If the customer is king, the customer experience (CX) could be considered the most important factor in determining business success, writes Harkrishan Singh, Director, Application Development at AlphaCodes.

This is especially true in financial services, where CX is a primary differentiator and a poor experience could mean losing customers to the competition. With the Covid-19 pandemic highlighting the crucial role that technology has to play in seamless customer service, digital transformation is an absolute necessity.

Financial Services Institutions (FSIs) need to look at incorporating advanced technology solutions into their digital strategies to bolster customer service and ultimately enhance CX while ensuring business continuity remains a top priority.

Connected at a distance

The hard lockdown of 2020 sent businesses across all industries scrambling to adopt digital solutions that would enable them to continue business with some semblance of normality. While financial services was deemed an essential service, and was therefore not entirely shut down, severe restrictions were imposed on the number of staff and customers in a branch at any given time.

In order to continue to provide services to customers while remaining heedful of social distancing requirements, FSIs had to find ways of connecting with customers remotely. While South Africa is presently not in a state of hard lockdown, there is uncertainty around the future, and social distance remains crucial. Customer demands have also shifted over the years, and it is essential for FSIs to provide services that meet these demands.

Always on, always available

Digital transformation has already changed financial services in fundamental ways, including the ability to do banking any time, any day, online and through mobile apps. Even 10 years ago this was not a possibility, and it has changed the face of banking forever. Another revolutionary area is the introduction of Chatbot Assistants that enable self-service assistance 24/7 to deal with simple queries.

Today, customers can interact with their financial institution through a variety of channels, from traditional branches and contact centres to chatbots, instant messaging, social media and even through home IoT devices. The key is for FSIs to provide a seamless experience regardless of the channel of communication.

The role of AI and machine learning

Tools such as chatbots use Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to constantly improve their interactions and become more useful to customers. The technologies have a far greater role to play, however. Machine learning can help banking target customers based on their needs, by analysing available data around transactions and interactions. This will improve the CX by ensuring that relevant products can be tailored and targeted to customers, rather than taking a blanket marketing approach.

Machine learningĀ  can also help banking apps to modify their user interface (UI) based on the way the customer uses and engages with an app. This will help to ensure that the customer has easy access to the services they use most, helping them to complete their transactions quickly and without frustration. Since the customer is at the heart of financial services, improving the CX in every way possible is vital to success.

Business at the heart

In a 2018 report by Boston Consulting Group, 43% of financial services respondents confessed to not having an explicit digital strategy. This attitude changed practically overnight as global circumstances forced the accelerated adoption of digital solutions. Digital transformation is absolutely essential in the 21st century, and in a post-pandemic world. Without it, FSIs risk becoming irrelevant and uncompetitive.

However, digital transformation is not only about providing digital communication channels, but moving from cash to digital payments, digitising paper-based services and applications, and using data to provide insights that enable proactive solutions. Ultimately the goal of digitalisation needs to be the drive to empower better business decisions.

The reality is that an effective digital transformation strategy can only be achieved by reinventing the consumer journey. This means making sense of collected data with the help of analytics and ML, and pushing them towards the evolution of a digital, data-driven organisation. The right partner has an important role to play in helping FSIs achieve this and remain relevant as the world continues to digitise, shift and change.

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