UAE. Aside from the woeful economic climate, the financial services sector is facing some of its toughest trading conditions ever. It would appear that customers have become simultaneously less loyal and more demanding.
Independent research from Avaya and BT conducted in early 2012 shows that one in two consumers believe loyalty to banks is a thing of the past, while at the same time they want seamless customer service through a range of ever-changing channels. According to the research, the average consumer uses nearly three different channels just to buy one financial product.
One of the fastest growing channels that customers are keen to use when dealing with financial services companies is mobile: Avaya and BT’s research shows that more than half of EMEA consumers use a smartphone and nearly a quarter of them have already tried mobile banking. What’s more, an astounding 60 per cent want to receive smart, proactive, outbound messages from their bank.
These figures suggest that with more mobile phones than people on the planet, the demand for mobile banking and, by extension, mobile customer service, is only set to increase. So, whatever an organisation’s strategy for keeping and satisfying customers, mobile needs to play a big part.
While this is a huge opportunity for financial institutions to engage with customers anytime, anywhere, any place, it is also a big ‘break’ for the IT channel – a chance to strengthen and expand relationships with financial services organisations. Where mobile is concerned, not only are resellers critical in terms of supplying the necessary infrastructure that supports the mobile phenomenon but also in integrating new mobile technologies into existing IT and customer service environments.
An important consideration for a financial services company looking to embrace all that mobility has to offer, is the highly competitive and strictly regulated marketplace in which it operates. Consequently, any channel partner that has the expertise to be able to recommend solutions that will boost customer service and satisfaction, and drive competitive advantage, within these constraints, will immediately be sought out.
Another key consideration for financial services companies is that new mobile technologies come with social as well as technical guidelines. This means that financial institutions will seek out partners that can show they have proven capabilities in delivering a mobile strategy that meets both technological and human requirements. After all, as with any highly competitive marketplace, intense competition creates a fickle consumer base.
It is these customers – particularly those from Generation Y who will only increase their spend and therefore their share of revenue – that are pushing for anytime, anywhere, any place mobile access. Yet, it is these very same customers that are more likely to leave if mobile interactions are not pitched correctly.
Additionally, mobile technology is helping savvy resellers gain direct access to the boardroom. Since it’s a technology that customers are clamouring for, senior executives are ready to listen to the business case for mobile. Leading channel partners are using this opportunity to explain the value that their technology solutions – both mobile and beyond – can bring to the C-suite in the language, they as bankers, understand.
By this I don’t just mean non-technical, jargon-free language but also clear positioning of the business benefits of mobile technology, like improved customer satisfaction and lower transaction costs. Used correctly, the C-level consultative approach that mobile affords is a great foundation upon which to build discussion around future technologies long after today’s trends have become mainstream.
Of course, along with the ability to understand the customer’s vertical landscape, and provide a consultative led approach, resellers must also ‘deliver the goods’. Banks know they cannot afford to be on the back foot when it comes to mobile, yet the speed of consumer adoption is far faster than most businesses can contemplate.
Organisations need not only to select and purchase the technology, but also to integrate it so they can provide a comprehensive, integrated and consistent service to the consumer. This is backed up by the Avaya and BT research results showing the average consumer uses nearly three different channels just to buy one financial product.
Financial organisations are looking for resellers that can deliver both the immediate benefits of mobile and the long term integration that quality customer relationship management requires. Offering technologies that are based on open standards, such as Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), is one way to achieve this since it can help achieve immediate mobile goals whilst still enabling integration with existing customer service channels and in a time frame that is much more palatable than a bespoke, proprietary integration would require.
Mitigating the risk and knock-on costs associated with upgrading to mobile customer service is another crucial concern in the financial services industry. While financial institutions are keen to keep pace with changing consumer demands, large, multi-channel organisations generally do not have the appetite or the budget to overhaul their legacy infrastructure to achieve this goal.
Again, open standards technology can help customers breathe new life into their legacy systems with cutting edge mobile systems, delivering immediate, short term business advantages with steady evolution towards a more costly infrastructure upgrade later on. Increasingly, financial organisations are looking to their technology partners to provide this type of roadmap for change.
We are also living in the era of big data, and mobile interactions can provide a rich seam of information. Most financial institutions are already aware of the massive potential for consumer data from the mobile channel to enable a much more tailored customer experience.
However, this requires expert back-end integration with business intelligence applications, so that the data can actually become meaningful and valuable. Savvy channel partners who are already dealing with a customer’s mobile strategy will see this as a natural evolution in their customer engagement programme.
When organisations offer mobility to customers they are, in essence, putting a greater strain – both in terms of traffic and security – on their networks and IT departments. Adequate network monitoring is a key part of any mobile strategy that sometimes financial institutions haven’t thought through fully. Once again we see resellers collaborating with their vendor partners and stepping up, offering monitoring solutions that as well as being efficacious are easy, perhaps offering IT staff a single view for all monitoring.
With the current economic uncertainty, banks and other financial institutions are forced to prioritise investments that deliver to the bottom line. Mobile banking creates both time and cost savings for customers and banks alike. Investing in it can make a tangible difference to their business and hence it represents an important opportunity for resellers who can demonstrate they are advisors, not just technology providers.
We are still at the beginning of the financial services mobile revolution but we know that each small step is incrementally taking us closer to significant change: it is only a matter of time before mobile phones replace ATMs and credit cards. Channel partners that are able to maximise this opportunity now are likely to gain a key foothold in the market for many years to come.
Note: Nidal Abou-Latif is VP of Emerging Regions at Avaya.