Author: Josh Horton, JHorton@jackhenry.com
Enterprise business communications has seen incredible changes over the past 10 years. It started with PBXs and Fax machines followed by email, Internet and Voice over IP. Today we enjoy real-time communications that include things like instant messaging, online meetings, online support queues, video conferencing, desktop sharing and presence information – all great technological innovations that open up communications not only for internal staff but also for customers.
Today’s unified communications solutions allow you to easily connect people and information to solve communication challenges, but did you know they can also help reduce costs? Let’s take a brief look at the history of communications solutions to get a better feel for where we’ve been, and then examine some solutions currently available that can help enhance the flexibility and effectiveness of your financial institution’s business communications while reducing overall telecommunication costs.
Private Communications a Decade Ago
10 years ago, PBX systems, wide area networks, email, fax and the Internet were all the rage as ways to greatly improve communications over the telco, postal service and courier services.
- Each branch has its own private key system or PBX.
- Calls between branches may require a long distance service.
- Fax and email replace memos, post cards and letters.
- Wide area networks are implemented to branches offices.
Next, Converged Communications Hit the Scene
A few years later, progress was made that allowed us to combine voice and data communications on a common network to save companies a lot of money. Voice over IP is common in many companies today, yet it really didn't come on the scene until almost 2004, allowing customers to combine voice and data networks into a single converged infrastructure. The result was improved features as compared to using separate data and voice networks, but the biggest factor in converting to a converged infrastructure was cost savings.
- Companies have a common phone system for all branches.
- Company-wide extension dialing improved interoffice communications.
- VoIP on the data circuits save on long distance charges.
- Video conferencing solutions save on travel costs.
- Unified communications combine voicemail and email in the same inbox.
- Faxes are converted to a tiff image and transmitted as an email.
- Call center agents can be physically located at any branch.
Today, it’s All about Instant Communications Gratification
The converged platform mentioned above is the foundation for today’s instant communications. The new communications landscape for the enterprise is instant and collaboration-focused. Ask yourself this question: How might it benefit my company if we could do the following within a private and secure communications platform?
- A Client could chat with a Customer Service Rep (CSR) instantly from a link on the company website.
- CSRs could have customer account information displayed instantly on their screen based on the customer’s phone number.
- Your iPhone or Android device could be integrated with your phone system.
- Your staff could participate in video calls from their phone.
- You could instantly know if someone is on the phone at another branch through an instant messaging client.
- You could Instant Message co-workers during conference calls in order to share information confidentially.
- You could share your desktop with co-workers and collaborate on a project regardless of location.
So you can see that we’ve come a long way, baby! Unfortunately many companies are still not aware of the myriad of possibilities available to help enhance business communications at the enterprise level. At one time, these features were only for the richest of companies. But the good news is that today’s technology advancements and hosted platforms have opened up this functionality – and all the many benefits – to customers with even the smallest of budgets. So I ask you…Can you really afford not to take a deeper look into today’s unified communications solutions?
Author: Martin Webster, firstname.lastname@example.org
At half time, the score of my nine year old son’s football game this weekend was 24-0 (our team was the 0). I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when I heard one of the boys ask the coach, “Are we winning?” I’ve got to hand it to the coach, he told the boy, “It’s a close game. Keep playing hard.” Considering this loss would make our team 0-4, I couldn’t help but wonder why we were having so much trouble winning. Being the analytical person I am, I started to drill into the key areas of the game…Is it our offense or our defense? Is it the plays and formations the team is using? Do we have the right kids in the right positions? There are so many things that can cause a team to struggle; sometimes it is difficult to quickly identify the problem.
Are we winning? I thought about that question the following Monday at work and wondered if financial managers ask themselves that question on a regular basis. Surely they do. But how do they know? Financial statements are the obvious source to examine bottom line success. But what if the results aren’t up to expectations? Then what?
Increasingly, financial managers are broadening the metrics they review to determine financial success, to include Key Performance Indicators (KPI) that can identify trends their financial performance. Financial Scoreboards or Dashboards offer the ability to see these KPI’s on just a few screens, in order to focus on areas most important to financial performance and to make decisions quicker. Much like the dashboard of a car, financial dashboards help you “drive” your business decisions by keeping important information front and center.
While financial dashboards may utilize different designs and formats, they all should focus on helping your organization in four key success stages: Monitoring, Analyzing, Planning and Executing.
Monitoring – This is typically a function that takes place at the executive level. Monitoring involves identifying trends, positive or negative, so they can be analyzed in more detail and leveraged or corrected, depending on the trend. Another function of monitoring is alert indicators that tell executives when predetermined tolerance levels have been exceeded. The financial dashboard should provide KPI’s that are easily monitored on as few screens as possible.
Analyzing – The urgency indicated in the monitoring stage, will determine the level in the organization where analysis should take place. The more urgency there is, the higher the level of analysis. The CFO and Financial Analysts take a primary role in this stage. Analysis usually requires drilling into KPI’s to gain a better understanding of areas identified in the Monitoring stage. Effective financial dashboards offer this drill down capability.
Planning – The planning stage can be as simple as an email between a few executives or as complex as gathering a team to create a project. Dashboard integration with email and project planning is essential for this stage.
Executing – While not a component of a financial dashboard, it is both the actionable culmination of the Monitoring, Analyzing and Planning stages as well as the springboard to on-going monitoring, in order to assess the effectiveness of executed plans.
Whether your organization is 0-4 or 4-0, a financial performance dashboard will help keep you focused on the things that are important for you to succeed.
Author:Deborah Matthews, email@example.com
Too often companies are focused on how many customers “like” them. What really matters is: do they trust you? Contrary to conventional wisdom, loyalty and trust are the precursors to building your institution’s following on Twitter and Facebook, not the other way around.
Trust is a critical ingredient in building the reputation and ultimately the success of any organization. It’s a catalyst for customer loyalty and an essential component of brand equity. The payoff of nurturing trust is significant. Customers that feel this connection with you will use more products and will also become a source of referrals. Stronger levels of trust drive growth and translate into a stronger brand. According to Steven M.R. Covey, “Return to shareholders in high-trust organizations is almost three times higher than the return in low-trust organizations.”
Building trust is a strategic imperative and a competitive advantage. According to ath Power Consulting, 9 in 10 consumers feel trust in their bank is a “must have”; 84% of bank customers say that a strong reputation is also a must-have or ideal component.
Undoubtedly, your institution’s credibility grows when you deliver on your brand promises. Customers expect seamless service delivery and “no hassles.” Getting the job done right and making it easy to do business with you is assumed. Beyond that, did you know that you can raise the mercury in your trust-o-meter with more effective communication? In July, Pitney Bowes’ research found trust in the marketing communications of a service provider determines up to 32% of a customer’s overall trust in the provider.
Source: Chicago Booth/Kellogg School Financial Trust Index, 7.20.11, www.financialtrustindex.org/resultswave11.htm
The good news is that Americans are again placing more trust in their financial institutions. There is a growing body of evidence that proactive communication and transparency is the driving force behind this renewal. Results from a recent J.D. Power study found that credit card customer satisfaction has reached the highest level since 2008. These improved ratings have been attributed to “plain language” disclosures required by the CARD Act. In fact, your customers crave simplicity and clarity to the degree that nearly three-fourths of Americans with checking accounts support regulations that would require banks to better disclose the terms, conditions and fees associated with their account.
“The Role of Trust in Consumer Relationships” summarizes consumers’ views on activities that help build trust. Not surprisingly, improved communications was at the top of the list. Recommendations include transparency, managing expectations by avoiding surprises and effectively communicating information in advance. (If you’re still not convinced, consider that simple, clear, timely communication can help create efficiencies by reducing volume in your call centers. According to Tower Group, the per-call cost is $3.75.)
Armed with these insights, institutions now have a timely opportunity to transform one of the most pressing issues on your customers’ minds – security - into a competitive advantage. The updated FFIEC guidance acknowledges the foundational role of effective communication by mandating specific customer awareness and educational activities. FIs are required to provide information about regulatory coverage, steps customers can take to help mitigate risk, and who to contact in case of suspicious activity. Rather than view these requirements as tasks on a checklist, harness this opportunity to bolster trust:
- Clarify expectations, roles and responsibilities
- Offer relevant, valuable guidance for enhancing security
- Keep customers informed with educational resources
- Provide communication tools (such as alerts) to deputize your customers in the fight against fraud
Your customers will thank you - and trust you.
Author: Rob Quillen, RQuillen@profitstars.com
Every once in a while, an event happens in our lives that changes our lives forever. Every once in a while, we see an event that creates an opportunity to change someone else’s life.
On Sept 10th, 2001, I sat next to a perfect stranger on a flight to Newark, NJ. That stranger was Jason Dahl, who the next day during the terrorists’ attacks on America, was the captain and pilot of Flight 93 that crashed into a field near Shanksville, PA.
During our flight together, I made a connection with Jason. Not just a normal “where are you flying to?” connection, but a personal one. We connected enough for Jason to tell me a dream that he shared with his then-15-year-old son, Matt. Their dream was to go to a NASCAR event and meet racing superstar Jeff Gordon. Jason and I made arrangements to meet in Kansas City a couple of weeks later for a scheduled NASCAR race; one that would be my treat.
When the attacks of 9.11 happened outside of my hotel room in New York City and I learned that Jason was the pilot of Flight 93, the dream could have ended.
Instead, 19 days after 9.11 (in a story I chronicle further in my new book, Why Wait?), Jason’s dream came true.
As I reflect on this now, in September of 2011, I realized then that all of us have the amazing ability to make other people’s dreams come true – we just have to make a decision to do it. Each and every day, all of us speak with friends, family members, prospects, and customers. We talk about our day, work and business. But how often do we stop to take a few minutes to get to know someone a little more? How often do we ask about their personal goals or their dreams? It’s a simple question, but few of us do it.
What if we did?
In our business lives, “relationship building” is pounded into our heads every day. What if tomorrow, you focused on one person in your business life – either a current customer or a prospect – and really got to know them? What if you got to know them to the point where you started engaging them about their dreams? How would they feel? How would you feel if and when that dream was achieved? What would that do to your business results? What if your prospects or customers felt so connected to you that they only did business with you because of it? It’s easy to do; just take the time to do it.
When I give speeches about the book and my experiences with Jason, I ask people to close their eyes for five seconds and then raise their hand if they thought of one person that they want to reach out to, get closer to, and help make their dreams come true.
Close your eyes for five seconds and think of one person…now go make it come true.
Author: Chris Sutherland, CSutherland@jackhenry.com
In doing some research recently, I ran across an interesting survey that said in 2007 Information World surveyed 10,000 customers of IncrediMail that ranked the importance of email in their daily lives as follows:
- 54% would rather give up chocolate for one day than email
- 50% would give up coffee
- 41% would give up television
- 15% would rather give up their spouse/significant other than email
- 4% have fired someone via email
Funny stuff, but have you ever really stopped to think about how important email is to you and your financial institution (FI)? Some research indicates that email use increases by 17% - 20% annually. And since the introduction of the “smart phone,” email is being used everywhere. If you watch people while traveling, you will notice that checking email is the last thing they do before the airplane door is closed and the first thing they do when the plane touches down. And we’ve all heard the funny news stories, such as the one regarding a lady falling into a fountain at a shopping mall as she was walking while emailing via her smartphone. Apparently, email is very important! And since email is so important, shouldn’t we be keeping a record of it? The answer is yes.
Email archiving, while not yet mandatory by regulators (I believe it will only be a matter of time, however!), is a solution that all FIs should consider. Microsoft is trying to help you out with Exchange Server 2010, by building in an archiving feature that allows you to have an archiving solution without “breaking the bank,” so to speak. Some of the advantages to email archiving include:
- Storage – Storage allows you to remove quotas from your mailboxes and better manage your email system. The ability to use less expensive storage to house old email documents helps you maintain your servers.
- Compliance – Compliance can be another matter that takes time away from your IT department. With archiving, you can meet regulations and save your IT folks a lot of headaches.
- eDiscovery Searches – You can assign users the rights to search mailboxes thereby giving them the ability to find what they need. Think of the email system as a corporate knowledge repository. Archiving systems can provide appropriate knowledge management tools that enable IT, and even end users, to better manage this knowledge base.
- Increase Productivity – With Retention Policies and Retention Tags, you can take the responsibility out of the end users’ hands. This allows users to focus on company projects rather than on managing all those emails and trying to decide what should and should not be kept.
- Litigation Support – Litigation support must be accurate, complete, and, if possible, in in its original state. Since back-up systems are prone to error, loss or destruction of data may occur. Archiving helps protect you and keep emails in their original state and available for use.
How important is email archiving to you? Share your thoughts below.