I experienced this recently when I visited my local bank branch to open a current account. Since I didn’t have an appointment, the cashier advised me to apply online. “It should only take a couple of minutes, and the account will be open in a few business days”. I left the bank smiling, because it’s a great feeling when efficiency is the result of integrating technology into daily business.
Lloyds Bank affirmed this belief last Tuesday when it announced a £1 billion investment in digital technology. Over the next three years, customers will increasingly rely on the internet and digital tools to complete deposits, withdrawals and other transactions. Similar shifts have already taken place at banks in North America and Asia, where cash points can dispense exact change and help users apply for loans. If problems arise, customer service representatives are available via video chat to offer assistance, even outside traditional business hours.
Of course, some users will inevitably have difficulties when transitioning to new processes, and not everything will go perfectly. That’s natural. But it’s critical that employees are able to fully support customers during times of change. This comes in the form of sufficient staffing, but also from having personnel on hand with the necessary knowledge to guide customers and ensure that new technology isn’t a deterrent to continued business.
The latter point became painfully obvious when I took the cashier’s advice and applied for a current account online. After waiting a week, I returned to the bank and was told she had missed a step; not all of the necessary information had been collected. “It should only take a few more days”.
Another week later, my account still wasn’t functional because it hadn’t been fully processed. Only on the third week was everything in place for my inaugural transaction. When I learnt accounts opened the traditional way (in person at the bank) work in a single day, I was tempted to cross the street and take my money elsewhere.
Technology and progress are vital to survival in today’s world, but they don’t automatically make business more efficient. Only a fool buys a new calculator one day and dismisses his accountant the next. Therefore, while innovating and strategising, it is important to bear in mind the words of Caesar Augustus: festina lente – or hasten slowly.
This is valuable PR advice for companies planning to incorporate technology in new ways. Business should look to improve efficiency and ability, yet ensure that people don’t feel left in the wake of moving ahead too quickly. If customers lose patience, and confidence in a company wanes due to overambitious change, existing business will be undermined and future prosperity jeopardised.
Technological change is an ally to commercial success. It can sometimes bring challenges, but even the greatest of these can be overcome with proper planning and careful consideration of how customers will respond. And this is what puts money in the bank.