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WHY INSURERS SHOULD EMBRACE MOBILE MESSAGING

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Ben Bengtson, Senior Vice President, Global Insurance Leader, Cognizant

WhatsApp, WeChat, live chat, Facebook messenger: these are just some of the instant messaging (IM) channels which are no longer solely used for exchanging everyday messages, sending ubiquitous selfies or sharing one’s location. Messaging apps, in particular, are a way for organisations looking for more direct channels to communicate with their customers.

Messaging apps build customer loyalty by providing an interpersonal transaction and demystifying the traditional back office-processing. Effectively, mobile messaging can become the tool of new-age distribution, digital marketing, after-sales service and customer support. In fact, what was first recognised by entrepreneurs as an inexpensive way for businesses to stay connected with their customers has become a medium of choice for some big players. For instance, Dutch insurer Ditzo is partnering with WhatsApp for claims, allowing customers to ask questions about their insurance via the messaging application.

WhatsApp has now also recognised the potential messenger apps have for organisations, announcing it will drop subscription fees for users. It will instead focus on earning revenue by monetising communication between businesses and individuals.

Why has a tool, initially conceived for the general public, become important for business?

For insurers, instant mobile messaging opens a new channel of communication, whilst reducing operational costs and turnaround time. Messaging also improves their marketing, sales and customer service. It can help overcome challenges such as the need to educate and engage with customers and prospects, as well as make distribution channels more efficient by enabling easy dissemination of content and effortless consumption by the target audience.

One example of content awareness is in the personal property segment. The homeowner experiences loss-causing damage, for example from a leak. The ability to integrate a message to the claimant with specific instructions on what to do next such as a video or a set of steps can save millions in further damages.

However, that is not the only reason why messaging applications have become an important business tool. The low-cost nature of instant messaging not only optimises costs for insurers, but also empowers customers. With WeChat’s API, as one example, businesses can build apps that run on its instant messaging platform, allowing them to customise functions according to their needs and perform specialised transactions, such as payment and image verification. Insurers can introduce features such as push notifications with the help of stickers, icons and one-touch payment such as the one introduced by Snapchat.

More personalisation

Mobile messaging can help insurers meet growing consumer demand for a better, more personalised service. With the advent of traditional digital communication channels, customers now have numerous means of contact and support; however, most of these still involve the need to manually record complaints or fill out surveys – a requirement which does not meet today’s standards of convenience customers are expecting.

Furthermore, mobile messaging can be used by insurers as a very effective tool for personal and structured customer support. The inherent non-voice, concise and synchronous nature of communication can help insurers swiftly and effectively address and redress queries and complaints.

Insurance industry is ready for instant messaging adoption

There are many opportunities for insurers to stay connected with customers and create customer loyalty. The industry is buffeted by a variety of business and technology forces, such as social, mobile, analytics and cloud (SMAC), allowing insurers to gather and analyse data for more personalised products and services, making it ripe for instant messaging adoption.

To ensure successful implementation and adoption of IM technologies, insurers should consider a variety of different steps, like assessing available messaging platforms, paying attention to the best choice for hosting apps on the messenger or extending current services to a new channel. Insurers should also set up robust security protocols to meet data security and other compliance needs.

With the steady rise in importance and use of mobile messengers as part of their omni-channel approach to engage with customers, insurers of all sizes, geographies and lines of business will need to adopt messengers as a key channel for sales, service, education and engagement. The time that insurance people knock on your door and provide a personalised service is forever gone. Personalisation is now digital, even in the insurance industry.

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Remote leadership anxieties

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It’s a difficult time to be navigating the complex world of business. Whilst adapting to new ways of working remotely, a practice which looks to become the new norm, professionals at all levels of business are experiencing new challenges.

Whether workers are going for a promotion, trying to keeping up team morale or fire-fighting a never-ending to do list, times are hard and without being able to interact with colleagues face to face, simple tasks can suddenly become complex. Even those in more senior positions are needing to find new ways of working, to effectively manage and nurture not only their teams but also themselves.

A recent report by RADA Business, Beating Workplace Performance Anxiety, revealed that, contrary to what many may believe, anxiety is actually most prominent amongst those at senior director level, with 94% of professionals struggling with anxiety around communicating. This group were also found to suffer feelings of anxiety the most – 10 times per month – which is twice the national average.

However, the world-renowned performance coaches at RADA Business, the commercial subsidiary of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, build upon actor training techniques, centred around body, breath and voice, to help business professionals develop the necessary skills to improve their performance in the workplace.

To help senior business professionals navigate the anxiety-inducing world of remote leadership, Kate Montague, RADA Business tutor shares her answers to some of the more common questions, which have been put to the RADA Business team since the lockdown began, by senior leaders.

I’m finding remote working stressful, how can I manage this stress more effectively?

As leaders, we have to accept that there will be times when things become stressful and Covid-19 certainly hasn’t been an exception to this. Acknowledging that we are out of alignment with our working habits currently and seeking the tools and techniques to help is the first step.

At RADA Business we look at where stress is manifesting itself and it often extends beyond the psychological and takes a physical form in the spine and showing up in our posture. Taking a stretch, rolling out the shoulders and releasing the neck is a healthful activity between calls.

Conscious breathing also helps to make us more comfortable physically, and also calms the nervous system. Take a moment to sit or stand tall, then become aware of your breath and breathe deeply and fully a few times a day. This is a useful tool for reducing stress and helps to clear the mind. Deep breathing in this way releases dopamine, the body’s ‘happy’ hormone, which helps to make us feel better, more emotionally responsive and less emotionally reactive. If you’re stressed focus on lengthening the out-breath, or if you’re tired and need recharging, focus on taking a few fuller in-breaths.

I’m struggling to land my messages through virtual mediums, how can I show up effectively online?

There is definitely a knack to presenting effectively via virtual mediums, and getting it right will certainly help you convey both confidence and professionalism.

Firstly, consider your posture: make sure you’re sitting tall, lengthening through the spine. Think of your pelvis as a foundation stone to your spine, let it relax into the base of the chair.

Ground yourself with your feet flat on the floor – this will help you to connect your breath to your speech so you’re able to communicate with depth of tone and clarity.

When using visual platforms, consider your framing to ensure your head is nicely centred, balanced on your shoulders, and neither too close nor too far from the camera. Lighting is also hugely important on video calls – we need to be well lit from the front so those we’re presenting to are able to read those all-important expressions, which are key to communication. If you have a tendency to rush, remember to take moments to pause and breathe. Using eye contact to connect with your listeners will help slow down your communication so others have more time to process and absorb what you have to say.

Temperamental video conferencing software and poor Wi-Fi connections can cause some technical problems through online mediums. Be sure to check in with your audience and have them feedback by asking some simple probing questions such as “Is everything clear up to this point?”, or field any questions they may have. This will ensure your message has been received and has landed as you intended.

How can I reassure my team while I’m struggling with my own anxieties?

Firstly, acknowledge your own challenges. Bosses often face burnout when they refuse to admit they’re struggling, however when you are willing to look after yourself first you’re in a far better position to help and reassure others. Take time each day to tune in and listen to yourself as you would a friend and provide your own coaching. Ask yourself: “How am I doing?”, consider the answer and apply to yourself the response you might give a friend if they were to say: “I’m feeling anxious, stressed, burnt out…”. Give space to connect with your kindness and empathy. Acknowledge where you’re doing a good job, and make space for your inner guidance to show you where to go next in terms of a difficult decision or action. We all feel anxious at times, so let those feelings come forward, remember to breathe, and address them in the moment so they are processed, which will help you to reconnect with your innate clarity and intuition.

When reassuring your team, whether they’re feeling angry, anxious or upset let them bring their own feelings forward too, rather than suppress them – they’ll respond to this. In body-led psychotherapy we say all feelings are welcome: it’s a non-shaming, non-judging atmosphere. Schedule in 10 minutes each week to check in with the team and ask them how they are coping, what they need, or how things could be better. Inclusion has never been so important so allow your team to vent, or share what is current for them, and show that you see them.

My progression feels stinted, how can I impress my superiors when they can’t see and hear me at work?

Make yourself visible by being proactive. It’s easy to feel as though we’re doing lots of work and not getting noticed, especially when working remotely, but having clear intentions and going out of your way to make them visible will help you to be seen. Don’t let the boss do homework, instead offer them what you have to share – send them something to watch or read; offer to lead a meeting; offer to head up a new project – serve it to them on a plate. Be sure to ask for guidance and feedback too, as this will help to keep the conversation going and ensure you are front of their mind. Put yourself out there and let yourself be visible.

How do I keep up team morale while we are short staffed?

Being short staffed is never easy but the relationship you have with your team is everything. Rapport and intimacy become even more important when a team is downsized, so regular check-ins are essential. It’s important to ensure that your team’s workload is relatively balanced in order to prevent exhaustion and burnout. Schedule regular catch-ups with the team to oversee their work but be careful not to micro-manage – teams are more responsive when they’re able to work to their own deadlines, whilst still meeting your needs of course. Also bear in mind that the warmth of giving praise helps to re-engage teams who may be under pressure or missing colleagues who are no longer around. We thrive on celebrating the wins, so be sure to factor in time to thank the team, perhaps at the start of an update meeting or why not setup a quick ‘digital round table’ with the pure intention of praising the team? Be sure to take your time when delivering praise and make eye contact with your team – this will give your message a clear sense of genuineness.

I’m trying to move into a new role but now isn’t a good time and I feel stuck, how can I get noticed?

If it really isn’t the time then focus your energies on a new temporary goal that you’re able to get passionate about in the interim and that will allow you to grow in other ways. You may find that taking time to acquire new skills in other areas will have an impact on your routine performance and there are plenty of ways to skill up. Make time for a short-term course, undertake a side project, engage in continued professional development (CPD) – anything to keep your mind active and to keep you growing whilst your usual routine is feeling static. Developing a new project or hobby that you can talk passionately about often comes with a new sense of confidence and enthusiasm, two traits that are bound to help get you noticed by the people at the top.

During these challenging past few months, business leaders have seen just how resilient they can be. In the face of adversity, there’s now potentially a deeper awareness of how performance at work is impacted by how well we nurture the holistic self – the spirit, mindset, physical and emotional well-being all play a part in how we deliver. There has been an acknowledgement of strengths while simultaneously more willingness to acknowledge vulnerability. This really is key as it leads to deeper human connections, which is the bottom line of any business. Regardless of what trade we’re in, it’s all about human endeavour and although stressful for many, the recent months have helped us to learn about balance and to become more attuned to what we as individuals need, as well as how to be more responsive to our colleagues and clients.

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Online jobs soar by 14% in third quarter 2020, Freelancer.com’s Fast 50 reports 

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Online jobs soar by 14% in third quarter 2020, Freelancer.com’s Fast 50 reports  2

Freelancer.com (ASX: FLN), the world’s largest freelancing and crowdsourcing marketplace by number of users and jobs posted, today released the Freelancer.com Fast 50 Report for Q3 2020.

The quarterly index which measures the most sought-after employment skills showed the freelancing industry continues to thrive in the current economic climate. The figures from Freelancer.com revealed a 14% increase in jobs posted year over year, when comparing Q3 2020 versus Q3 2019, with the total number rising to 539,000 from 465,000.

In terms of the most in demand skills, key takeaways from the Q3 2020 Fast 50 Report compared to the Q2 2020 Fast 50 Report:

As COVID-19 forced more people online, entrepreneurs focused on eCommerce startups

With more people at home sparking a major increase in online shopping, entrepreneurs flocked to starting eCommerce businesses. Web and app development projects related to Website Build, Testing, and Management, Digital Marketing, as well as software and coding skills with Flutter, React.js, Vue.js, Node.js, React Native and CSS3 went up in the quarter, up 9% to 28,593 jobs. Design projects related to T-Shirts, Posters and Brochures, to Photoshop, Photo Editing and Creative Design, and even Interior Design, went up in the quarter 6% to 38,877 jobs. To reinforce the upticks in the third quarter, Sales & Marketing related jobs subsequently were on the up, rising 17% to 2,153 jobs.

Home remodeling booms during pandemic

Home organization hacks became even more popular during quarantine and consumers cleaned out shelves of storage containers and the like. Sheltering at home also influenced the increase in demand for Home Design which saw a rise of 17% to 1,579 jobs in the third quarter. Remodeling platform Porch.com also recently reported that more than three-quarters of all U.S. homeowners had done some type of home improvement project during the pandemic.

COVID-19 highlighted the importance of translation services

The biggest increase in demand in the third quarter was for translation services – this is most likely attributed to a much larger online audience since COVID-19, prompting businesses to boost their marketing efforts to reach new markets with information in various languages.

Projects related to Translation & Languages took off in the quarter up 20% to 6,043 jobs. Furthermore, as the majority of workers have moved online full-time, there is more demand for English content for communications including, sales and promotions, marketing and social media, and websites and blogs.

With restrictions starting to ease, demand for local services picks up

Lockdowns last quarter saw the demand for local services collapse – this quarter, as restrictions around the world started to ease, Local Jobs & Services picked up again, increasing 15% to 1,325 jobs.

Matt Barrie, CEO and Chairman of Freelancer.com, said, “Despite global economic activity falling in 2020 and unemployment continuing to climb, the freelance online job market has continued to grow. In this COVID-era, the whole world has been forced to work online – we completely rely on the Internet, hence we are seeing a lot more online projects and becoming accustomed to this new normal.

“As the skilled labor pool around the world has significantly increased over the past six months, many workers who found themselves jobless have turned to freelancing to supplement their income. Freelancer.com has seen an upsurge in users on the platform since early March with around 35,000 new users, globally, per day signing up. Many people are either looking for jobs or looking to transition out of jobs. Budding entrepreneurs who have found themselves out of their full-time gigs are setting up their startup or side hustle.”

While the world is starting to experience a slow recovery, the recession is far from over. The overall trend for jobless claims in the US remains high, reported to still be over 800,000. With stimulus benefits expiring and the unemployment rate at an all time high, Freelancer.com continues to see an increase in users joining the platform to boost their personal income.

In the UK, the categories which saw the biggest increases in jobs posted during third quarter included: Websites, IT & Software (up 22%), Local Jobs & Services (up 20%), Data Entry & Admin (up 14%), and Writing & Content (up 9%).

The Freelancer.com Fast 50 Report tracks the quarterly movement of the top 50 fastest growing and declining jobs on the site’s global online marketplace that spans 247 countries, regions, and territories. The Fast 50 Report is the leading indicator of trends in online jobs related to industries, technologies, products, and companies.

Freelancer.com is the largest freelancing and crowdsourcing platform in the world by number of users and jobs posted, connecting users with skilled jobs tapping into the best talent and ideas. With headquarters in Sydney, Freelancer.com operates six global offices in San Francisco, London, Vancouver, Manila and Buenos Aires. The company employees 500 people globally.

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Pivoting growth strategy to rebuild consumer trust and confidence

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By Richard Steggall, the CEO of Urban FT

Trust is essential to all relationships, whether personal or professional. And in an uncertain environment like we are experiencing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, trust becomes even more critical. We place our trust in healthcare providers to do their best in caring for us; we trust grocery stores to provide safe access to nourishing food; and we trust our fellow community members to practice care and vigilance. The stakes in trust have never been higher and with financial services ranking among the least trusted industries in consumer’s eyes, according to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer, there is much work to be done in luring customers back in.

No one person or organization has all the answers for making the financial services industry more respected and trustworthy in the eyes of consumers. But every business leader is in a unique position to drive positive change in their own organizations and communities. Namely, leaders in financial services must rethink their growth strategy and embed it with measures of transparency, ownership and accountability.

Define your purpose

The fast-evolving pandemic has not only presented us with a health crisis unlike any we have seen in our lifetime, it is also driving significant social and economic pressures around the globe.

With increased consumer attention on corporate social responsibility, many brands are leveraging purpose-driven activities as a key differentiator in the competitive financial services industry. Purpose-driven business fosters a greater connection between a brand and its consumers, so long as the message at hand is sincere and meaningful to audiences. If implemented with due authenticity, it helps brands gain trust with consumers.

Defining your purpose may involve deploying volunteers into the community or making philanthropic donations. But those in financial services are on the front lines of the unfolding economic situation. Why not make modifications to core business activities that can be done to directly touch the consumer? Examples might include deferment of fees or personalized financial advisory to individual customers who have been financially impacted by coronavirus.

Protect consumer data like it is your own

A single data breach or ethical lapse can paralyze a brand instantly. Equifax discovered this the hard way when the personal information of 143 million consumers was leaked in 2017 and the organization was forced to pay a whopping $700 million in penalties, according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). Within 10 days of the news going public, Equifax’s YouGov ‘Buzz Score’ dropped from a neutral zero to -33. I would not have wanted to be in that board meeting.

Thanks to such notorious widespread security breaches, consumers are fast becoming more protective of their personally identifiable information (PII) and will only share data with brands they trust. Recent regulations like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are also empowering consumers so they can decide for themselves who has access to their PII and who does not. These developments hold companies liable for the PII security of each consumer they engage with. After all, with great power comes great responsibility.

Amazon Prime has excelled in protecting and promoting PII within the e-commerce industry, conveying to consumers how PII can improve how they shop while still offering protection. Once viewed as a platform for free shipping, Prime customers are now investing in membership because of the personalization, customization and unmatched convenience. Amazon’s responsible handling of PII has cultivated consumer trust and increased organic word of mouth marketing. For some financial service organizations, repositioning how PII is used could become a key differentiator in the marketplace.

Make fees clear as day 

This will probably come as no surprise but, historically, financial institutions (FIs) have made much of their revenue on the dreaded “gotcha” fees that can become quite overwhelming for unknowing consumers: overdraft fees, external ATM fees, fees for not maintaining a certain minimum balance, etc.

I don’t mean to knock anyone down, but now might be the time for FIs to stop promoting the so-called ‘free’ checking account. By now, most consumers get skeptical when they see the word free, knowing there’s probably back-end fees or inflexible stipulations attached. And if a product or service is worth it to them, consumers will pay for it.

The lack of transparency around extra charges only damages the reputation of financial service, solidifying the industry’s unsavory reputation for making money by taking money. There is a simple solution however. Financial service organizations need to be as upfront as possible about the fees that a customer might incur. No exceptions. In the end, this transparency will pay off over and over again in the form of trust, retention and referrals.

Master all touch points with humanization

For today’s consumers, there’s no shortage of options in financial services. While the power of choice is a win for consumers, there are still a number of potential pain points and disconnects. Apart from the misuse of data, other obstacles to trust could be simple errors that temporarily freeze an account, lack of streamlining, failing customer support or absence of personalization.

Richard Steggall

Richard Steggall

In other words, consumers are looking for a “digital concierge” to help them along their financial journeys—one they can trust and knows their preferences, needs and behaviors. As traditional outliers, such as price and location, diminish in importance, companies that humanize their digital user experiences (UX) will be more likely to drive long-term business growth, according to the Digital Bank Report’s “Humanizing the Digital Experience in Banking.”

Strive for digital agility

Thanks to the implementation of new digital technology, there are opportunities for financial service organizations to move beyond pushing products and to instead provide the digital personalized assistance that today’s consumers are looking for. This is the key to building sustainable relationships in today’s marketplace.

But the financial services industry must first bridge the gap between what technology can offer and what consumers are looking for. Only through digital agility will financial services organizations be able to adapt in a rapidly changing business environment and maintain strong relationships with consumers. Part of this agility will depend on adopting FinTech into services and products. For example, banks and credit unions may look to implement a FinTech Core, which works alongside an FIs banking core or transaction processing system to enable endless digital expansion without having to contract with each FinTech service piecemeal. Having this in place can help ensure that FIs adopt tomorrow’s technologies today, protect their digital ecosystems, personalize UXs and win back the trust of consumers.

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