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KEEPING PACE WITH CUSTOMERS

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KEEPING PACE WITH CUSTOMERS

Dr. Marlene Wolfgruber, product marketing manager, ABBYY

Dr. Marlene Wolfgruber

Dr. Marlene Wolfgruber

The financial services industry is facing a new generation of earners. Consumer behaviour is changing and the industry is having to evolve to meet those changes. These individuals put trust and company engagement high on their agenda and organisations should look for ways to answer those demands by enhancing customer services.

This is easier said than done, as on the surface, the majority of companies in the financial services industry offer similar suites of products and services. Due to this almost commoditised status of the product, customer satisfaction is a huge differentiator for these companies. As a result, financial services organisations are increasingly turning to automated technologies to satisfy customer needs quicker – from on-boarding, order processing, technical support to complaint management. Optimised customer experience management is the key to keeping and attracting new customers.

Choosing the right tool to interact with your customer

Customer experience management is a market that contains multiple software offerings, from customer relationship management (CRM) and input management tools to marketing automation. While many organisations have these applications in place, they are often operating in siloes from one another. This disconnect significantly hampers the organisation and reduces the value and insights these resources can deliver.

Without single accountability for customer experience, which can span multiple functions – from marketing, sales and customer services, how can an organisation expect to meet customer needs? The answer is by focusing on inbound communication. Ensuring that an organisation is prioritising correspondence correctly and getting it to the right person with the correct level of authority will go a long way towards building trust and a good reputation.

After all, the new generation of savers and borrowers are eager to create relationships with organisations that can respond to their requests quickly and in a personalised manner through multiple channels. Forms, contracts, requests, complaints and support questions arrive via post, e-mail, fax, database entries, even as photos taken on mobile devices.

Increasingly customers are turning to social media, using platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to register queries and complaints. This brings the added expectation of real-time response. According to a study by Convince & Convert, a third of customers prefer contacting brands through social media. Most importantly, 40 per cent will start purchasing from another brand if it has a good reputation for great customer service.

This is also a keen ‘do-it-yourself’ generation. They put transparency and access first, frequently opting for self-service scenarios, where they can use mobile devices to capture and share information. Enable customers to scan or photograph documents, such as official certificates required for the opening of a bank account, cheques or even receipts, and send them via a mobile application to the central processing infrastructure – or even to cloud-based processing solutions. An automated input management system gives organisations the ability to capture these documents at the right point of engagement and accelerate processes, from on-boarding to account opening and crediting payments, and ultimately allow the customer to feel more in control of their financial matters.

Centralising your processes

So how does an organisation cope with all this information coming in through various channels? Inbound customer communication needs to be processed at high speed and in a way that enables productive internal workflows. At the same time, it must still meet customer expectations in responding promptly to queries and complaints in a personalised manner. Organisations should look for a single platform – a capture solution that transforms information, regardless of its input channel, into business-ready data. Information that can be handed over to backend enterprise systems and workflows.

With the explosion of data, traditional working practices are groaning under the weight of information flooding into organisations. A large volume of documents in customer care scenarios is paper based and highly structured or semi-structured, such as application forms or validation documents. However, the percentage of unstructured information, as in general correspondence, e-mail complaints and social media posts, will generally increase up to 80 per cent.

An efficient enterprise capture solution should therefore automatically classify and process unstructured content on the same platform and as fast and efficiently as structured information. Analysing the unstructured content of customer communication gives better insight of customers’ perception and can help optimise business processes.

Workflows in a digital environment

Whether data is captured from application forms or accompanying identification, documents need to be validated. To aid this the right solution should be converting all relevant information into digital assets. The intelligent extraction of customer information, which can be cross-referenced with data from other documents supports financial organisations in the detection and prevention fraud. Automation of customer on-boarding processes will not only shorten response time and approval cycles but also raise data quality by eliminating manual entry work.

Every customer request has its specific requirements and triggers down-stream case management workflows. What they all have in common is the customer’s expectation of a timely response. Capture and classification technologies are ideal for helping to prioritise cases, and move the needle forward on processing inbound requests and response time for customer complaints.

By capturing communication from various incoming channels on a single platform, staff will get a 360-degree view of any case and can reply with the needed priority via the right channel. This will help reduce churn and improve overall customer satisfaction and retention.

Listening to your customer

So can an organisation truly say it immediately understands all the related input it receives from customers? Answering a single e-mail request or letter is obviously not an issue – but how can companies connect all related but yet unstructured customer information that adds up over a certain course of time? Intelligent text analytics and information extraction technologies can reveal events and relationships across such unstructured information. Such analysis can enable an organisation to capture a customer’s expectations, preferences and aversions.

This is especially useful in understanding a new generation of customers. Language-based insight into unstructured information and a semantic analysis will open up new opportunities. For example, discovering positive and negative drivers for business issues, gaining useful insights to reduce churn and identifying group trends.

Intelligent, language-based topic analysis can support the categorising of customer comments into business-relevant topics. Based on detected topics that frequently appear in enquiries across customers and channels, organisations can identify content to feed frequently asked questions. At the same time, the analysis of trends in complaints or support cases can help management to predict where a business might be going. It can even give valuable input for future product development.

In order to enable productive internal workflows and meet customers’ needs at the same time,organisations must invest in intelligent capture and classification technologies. These tools are invaluable for prioritising and routing requests and cases to available resources will help to manage expectations and build relationships in the long term.

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Oil extends losses as Texas prepares to ramp up output

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Oil extends losses as Texas prepares to ramp up output 1

By Ahmad Ghaddar

LONDON (Reuters) – Oil prices fell from recent highs for a second day on Friday as Texas energy firms began to prepare for restarting oil and gas fields shuttered by freezing weather.

Brent crude futures were down $1.16, or 1.8%, to $62.77 per barrel, by 1150 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell $1.42, or 2.4%, to $59.10 a barrel.

Unusually cold weather in Texas and the Plains states curtailed up to 4 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil production and 21 billion cubic feet of natural gas, according to analysts.

Texas refiners halted about a fifth of the nation’s oil processing amid power outages and severe cold.

However, firms in the region on Friday were expected to prepare for production restarts as electric power and water services slowly resume, sources said.

“The market was ripe for a correction and signs of the power and overall energy situation starting to normalise in Texas provided the necessary trigger,” said Vandana Hari, energy analyst at Vanda Insights.

Oil fell despite a surprise fall in U.S. crude stockpiles in the week to Feb. 12, before the freeze. Inventories fell by 7.3 million barrels to 461.8 million barrels, their lowest since March, the Energy Information Administration reported on Thursday. [EIA/S]

The United States on Thursday said it was ready to talk to Iran about both nations returning to a 2015 agreement that aimed to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

While the thawing relations could raise the prospect of reversing sanctions imposed by the previous U.S. administration, analysts did not expect Iranian oil sanctions to be lifted anytime soon.

“This breakthrough increases the probability that we may see Iran returning to the oil market soon, although there is much to be discussed and a new deal will not be a carbon-copy of the 2015 nuclear deal,” StoneX analyst Kevin Solomon said.

(Additional reporting by Roslan Khasawneh in Singapore and Sonali Paul in Melbourne; editing by Jason Neely)

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Analysis: Carmakers wake up to new pecking order as chip crunch intensifies

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Analysis: Carmakers wake up to new pecking order as chip crunch intensifies 2

By Douglas Busvine and Christoph Steitz

BERLIN (Reuters) – The semiconductor crunch that has battered the auto sector leaves carmakers with a stark choice: pay up, stock up or risk getting stuck on the sidelines as chipmakers focus on more lucrative business elsewhere.

Car manufacturers including Volkswagen, Ford and General Motors have cut output as the chip market was swept clean by makers of consumer electronics such as smartphones – the chip industry’s preferred customers because they buy more advanced, higher-margin chips.

The semiconductor shortage – over $800 worth of silicon is packed into a modern electric vehicle – has exposed the disconnect between an auto industry spoilt by decades of just-in-time deliveries and an electronics industry supply chain it can no longer bend to its will.

“The car sector has been used to the fact that the whole supply chain is centred around cars,” said McKinsey partner Ondrej Burkacky. “What has been overlooked is that semiconductor makers actually do have an alternative.”

Automakers are responding to the shortage by lobbying governments to subsidize the construction of more chip-making capacity.

In Germany, Volkswagen has pointed the finger at suppliers, saying it gave them timely warning last April – when much global car production was idled due to the coronavirus pandemic – that it expected demand to recover strongly in the second half of the year.

That complaint by the world’s No.2 volume carmaker cuts little ice with chipmakers, who say the auto industry is both quick to cancel orders in a slump and to demand investment in new production in a recovery.

“Last year we had to furlough staff and bear the cost of carrying idle capacity,” said a source at one European semiconductor maker, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“If the carmakers are asking us to invest in new capacity, can they please tell us who will pay for that idle capacity in the next downturn?”

LOW-TECH CUSTOMER

The auto industry spends around $40 billion a year on chips – about a tenth of the global market. By comparison, Apple spends more on chips just to make its iPhones, Mirabaud tech analyst Neil Campling reckons.

Moreover, the chips used in cars tend to be basic products such as micro controllers made under contract at older foundries – hardly the leading-edge production technology in which chipmakers would be willing to invest.

“The suppliers are saying: ‘If we continue to produce this stuff there is nowhere else for it to go. Sony isn’t going to use it for a Playstation 5 or Apple for its next iPhone’,” said Asif Anwar at Strategy Analytics.

Chipmakers were surprised by the panicked reaction of the German car industry, which persuaded Economy Minister Peter Altmaier to write a letter in January to his counterpart in Taiwan to ask its semiconductor makers to supply more chips.

No extra supplies were forthcoming, with one German industry source joking that the Americans stood a better chance of getting more chips from Taiwan because they could at least park an aircraft carrier off the coast – referring to the ability of the United States to project power in Asia.

Closer to home, a source at another European chipmaker expressed disbelief at the poor understanding at one carmaker of how it operates.

“We got a call from one auto maker that was desperate for supply. They said: Why don’t you run a night shift to increase production?” this person said.

“What they didn’t understand is that we have been running a night shift since the beginning.”

NO QUICK FIX

While Infineon, the leading supplier of chips to the global auto industry, and Robert Bosch, the top ‘Tier 1’ parts supplier, both plan to commission new chip plants this year, there is little chance of supply shortages easing soon.

Specialist chipmakers like Infineon outsource some production of automotive chips to contract manufacturers led by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC), but the Asian foundries are currently prioritising high-end electronics makers as they come up against capacity constraints.

Over the longer term, the relationship between chip makers and the car industry will become closer as electric vehicles are more widely adopted and features such as assisted and autonomous driving develop, requiring more advanced chips.

But, in the short term, there is no quick fix for the lack of chip supply: IHS Markit estimates that the time it takes to deliver a microcontroller has doubled to 26 weeks and shortages will only bottom out in March.

That puts the production of 1 million light vehicles at risk in the first quarter, says IHS Markit. European chip industry executives and analysts agree that supply will not catch up with demand until later in the year.

Chip shortages are having a “snowball effect” as auto makers idle some capacity to prioritize building profitable models, said Anwar at Strategy Analytics, who forecasts a drop in car production in Europe and North America of 5%-10% in 2021.

The head of Franco-Italian chipmaker STMicroelectronics, Jean-Marc Chery, forecasts capacity constraints will affect carmakers until mid-year.

“Up to the end of the second quarter, the industry will have to manage at the lean inventory level,” Chery told a recent Goldman Sachs conference.

(Douglas Busvine from Berlin and Christoph Steitz from Frankfurt; Additional reporting by Mathieu Rosemain and Gilles Gillaume in Paris; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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Aussie and sterling hit multi-year highs on recovery bets

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Aussie and sterling hit multi-year highs on recovery bets 3

By Tommy Wilkes

LONDON (Reuters) – The Australian dollar rose to near a three-year high and the British pound scaled $1.40 for the first time since 2018 on optimism about economic rebounds in the two countries and after the U.S. dollar was knocked by disappointing jobs data.

The U.S. currency had been rising in recent days as a jump in Treasury yields on the back of the so-called reflation trade drew investors. But an unexpected increase in U.S. weekly jobless claims soured the economic outlook and sent the dollar lower overnight.

On Friday it traded down 0.3% against a basket of currencies, with the dollar index at 90.309.

The Aussie rose 0.8% to $0.784, its highest since March 2018. The currency, which is closely linked to commodity prices and the outlook for global growth, has been helped by a recent rally in commodity prices.

The New Zealand dollar also gained, and was not far off a more than two-year high, while the Canadian dollar rose too.

Sterling rose to $1.4009 on Friday, an almost three-year high amid Britain’s aggressive vaccination programme.

Given the size of Britain’s vital services sector, analysts say the faster it can reopen the economy, the better for the currency. Sterling was also helped by better-than-expected purchasing managers index flash survey data for February.

The U.S. dollar has been weighed down by a string of soft labour data, even as other indicators have shown resilience, and as President Joe Biden’s pandemic relief efforts take shape, including a proposed $1.9 trillion spending package.

Despite the recent rise in U.S. yields, many analysts think they won’t climb too much higher, limiting the benefit for the dollar.

“Our view remains that the Fed will hold the line and remain very cautious about tapering asset purchases. We think it will keep communicating that tightening is very far off, which should dampen pro-dollar sentiment,” said UBS Global Wealth Management strategist Gaétan Peroux and analyst Tilmann Kolb.

ING analysts said “the rise in rates will be self-regulating, meaning the dollar need not correct too much higher”.

They see the greenback index trading down to the 90.10 to 91.05 range.

U.S. dollar

Aussie and sterling hit multi-year highs on recovery bets 4

The euro rose 0.4% to $1.2134. The single currency showed little reaction to purchasing manager index data, which showed a slowdown in business activity in February. However, factories had their busiest month in three years, buoying sentiment.

The dollar bought 105.39 yen, down 0.3% and a continued retreat from the five-month high of 106.225 reached Wednesday.

(Editing by Hugh Lawson and Pravin Char)

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