29 March 2022

Man versus machine

Goal Group’s Vicky Dean addresses the importance of automation versus human interaction, and explores ways in which the industry can continue to evolve while ensuring client service remains the key focus

With the fintech industry rapidly and continually evolving to introduce and test new ideas, trends and automation, what value should we put on technology versus the importance of human interaction?

It is no secret that the big trends are driven by efficiency, which include artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and other robotics, but we also need to consider the impact on our clients and how we ensure they receive the best client experience.

In 2020, the financial services industry and the wider world received a huge wake up call. With news of the COVID-19 pandemic spreading globally, resulting in countries and services shutting down, many businesses were forced to react quickly and put measures in place where humans were replaced with automation to ensure business as usual. In addition to the evolution of technology to help businesses cope, most people had to work remotely and learn how to adapt to not only manage their day-to-day workload, but also respond to the needs of their respective businesses and stakeholders. Little did we know that COVID-19 would occupy two years of our lives and change the way we work, forever.

Many financial institutions had their hands forced to modernise legacy applications and move towards digitisation, either by replacing them completely or adopting other new systems and ways of working that would exist alongside existing technologies, to maintain the level of service that their client base expects. During this process, although client communication remained in place, humans were replaced with chatbots and other AI entities. While seeming more efficient and responding to their needs, it is also important for us to question their worth in relation to the overall client relationship. While some may believe these types of additions are a breath of fresh air, we must also consider those who may feel alienated and intimidated by the complete cut-off from human interaction and therefore strike a balance between the two.

While COVID-19 certainly induced a whole new level of digitisation which encouraged businesses to evolve and assess new opportunities, we must not forget that just because it is not necessary to speak to a person, face-to-face communication will always remain incredibly important as part of the client experience. As we move towards the new normal, it is fundamental to establish a balance between humans, machines and client service managers to assess client comfort level and to be there in case they are needed. 

Often with reactive upgrades and enhancements, we fall into the trap of over-complicating the needs of our clients, more so when the decision is taken out of our hands and we are forced to act quickly. This often results in introducing features and complexities that are not needed.

Rather than just following and embracing industry trends, it is imperative we continue to engage with our clients and address their needs, hence the importance of retaining a human client service model. Not only does this foster important relationships and build trust, but also adds to the value add and unique selling point of any service, as the client feels valued and considered during the evolution process.

Moving forward

At Goal Group, thanks to our visionary CEO, Stephen Everard, we were ahead of the curve as we had already restructured our business model to incorporate a follow-the-sun, dedicated client services department. Every region now has a team of individuals who are there for the sole reason to engage with the clients, respond to queries, hold meetings when needed, and add that personal touch to their journey.

As a result of this, we have further cemented the relationships we have with clients, which has led to increased business and referrals to other new clients through word of mouth and industry reputation. As a leading fintech company, we underwent a huge transformation to cloud-based applications pre-pandemic, which offer our clients elevated levels of automation and have continued to develop our service offerings and enhance the services we provide. However, our decisions are not only business- and revenue-driven, but also based on the needs and wants of our clients, who are at the focus of everything we do.

Fintechs and other vendors in the financial service industry are all too aware that the sales process can often be months, if not years-long and that the relationships built during this process should continue to strengthen once your prospect converts into a live client.

However, if their positive experience ends once the sale is completed, they certainly will not stick around. Just because you have the most up-to-date technology and provide an efficient and competitive service, if they have a question or concern and cannot engage with a person and become frustrated at feeling like a number, they will not hesitate to terminate.

Complacency is the key element to losing a client, and we would all do well to remember that no client should feel dismissed or let down after the sale has been completed.

In many cases, it is the client service experience that is the competitive battleground, not the sales process which is often only a temporary part of the cycle.

Client satisfaction is certainly a factor that should be at the forefront of all business considerations and decisions, as their revenue, as well as sales, is often what drives the viability to be able to initiate these enhancements in the first place.

However, one additional consideration is to ensure all developments not only target your core demographic, which is not only relevant to application and technology advancements, but also client service models.

We have all experienced something similar that has infuriated us, especially in the modern world with the introduction of AI and chatbots that often replace a human being. I am almost certain that at some point we have all furiously searched a website looking for an email address or contact telephone number to speak to a person to resolve something and become increasingly annoyed at voice recognition not working and directing you to the wrong department, or automated responses redirecting you to a ‘frequently asked question section’ that has still not been able to answer your question.

While I am not suggesting you eliminate these, it is also helpful to focus attention and sufficient training on dedicated client service managers who are able to engage, empathise and assist — things which technology lacks (currently!).

Situations like this evolve quickly from man versus machine (or human versus AI) to rage against the machine!

Should we embrace trends, automation and technology, or be guided by our clients and their requirements?

The answer is both. There is no point continually trying to outdo the competition and keep up with trends and new technologies if they do not respond to your clients’ needs.

As aforementioned, adding additional complexities and features which are not necessary will only succeed in alienating them and therefore eliminate the core of your business — and without clients and their revenue, there will not be a business to run.

Rather than prioritising one over the other, it is important that they harmoniously co-exist within the framework of your business to ensure delivery of the ultimate client experience, whilst concurrently promoting leading-edge technology, automation and efficiency alongside excellent service — a win-win for all.

Click here to view the original article in Asset Servicing Times.

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