The Importance of Going Paperless, Without Going People-Less

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way that the financial services sector needs to serve its customers.  This is not just a short-term phenomenon but a long term shift.  As a result, this has already created an increasing dependence on technology as increasing numbers of banks experiment with ways of bringing the functionality and benefits of the branch into their customers’ homes.

In a post-pandemic world, with three-quarters of Brits currently using less cash and far more global transactions now being done digitally than in branches, banks will need to continue to build virtual branches and implement paperless journeys across processes.

Going paperless is, of course, convenient for the customer and more cost-effective for the bank because by cutting down on paper usage, banks save money, while customers save time (by not having to send and then wait to receive documents). Not to mention the significant environmental and health benefits of not having to touch documents or visit branches to sign applications.

Earlier this year, months before the UK outbreak, NatWest stopped sending automatic physical bank statements. Other banks have gone one step further: fully digitising their banking processes and asking their customers to opt-in if they require a paper receipt, or statement. Doing so clearly makes financial sense, as NatWest reported printing 450 million sheets of paper and 100 million envelopes in 2019.

Making a Statement

It therefore makes common sense that banks look at safer, more environmentally friendly and cost-effective ways of communicating with their customers. In this Digital Age, it is simply inefficient to send out paper statements for current accounts, savings accounts and credit card accounts.

Technology enables banks to not only provide digital statements to their customers (via emails and notifications) but offers a greener and less time-consuming way to exchange documents. Enterprises across sectors have cottoned on to how unnecessary paper statements can be, and either offer their customers the option of receiving email receipts, or the option to download them.

In the past, letters were sent out to customers to remind them of outstanding documents or uncompleted activities. Today, however, the next steps in customer journeys can be entered into an electronic approval flow that automatically updates customers with outstanding actions and next steps through email or SMS. In many cases, these notifications and reminders are triggered automatically when a customer completes each prior step in a self-service process.

Apply Yourself

In 2020 and beyond, there’s also absolutely no reason why applications need to be printed out and filled in on paper. Contracts and T+Cs can be signed electronically, and documents can be downloaded and uploaded at the customer’s discretion.

Whereas sales, including cross-selling and up-selling opportunities, would once involve reams of pamphlets and paperwork to fill out, sign and send, it can now be done digitally, through self-service portals.

There are many positive by-products of implementing digitised processes, including:

  • Improvements to regulatory compliance, due to transparent, easily auditable document management processes
  • Elimination of errors and inefficiencies due to misfiled and misplaced documentation
  • Optimisation of document processes to provide more efficient customer services
  • Facilitation of faster internal communication and response times
  • Reduction of operating costs by simplifying back-office processes

Digitising processes enables enterprises to cut costs, go paperless, streamline workflows and improve document management. It also allows enterprises to cut down on staff administration duties and ensure your organisation remains compliant and fully auditable.

Having a People Trail

Whereas in the past, a customer would leave their branch with armfuls of receipts, paper and documents, physical paper trails are no longer necessary for customers to feel connected to their bank, and their banking activities.

It is advisable, however, that banks should look at ways of going paperless without going people-less, as humans still provide a essential component to banking, especially when customers require answers to questions, or want an error to be rectified.

Indeed, according to BT’s Autonomous Customer 2020 report, just 21% of customers rate digital channels as ‘excellent’. This perhaps explains why 74% of those surveyed said they had phoned a contact centre within the last year.

Face-to-face contact, or the qualities of a face-to-face interaction, including being able to speak with an agent, while being able to share information and download and upload documents during a session is cited as incredibly important to customers.

While encouraging customers to transact digitally, through self-service, has clear financial benefits, including the costs associated with paperless processes, enterprises should ensure they offer a high touch channel where customers can connect with their bank or telco or service provider, especially for more complicated and convoluted journeys.

In this era of social distancing practices and reduced branch opening hours, combining the relative qualities of a high-tech approach, including the convenience and cost savings of digital channels, with the personable and emotional support of a high touch interaction is invaluable.

Because in this brave new branchless, paperless world, it’s important to not lose sight of what truly sets your business apart from your competitors: your people and their ability to lend a human helping hand during times of trouble and confusion.

At Vizolution, we have helped many banks implement fully digital paperless mortgage applications or credit card loans processes that still give customers the option to interact with agents remotely (telephony and online) and share, display, exchange, complete, verify and sign documents as if they were face to face.

To discover more about how our solutions can help you bring the benefits of the branch into your customers’ homes, click here.

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