Lockdown sparks digital customer relationships


ieDigital are a team of experts in financial services technology and customer experience, helping companies improve their digital expertise with updated technology and behaviors. Never has our knowledge been more in demand than it is now, and our new five-year agreement with Cambridge & Counties Bank is testament to this.

The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown requirements exposed an urgent need for many businesses to interact more effectively with customers using digital means. For Cambridge & Counties Bank, a specialist lender helping customers with their lending and savings needs, this meant continuing to nurture relationships with new and existing customers across the business spectrum. With potentially much more to consider where business customers are also having to manage their own clients through the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 situation. Nonetheless, the concept of developing exemplary online customer experiences remains at the forefront right across the board.

Let’s consider the challenge in front of us. Since the start of the lockdown, we have spoken to many companies that previously relied on retail outlets to manage their customer relationships. These included building societies and motor finance companies that have depended on face-to-face interaction and footfall in high street branches, car showrooms and garages.

Digital communications with their customers used to be considered as a “nice to have”, a mindset that potentially stymied its growth. Overtime, they have become a much more integral and part of a business’s processes. When the Financial Conduct Authority authorised finance companies to allow their customers payment breaks, it became quickly apparent that businesses were not technologically prepared to manage the process. For instance:

  • Customers reached the end of leasing deals, returned their vehicles and wanted to explore their options.
  • People facing a loss of income needed to access savings accounts and consider their next steps.

These are just two examples of customer demand as a result of Covid-19 from a financial point of view. They demonstrate the urgency to communicate, and many businesses just weren’t prepared, nor able, to talk effectively to their customers outside of the branch or showroom environment.

Our newly formed relationship with Cambridge & Counties Bank is evidence that, it’s the forward-thinking and prepared businesses that are the ones reaching out to tackle the digital communications shortfall. As the head of one bank put it in a recent conversation around this topic: “Talking to people digitally was always on our agenda, but now it’s item number one.”

I have no doubt that this will be a fruitful relationship, as we are playing to our strengths in helping Cambridge & Counties Bank develop a new digital experience to help SMEs make deposits and manage their funds. Appropriately, this will take ieDigital into more specialist areas of lending involving more profound examples of business-to-business interaction.

The relationship will enable us to implement artificial intelligence (AI) models that further the concept of simple ‘Live Chat’, so they become closer to the idea of the ‘real-life chat experience’. At a business-to-business level, this is breaking new ground for many companies, and will push against the limitations of poorly implemented technology across many sectors, not least banking and motor finance.

Our global situation is showing that technology ‘token gestures’ used to augment the branch or the showroom are where customers may choose to be, and it would be prudent to begin the process of improving every aspect of your digital business experience before your competitors do.

Rami Cassis is the non-executive director of IE Digital.