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Fast Forward Digital

19 May 2020

Businesses accelerate their digital strategies

If necessity is the mother of invention, then COVID-19 has been the force that has pushed more organisations to accelerate their digital strategies; we’ve spoken to businesses that have hastened their transformation programmes by three years and, on the face of it, should be well placed when life returns to some form of normality.

Most business continuity plans are founded on the expectation that there has been a denial of access to infrastructure or physical premises and so the market for alternate hot sites, desked up and ready to go has been buoyant.  Few plans will have considered the impact of requiring staff to socially distance, in effect, forcing them to work from home.

Richard Carter Prefered (002) Richard Carter Managing Director, Equiniti Credit Services

Home working has largely been the province of those that don’t need to be located in an office or don’t have a permanent location.  In the vast majority of cases, this excludes contact centre resources who, for a variety of reasons, are co-located in teams.

Moving these tightly coupled contact centre staff to home working has been a herculean effort and achieved to differing degrees depending on the infrastructure that organisations had in place.  I’m sure we’d all like to have been the laptop salesperson booking orders for hundreds of units at a time from uncharacteristically price-insensitive corporates desperate to get staff working, particularly to address the surge in demand associated with Government interventions to support consumers though the early stages of the pandemic.  Systems access is just one part of the story though, some organisations have previously adopted cloud telephony and were able to route calls, others scrabbled to implement new phone systems in days rather than weeks or months.

So far, so good, but projects generally take a period to execute because there is an important layer of governance required to ensure that all aspects of delivery, usability and compliance have been considered.  As an example, many financial services firms have successfully navigated PCI/DSS requirements, or indeed data security more broadly, with pause and resume call recording, clean desk (mobile free) policies and other mitigating controls. In the rush to home working, how do these businesses ensure that staff members aren’t photographing sensitive personal data on their screen or compiling their own library of debit/credit card details for future use?

In some limited cases, I’m sure that productivity has increased, though overall, working from home involves a whole host of other distractions, exacerbated when you layer on the potential need to become engrossed in home-schooling or assisting other house members.  This translates into reduced service capacity.  Combine this dynamic with a similarly pre-occupied, potentially vulnerable consumer trying to manage their financial affairs around payment holidays, likely outside of normal operating hours and you have a perfect opportunity for service and brand disappointment at the very least and at the other extreme, unwelcome customer detriment.


Those businesses that had progressed a digital first strategy, where most of their end-customer servicing functions have been devolved to the customer for them to manage at their convenience, very literally 24 X 7, are already positioned to deal with the influx of the more complex enquiries relating to vulnerability and financial hardship. Technology is not always a panacea for situations such as these, though it is undoubtedly a valuable tool to triage and enable the business to focus on the key issues.

It’s a regrettable inevitability that claims management businesses will be seeking to identify and exploit situations where consumers may not have been treated as well as perhaps they could have been in the crisis and, if history is anything to go by, may well point the finger indiscriminately at a broad range of lenders.  Devolving service options through self-service allows lenders to better demonstrate a consistent process throughout the journey.  Naturally, no matter how sophisticated the algorithm, it can’t deal with all eventualities and so the handoff to an experienced operator is essential.

So, will the take-up of digital channels stick with consumers?  I think so.  We’ve all witnessed a number of switches to digital journeys in our personal lives, whether it’s been home shopping or click and collect for food, increased adoption of home conference calling through one of the many services,  or children learning though virtual classrooms.  The key is to ensure that that infrastructure and policies matches the shop window and the on-line journey is as competent as the contact centre one.

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