompassing definition for gentrification but it broadly refers to a process by which a neighborhood experiences some infrastructural and socioeconomic changes due to a surge in real estate investments and an influx of new higher-income residents into an erstwhile historically disinvested neighborhood.
On the plus side, gentrification can transform disinvested neighborhoods into thriving centers of economic prosperity. The influx of real estate investments leads to the renovation of infrastructure, parks, and public areas. The rise in construction activity leads to a job boom, and the newly-opened service and retail businesses also hire more people. There’s also been a direct correlation between gentrified neighborhoods and an increase in the property tax base which in turn provides more funding for local public schools and makes the local police force better equipped.
On the other side of the coin, there are arguments that gentrification eventually prices out longtime residents of a neighborhood from renting or buying properties in a place they’ve called home for decades. There’s also the argument that lower-income residents of gentrifying neighborhoods often become economically marginalized. Another critical but unquantifiable effect of gentrification is the argument that it destroys the soul of neighborhoods.
How LightArt wants to merge art and real estate to improve the curb appeal of neighborhoods at scale
Tom John Or-Paz, a millionaire entrepreneur believes that art can be a valuable tool to improve the curb appeal of neighborhoods and to unlock the positive features of gentrification at scale. Tom wants to rethink neighborhoods through his new company, LightArt, a branded real estate company seeking to facilitate the intersection between modern art, intentional design, and functional living spaces.
According to Tom, “for us, art is an emotional journey that turns a standard project into a way of life.” LightArt works with a team of cultural consultants, artists, designers, and architects to transform a regular property into the envy of the neighborhood by combining art and color with community life.
Tom John Or-Paz has been involved in the branded real estate space since 2013 when he was the Senior VP of Business Developments at Fashion TV, a position from which he led the company to launch its first branded real estate project. Afterward, he got involved with many other branded real estate projects across Europe, the Middle East, and emerging Asia.
Tom John Or-Paz started LightArt in 2019 and now, LightArt is starting out with its first branded real estate in the Florentine neighborhood of Tel Aviv, Israel. The neighborhood had previously been known for commerce and trade, it had a TV series named after it in the 1990s and it is now gradually being transformed into an urban bohemian neighborhood with pristine beaches, excellent nightlife, and Bauhaus-inspired buildings for artsy souls.
There’s no particular rhythm or rhyme to how or where gentrification happens. In Lisbon Portugal, the medieval Mouraria neighborhood used to be dilapidated up until 2009 when it started getting gentrified. It has now become a dining destination with fantastic hilltop views.
The same is true if you’ve recently been to the Villa Crespo neighborhood of Buenos Aires in Argentina, you’ll most likely remember its nice mix of modern art, cool retail shops, and historic synagogues. Yet, it wasn’t always that cool and it had previously been a crumbling relic of a historically Jewish community before being revived by gentrifiers.
LightArt however differentiates itself from the competition in the branded real estate sector by working with real estate developers in the post-planning and permit stage by infusing art into their base designs.
Beyond infusing art into the designs, LightArt also ensures that the properties are outfitted with the latest smart home technology systems from the ground up. The properties have leading smart home technology, automated parking service, and an app-based property management service. LightArt also works with the property developers to market the properties to the right prospects.
LightArt also commissions and provides the artwork for the external and public areas of the properties while working with the people that purchase the properties to style the interior to match their art tastes and design preferences. LightArt then facilitates a concierge service that refreshes the look and feel of the property by refreshing and replaces the artwork every quarter.
What does the future hold of the real estate market?
Branded real estate is becoming increasingly popular and they could become the new standard for the real estate industry. Liam Bailey, head of Residential Research at Knight Frank and author of the Global Branded Residences – 2019 report observes that “it seems likely that as global wealth creation expands, the demand for high-quality residential development property in key global centers will undoubtedly rise.”
Apart from the appeal and emotional sentiments of living in a branded property, branded properties provide an additional layer of trust, security, and provenance because the success of the venture influences how the brand name attached to the project is perceived.
Likewise, Liam’s report also shows that that branded real estate also benefits the property developer. For instance, branded real estate is reportedly valued by as much as 34% on average than non-branded properties. Granted, the higher valuation of branded real estate varies from 5.7%in Jakarta to 45% in Puerto Rico and as high as 120% in some exotic markets such as Dubai.
Branded real estate provides more identification and endorsement for people who want to be associated with the lifestyle of the brand. Thankfully, art unifies people across socio-economic divides and LightArt might be up to something in its bid to leverage art to get the best out of gentrification without robbing neigborhoods of their souls.
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