While immediacy has long been high among consumer demands, the pandemic has created a heightened expectation of speed to market. This has opened the door to increased automation, with options such as straight-through processing helping to facilitate the immediacy and ease consumers want while providing the data and decreased labor outlay companies are seeking.
Smart Business spoke with Mike Fieseler, vice president of business development at EOX Vantage, about how automated tools such as straight-through processing are helping companies satisfy consumers’ need for speed of purchasing.
How has COVID affected automation’s role in consumer purchasing?
The pandemic has led some consumers to adopt different attitudes, and has given others different expectations, toward web-based purchasing. It’s also altered daily rhythms and habits. For example, many people faced obstacles shopping at stores during the pandemic. The circumstances sent many of those people online, where they could browse, buy and then pick up their item at curbside or have it delivered to their doorstep. That’s likely changed buying habits because, absent a walk through the store, consumers might not do as much impulse buying as they once had. That could affect how retailers market certain products that rely on impulse buys.
How can automation help companies roll out new programs and services?
With automated solutions, companies can start to gather a lot of data. That helps them make business decisions faster and roll out the changes faster. It can help companies better understand where their customers are or where requests for services are coming from. It can also be used to gather demographic data to better understand a company’s customer base. And then from that data, stronger, more effective marketing programs can be assembled that are better tailored to certain segments of people in certain areas with specific solutions.
Mobile apps, which can be tied to a suite of automation services, offer companies a lot of advantages. Apps can provide companies with a lot more data on consumers than can be gleaned from a traditional website, enabling companies to develop and modify solutions to better fit the user experience.
What is straight-through processing and what benefits does it offer?
Straight-through processing is a method used most of all by insurance, financial services and other similar companies to speed up and achieve better quality client interactions by automating processes — in effect, sending a transaction ‘straight through’ a system instead of having to manually manipulate it at various points. Among its advantages are consistency of decision making and less human intervention. Both of these can improve the customer experience, in part because they speed up what might otherwise be a lengthier process. Modern transactions conducted through smartphone apps and the web can be completed in minutes.
This speed and consistency have proven particularly beneficial to the insurance industry. For example, customers don’t want to apply for a policy and then be forced to wait 30 days for a review of their application and a response. They want it immediately. Companies that can do that are not only more likely to win business, but they’re also likely to retain it. In the past, before web-based applications and innovations like straight-through processing, an insurance applicant may have applied for a policy with one insurance agency, then shopped around for policies at other agencies while they waited for a response. It’s likely that in some instances, the customer would choose to go with the agency that could get them approved the fastest, and not necessarily with the first place they applied.
With straight-through processing drastically reducing customer wait times, applicants are much more likely to stick with the first place they apply because the process is easy, and acceptance comes quickly. Straight-through processing keeps customers happier and leads to a higher percentage of retention than there had been through the previous methods. It’s also a cost saver, reducing the labor that would otherwise be required to accept applications.
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