How small businesses can embrace innovation

Patrick Jelly, Commercial Director for Asset Finance at Aldermore Bank, discusses the importance of embracing technological innovation for SMEs in 2020

The UK is a country with a rich history of technological innovation. From the Bletchley Park code breakers during WWII to Deepmind, the British company at the frontier of Artificial Intelligence (AI) development, our nation’s technological expertise is vast. Today, it is well known among small business owners that optimising the use of the array of technology available is critical to business growth. On the most basic level, it allows individuals to manage their time and resources more efficiently. More nuanced is its ability to streamline operations and help improve customer service.

One area where Aldermore has utilised technology to improve customer service and increase efficiency, is through our new online broker portal known as Asset Backer. Asset Backer streamlines the process of submitting new business proposals by sending them direct to Aldermore’s credit underwriters for review. Whereas previously, intermediaries would have had to fill out various forms across several different platforms, brokers can now do it in one place. The platform also enables brokers to track the status of their proposals in real time and on-the-go by using a smartphone, tablet or desktop device.

Alongside Asset Backer, Aldermore has also developed an automated credit underwriting system to reduce the time taken to reach credit decisions by automating part of the process. As a result of this automation, our human credit underwriters have greater capacity to focus on more complex deals and have more time to interact with our brokers. This allows us to enhance our customer journey, providing automation that can help ensure consistent delivery at a scalable level. 

When integrating any new technology into a business, it can often be beneficial to implement it in stages, for instance by first trialling it to a select group of brokers, customers or employees. This not only allows for a period of feedback but also means that any issues which arise can be dealt with and won’t affect the entire business once the technology has rolled out. Adopting new procedures or technology can of course take time for employees or customers to get used to, and it’s important to make sure that customers, brokers and employees are all engaged and brought along with any technological implementation.

If customers are left behind by a technology change, the results can often be disastrous. This occurred in February 2018, when reality TV star Kylie Jenner wiped $1.3bn off the value of Snapchat after her “Sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore?” tweet caused their shares to plummet. Snapchat had integrated a radical redesign which many users said made it more difficult to use and 1.2m people signed an online petition demanding it revert the changes, but boss Evan Spiegel refused. While damage on this scale is extreme, the example is a pertinent one for businesses.

Customer experience is not purely based on how seamless an interaction is; also important is that element we call the “human touch”. It’s important when providing a service that a broker or customer has the option to have human interaction.  With both Asset Backer and our automated credit decision system, we retain an important degree of human interaction with our customers, especially around the more complicated transactions. Ultimately, the best service comes from platforms which can achieve the delicate balance between human interaction and automation.

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