Q&A: Helping UK and EU businesses overcome their biggest challenges

Tasked with expanding Ubiquity’s scalable approach to customer experience (CX) and back-office operations in the U.K. and Europe, payments and retail veteran John Goodale knows firsthand what’s hampering scaleups and disruptors in his key markets. 

Skyrocketing prices, staffing challenges, economic uncertainty, and outdated CX technology are all making it harder for fintechs and e-money institutions—really, any business—to create brand-building CX cost-effectively. 

We sat down with John to talk about his new role, key trends shaping the competitive landscape, and why CX optimisation has never been more important. 

What businesses are facing

Ubiquity: What do you see as the main obstacles for businesses in fintech and across verticals in terms of delivering amazing CX? 

John Goodale: Every market is different, but the big consistent themes are: staffing, technology, and economic pressure and uncertainty.  

There is a debate in the U.K. that Brexit has driven many of the current economic and staffing issues, but the reality is that we’re seeing exactly the same challenges across multiple markets. The pandemic was the catalyst that changed the working environment and left us with a legacy of huge competition for employees. Many contact centres already struggled with hiring and retaining the best talent because of the options available to potential employees, and the current environment has only exacerbated that. It’s particularly difficult if you don’t have a robust, secure work-from-home solution.  

John Goodale, Executive Director, Head of Europe

Technology investments can be cost-prohibitive at a time when many companies are looking to tighten their belts. At the same time, fintechs, in particular, are facing pressure from investors to become profitable or maximise their profitability. 

John Goodale

Executive Director, Head of Europe, Ubiquity

JG: That brings me to technology. Businesses have a desire to invest in technology to modernise their CX, not only to better serve customers but to optimise their resources. That way agents can focus on the most complex and highest value inquiries, and technology tools, such as IVRs and chatbots, can resolve simple issues. 

However, technology investments can be cost-prohibitive at a time when many companies are looking to tighten their belts. At the same time, fintechs, in particular, are facing pressure from investors to become profitable or maximise their profitability. 

So you have businesses on the one hand who are struggling with the ability to recruit and retain enough skilled staff to respond to customer needs. Then on the other hand, the cost of modernising your CX tech stack, which could potentially help you serve customers with a smaller headcount, is too expensive. So companies are in this situation where they have pretty significant challenges and they’re having a difficult time addressing them.

The outsourcing option

Ubiquity: Are more companies open to outsourcing now as a way to solve these problems?  

JG: We’ve certainly seen big banking and retail brands outsource for years as a way to optimise CX cost-effectively. With fintechs and challenger brands, there’s been more of a focus on doing things in-house, partly aided by having lower volumes. But the bigger you get, the harder it is to sustain that model. 

Organisations are starting to recognise that cost-saving is much more imperative than it used to be. It’s always been important to a degree, but when you have investment dollars flowing in freely, then you may think you’re already doing something right. Why change it?

But now that fintech investment isn’t as easy to obtain, profitability has become a bigger priority. What if you can find a way to reduce costs without changing any of your core services–you’re still offering the same experience to customers? That opens the door for companies to say, actually, maybe we should look at outsourcing. Maybe we could offshore our fraud review work, or maybe we could automate dispute management. What could we achieve if we look at outsourcing all of our customer service front- and back-end operations to experts in that field? 

For some it is a mindset shift because they have considered customer support integral to their brand promise, and there’s some hesitancy to relinquish control of it

That’s where we come in to show that being a Ubiquity partner means you can deliver brand-defining CX while reducing costs. And it’s not just by finding less expensive geographies to operate in but by hiring true brand ambassadors, refining your customer journeys, increasing first contact resolution, and redesigning self-service channels in a way that helps your customers solve problems while you realise lower servicing costs.

Ubiquity: You’ve been in fintech since the early days. How have customer and regulator expectations changed? 

JG: We’ve seen some rather large fintechs–and even some banks when migrating technologies–suffer pretty significant outages that left customers without access to their funds. In the early days there was a general acceptance amongst many consumers that this was part of the course of fintech and was almost, up to a point, accepted. 

Expectations have changed. Fintechs have become mainstream and expectations are much higher now for consumers, who rightly want access to their funds, and a means to get answers from someone if they can’t. At the same time, regulators continue to look closely at how fintechs operate, including how they serve their customers. Consumer Duty rules go into force at the end of this month in the U.K., and not only do you have to show that you have processes in place to serve your customers, you actually have to show the outcomes. 

Meanwhile, the competition for customers has intensified because of the proliferation of digital banking options. If you can’t deliver the service your customers expect, they will go elsewhere. 

Opportunities and challenges in embedded finance

Ubiquity: We’re hearing a lot of excitement around embedded finance. What’s the role of CX when you’re delivering financial services through a non-financial brand?

JG: Although there is considerable opportunity in embedded finance, customer experience could prove to be make or break. Just as you need integration across customer engagement channels, there’s also the challenge of continuity for the customer between the financial and non-financial services. You can solve it, but the CX solution must have more flexibility and better technical capability than a standard (non-embedded) finance product. 

Embedded finance providers and their partners need to put equal (if not greater) emphasis on the CX part of their offer as they do on the financial product itself. Agile, available, skilled, and resourced CX is critical to making the complex happen seamlessly for customers and to help drive adoption and loyalty in a cost-effective way. 

Ubiquity: How do you think fintech brands can differentiate themselves in the current environment while also facing the other challenges we’ve discussed? 

JG: It’s harder and harder to have a real technical advantage over your competitors, and the climate is tough for new entrants with the economic pressures and investment picture. Brands who will be able to differentiate and withstand these challenges are going to be the ones who prioritise CX and its ongoing iteration.  

Some of the best brands differentiate themselves using customer service as a key tool and some of the stickiest consumer loyalty has been created that way. Creating and delivering a class-leading CX strategy will provide just as much of a competitive advantage as the products and technologies that go along with it. The most successful fintechs will be those that manage CX as a key part of their value proposition.

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