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September 27, 2019updated 25 Sep 2019 3:11pm

Leasing foundation: seeking innovation in the customer experience

By Christopher Marchant

Christopher Marchant reports back from the latest Leasing Foundation panel discussion in Central London, this time covering the key subjects of marketing, the customer experience and staying ahead of the curve.

Hosted by the Leasing Foundation Innovation Initiative, the latest in a series of Central London-held breakfast discussions focused on customer interactions, and how commercial enterprises need to move and adapt to the times in order to survive and thrive.

The panel comprised of India Pollard, product marketing associate at challenger Monzo Bank, Sridhar Iyengar, managing director for Europe at software provider Zoho, Richard Manthorpe, product director at telecommunications firm Redwood Technologies, and Alex Marsh, senior commercial director at P2P lender Klarna. The event was moderated by Andy Trimmer, head of technology at Simply Asset Finance.

An initial point of discussion was best approaches to breaking down and streamlining the customer experience. According to Iyengar, the key is in how to interact with the customer.

“What is a most-hated thing in day-to-day work?” he asked. “Spam. Defined broadly, this can be any out-of-context communication, reaching out to customers with no background of what they want and that’s what people hate.”

Iyengar continued: “This sort of spam happens because of two reasons: one is that companies don’t have the data that tells them what the customer is interested in; the second is that, culturally, the teams are not organised to work together to understand what the customer’s needs are. That is why a unified customer experience platform is so important to bring internal teams together to serve customers in this way.”

According to software provider Accelo, a 5% increase in customer retention can increases company profits by up to 95%. Framed against this statistic, the question was put to Iyengar about whether there were further opportunities within the centralised platform, or if it was purely about visibility.

“It is about visibility but it is also about being proactive,” Iyengar replied. “It comes back to the context of knowledge of what the customer wants and how to engage with that.

“If a marketing team is running campaigns, they need to understand where the customer is. Then companies can actually create a very well-defined offering or a message for them.”

Sustaining Experience

While the asset finance industry has classically placed priority on the beginning and end of a contract, in a dynamic and digital world, more importance is being placed on continuing active communication between lessor and lessee throughout the entire process.

On this kind of engagement, Manthorpe said: “An important thing to remember is the three Ws: allowing customers to contact you wherever they are, on whatever device they want and whenever is suitable for them.

“The UK power network, for instance, started by offering three channels of information to customers about power cuts; now it is offering 27 different channels of communication. If, in that moment, you’re that demographic and want to contact them via the latest social media outlet, then it’s having the ability to do so, not putting those barriers in place, forcing people down certain routes.”

Dynamic Entrants

Founded in 2005, Swedish bank Klarna has, through its innovative digital services, established itself as one of the most dynamic new entrants into the UK banking sphere.

According to Marsh: “The mindset within Klarna has been to have very close relationships with the merchants that they work with. The bank is fully integrated in the online journey, right into the merchant’s e-commerce platform in their checkout.

The information is automatically pulled through in terms of personal details, and then the customer will get an option ranging from ‘pay immediately with card’ through ‘up to 60 months’.

“One of the big differentiators for Klarna, once you have made that payment, is the post-purchase experience. In this situation, payments can be managed within the Klarna app and with incredible functionality if, for example, someone wants to be able to change something like payment dates.

“The payment method itself can also be changed. A person might have wanted to start off by paying by card and pay now, but actually having made the transaction, they can shift that to paying over three months within the app.”

Marsh set what Klarna is trying to do against a personal experience of trying to get a leasing contract for a phone at a branch of John Lewis. The application took over half an hour – a stressful experience for both the employee and himself – and wasted time that could have been spent by both on other tasks. Capabilities such as e-signature were undercut by the continuing need to also provide physical signatures.

On the need to improve processes through digital innovation, Pollard at Monzo Bank said: “Automation is about automating everything that you possibly can. A user who has a really simple query and wants that answered really fast, they don’t want to wait on a call, they don’t want to wait on someone to come back to them.”

“If you can tell them that information up front, I think automating is the solution for the majority of problems, and it is only the more complicated issues that require manual input,” he explained.

Privacy and Security

While Klarna and Monzo are noted for their flexibility and convenience, there is also an understanding of the need to prioritise customer privacy and security.

On the question of what customers value more, security or flexibility, Manthorpe said: “Customers value flexibility the most. They want the convenience, they want it all to be a great experience – until it goes wrong, then they will really value the security.

“It is something which is best done internally as well as externally. Companies have got to make it as secure as possible, and to make sure it is convenient. It is no good having emojis in your password if you can’t remember what it is.”

Manthorpe mentions smartphones as an ideal combination of the two qualities, with the bank sending a user a one-time code, and being able to enter this code from the message received.

On the subject of incorporating customer innovation and data into product design – in a manner pioneered by the likes of Apple but since transferred to a range of sectors, including financial institutions – Pollard said: “With the savings account at Monzo, it’s about total data computation. Data scientists will pull information from other areas like customer bank statements, everything that has been organised with that customer.

“At the moment, the systems housed within Monzo are super new, so more often than not the bank is trying to segment its audience so as to find the most suitable solution to the problem for each of them.

“Monzo builds a dashboard on each user – how old they are, where they live, how much money they hold in their other account with Monzo, what they spend at Monzo – and then uses that to inform the decision.

“For instance, the data shows that people who have a savings account with Monzo are more engaged than people who have only a current account, and Monzo can use that to inform its decision making.”

Thinking Differently

At the talk’s conclusion, the audience was encouraged to go out and do one digital experiment with their business. As a prime example of what innovation and rapidity can achieve, one audience member was able to open a flexible account with Monzo during the talk itself.

Mike Randall, chief executive at Simply Asset Finance, said of the talks: “These events have been put together to inspire us to think differently, about how we can build businesses, driving forward their innovation and making the asset finance industry a better place to be. The best talks raise more questions than answers, and I know this talk has done this for me.

“I would also ask everybody to collaborate with each other, and get to know each other. These events are designed to bring our industry together and make sure we all know each other to drive it forward.”

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