Re-emerging with New Operating Models: COVID-19 as a Catalyst to Drive Best Practices with Customers

Cisco Investments recently hosted a webinar featuring a panel of experts for a discussion about the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on financial services, banks, insurers and wealth management firms. Not only did they share their observations on the wave of change that has swept over financial institutions and their clients, they envision how – based on what they’ve already observed – they’ll plan for and recreate their business models to meet the many new challenges that still lay ahead.

Our panel is comprised of Tom Filep, Financial Services Lead for Americas Industry at Cisco; Chris Swan, VP Channel Sales & Business Development at Acqueon, a Cisco Investments portfolio company; and Jake Peterson, Customer Experience Strategy Leader at Helpshift, also a Cisco Investments portfolio company. The webinar is hosted by Jim Marous, co-publisher of The Financial Brand, owner and publisher of the Digital Banking Report, and host of the Banking Transformed podcast.

Challenges

The pace of change sweeping over the financial industry has been relentless since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the nature of challenges are changing with both the passage of time and rising uncertainty.

Jake Peterson points out how technologies like Slack and other co-working tools have already made the switch to working from home a relatively easy hurdle to clear. With a solid grasp of the logistics of remote working, industry leaders are now asking themselves how best to invest in human interactions and how to invest in bringing about an exceptional digital customer experience. Jake says, “given the rapid shift and moving the agents and employees from an office or contact center to work from home, and changing customer expectations in the type of immediacy in expectation of support has led to this ‘sprint to the starting line’ in digital transformation.”

“Given the rapid shift and moving the agents and employees from an office or contact center to work from home, and changing customer expectations in the type of immediacy in expectation of support has led to this ‘sprint to the starting line’ in digital transformation.” – Jake Peterson

According to Jake, the answers lie in technologies like automation, in-app workflows, AI and Natural Language Processing (NLP). When customers interact with automation, it’s vital that the technology correctly interprets the customer’s needs and helps to seamlessly advance the customer through appropriate channels and processes toward a satisfactory resolution.

Tom Filep observed that today’s challenges also represent opportunities. He stressed the importance of an organization’s decision makers and IT departments to take a wholistic view of the enterprise, its overall strategy and what it’s doing in response to COVID. Tom points to research that suggests remote work is an enduring trend and that the financial industry is well-suited for it. As a result, thoughtful investments in AI and automation in support of customer self-service can bring a lasting competitive advantage.

Best Practices

The push to improve operations and customer satisfaction in the midst of massive, worldwide disruption is fascinating to watch. Our panel has carefully followed the trends in financial industries and has some unique insights into the best practices they’ve seen so far.

Chris Swan believes the best course of action for an organization is to “be proactive, be empathetic, be resourceful, empower your agents to retain customers…” He points out the wisdom of not waiting for a customer to get behind on, say, loan payments. Rather, he encourages agents to immediately open a two-way dialogue around remediation strategies, as opposed to collection strategies, which will help retain the customer. Citing how it’s far more costly to acquire a customer than it costs to retain one, Chris continues, “And as GDP is expected to shrink rather significantly this year, banks should be thinking about preserving as much of their customer base as possible because its going to pay good dividends while we recover.”

“…be proactive, be empathetic, be resourceful, empower your agents to retain customers…” – Chris Swan

“Banks have to stop faking digital,” observed Jim Marous. As opposed to changing paper documents into digital documents or moving funds around with a phone, Jim thinks they should instead be asking themselves a tougher, more fruitful question. “How can we change the complete process and the way we do things to simplify them, make them act like a real digital organization?”

Reenforcing Jim’s point, Tom Filep added, “We’re seeing a top-down cultural business transformation with virtual process changes.” He adds, “some of the priorities we’re seeing across banks, insurance companies, wealth managers, hedge fund securities firms, certainly the priorities are increased operational efficiency in the product and services distribution.”

“We’re seeing a top-down cultural business transformation with virtual process changes.” – Tom Filep

Key Takeaways

Whether behind the scenes or overtly, COVID-19 has affected practically every consumer touch point and business process within the financial industry, with even more changes yet to come. When we asked our panel to discuss their key takeaways from the day’s panel discussion, Chris Swan emphasized the need to establish a clearly defined strategy for a re-engagement with customers. To retain customers in a post-COVID world, being reactive won’t cut it. “People are going to need to plan three years out and be able to pivot pretty quickly if they’re not seeing those strategies being effective.”

For Jake Peterson, the key takeaway is prioritization. “Digital transformation doesn’t mean the entire organization, and it doesn’t mean you have to have a solution for every problem that customers are facing.” He emphasizes how the need to start stack-ranking the issues that have the highest impact on the business. “What’s the lowest effort and highest impact that you could digitize or bring some digital transformation steps to your organization, and start chipping away at that.”

Large or small, an organization’s ability to continuously change – far more rapidly than ever before – was Jim Marous’ key takeaway. From leadership to employees, and even the structure of an organization, all need to be prepared for digitalization. “The digital world is not going to go away, and those organizations can combine and find their lane, find a lane that they’re going to be best at, and implement against that, is gonna be key because there’s too much space out there for us all to be the same.”

“…those organizations can combine and find their lane, find a lane that they’re going to be best at, and implement against that, is gonna be key because there’s too much space out there for us all to be the same.” – Jim Marous

Our Financial Services Thought Leadership webinar on Re-emerging with New Operating Models covered a wide variety of topics, not all of which made it into this blog. A great deal of information was also shared about organizations that have successfully managed cross-channel communications, and how financial institutions can lead and influence what’s happening in society. It’s all available for you to watch and learn from on the Cisco Investments Vimeo channel. Enjoy. And be safe out there!

 

About the author: Pradeep Paniyadi joined Cisco Investments in 2019. As a Relationship Manager, he serves as a trusted partner for our portfolio companies, helping them navigate Cisco’s vast ecosystem and making powerful connections with Cisco’s business entities.

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