New competition in the marketplace, heightened member expectations, and a changing regulatory environment are all compelling needs for business transformation for financial services companies. As part of that transformation, Forrester predicts that “companies will spend 2018 working on new initiatives to better win, serve and engage members, as regulators continue to promote competition.” Few banks would disagree about what is needed in 2018; the question really becomes how we get there.
One initiative worth considering is to move toward consolidating your organization’s member communications within a shared services environment. Over the past several years, many banks have turned to a shared services approach to deliver efficiencies with regard to functions that were previously performed separately in numerous departments or locations. These shared services typically include back-office functions such as project management and information systems. The goal was to deliver cost savings by standardizing practices as well as reducing technology investments and labor resources.
A shared services environment could deliver significant organizational benefits in the context of member communications as well. A content creation group could be merged with resources from IT to form the shared services team, with the goals of reducing cycle time for content changes, standardizing messaging and reducing duplication of content wherever possible. Like an outsourced vendor, the services and time involved in this shared services function would be billed back to the various lines of business.
Of course, successfully moving to a shared services environment for member communications will require a champion from the executive level. It is also advisable to start with a discrete project rather than attempting to roll out shared services for every member communication being generated in the bank. That’s because attempting an organization-wide rollout would likely encounter resistance from within departments that are used to having complete control over the communications they send. They may perceive the centralization as a threat to the department’s independent management. By contrast, choosing a discrete communications project to move into a shared services approach can act as a test case that, once success is achieved, can serve to highlight the benefits of the approach that other departments can leverage as well.
Member service client letters are one example of a discrete member communications function that can gain relatively quick enhancement from a shared services transformation in many banks. This correspondence is often manually produced using desktop software, resulting in variations in messaging and formatting due to a lack of content controls. As a result, consistent branding and regulatory compliance are both put at risk.
A shared services team can take on the task of identifying the locations of all pieces of member service correspondence in use and collecting them into a comprehensive catalog. The team can then identify common content as well as inconsistencies, ultimately determining which pieces of content are most relevant and revising content with plain language so that it is both consistent and effective. For example, the bank may want to standardize credit application letters that are sent to various members based on their credit ratings. Duplicate and inconsistent content can be eliminated as well, reducing the overall portfolio of correspondence.
The ultimate results from a transformation of this kind will be five-fold:
Looking ahead to 2018, we expect a push by banks to up their game with technologies and practices that will lead to more efficient processes and enhanced member experience. A shared services approach to member communications, coupled with the right technologies to implement it, should be high on the list of considerations for banks seeking strategies that can deliver both quick wins and lasting results.
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