(This article by Scott Nelson originally appeared on Monitor in May/June 2023 )
Technology has been changing lives since the development of the wheel. But Scott Nelson argues that it is only a means — not an end — for users and customers that only improves their experiences when empathy is applied and problems that matter are solved.
The question is as old as the wheel — “How can technology augment or improve the customer experience?”
The answer is just as old — “Solve a problem that matters.” Technology is a tool used by innovators, designers and product managers to help build experiences that customers need and want that helps them make a decision to buy. Identifying needs and wants is the primary objective of an empathy-driven design process. Only after the needs and wants are identified, can a designer turn to technology to find ways to solve the problems that matter to the user.
Not surprisingly, these needs and wants resonate because they come from the human need to interact with others and the businesses through which the technology is deployed. Three technologies that are still relatively new to equipment finance but are now common in everyday life have become keys to meeting these needs and improving both the user and customer experiences in equipment finance.
MOBILE DEVICES WITH SECURE, FLEXIBLE NETWORK ACCESS
In the context of digital maturity, consider how many Contract Management Systems (CMS) in operation today are accessible by a mobile device. A combination of regulations and office-based workflows has limited the adoption of mobile technology in equipment finance and has created the potential for significantly enhancing both employee and customer experiences with mobile access.
Mobile devices today are at the heart of value propositions that stress convenience and they are built into all consumer applications. When combined with secure and flexible network access — think switching between WiFi, cellular and Bluetooth networks automatically — mobile devices can provide secure, anytime, anywhere access to information and application environments seamlessly. They enable the kind of information transparency and analysis that users expect. The other, often overlooked value of mobile devices, is that they provide lifestyle information about users that can provide insights into relationships with products or services. Mobile devices can be very powerful empathy devices.
MODULAR CLOUD ARCHITECTURES DRIVEN BY STANDARDS-BASED INTEGRATION
Infrastructure is often overlooked as a key part of empathy-based design and customer satisfaction. In fact, it is the primary facilitator of application agility and solutioning today. Every application, whether internal to the equipment finance company or customer facing, should strive for best-in-class functionality and experience. The only way this can happen is if the backbone of the technology stack is modular and built with standards that allow the rapid addition of new functions to create better experiences.
Another part of cloud architecture that has recently received attention in equipment finance are standards. Standards drive technology adoption because standards make both the deployment and use of the technology easier. APIs are a type of standard that help different software vendors integrate with each other and augment customer experiences through that collaboration. Standards allow users to access services through a diversity of scenarios, networks and devices. Standards are the key to clarity in any information driven industry, i.e., equipment finance. Simple but consistent definitions of terms, data fields and business outcomes are key to reporting and benchmarking in a way that communicates accurately both inside and outside the organization.
AI FOR AUTOMATION AND WORKER PRODUCTIVITY ENHANCEMENT
The most recent entry into the operational and user experience space is AI. Operational AI, the use of prediction machines to drive automation of decision-making that is consistent in terms of both risk and modeling, is rapidly improving the productivity of companies by automating tedious manual tasks. AI prediction can drive enhanced productivity when shared with human decision makers as contextual advice to high-risk processes and decisions.
AI is built on models derived from data — both historical and live — and learns from its integration into the workflow to drive and measure the business outcomes. Modular cloud architectures facilitate the data needed for the models as well as the integration of prediction machines into functional workflows. AI productivity enhancements are a natural extension of the data aggregated in modular cloud systems and this greater productivity translates to satisfied customers as well as employees who can see how their contributions have helped the organization be successful.
Next will be the impact of generational AI, such as ChatGPT and Bard, on the industry. Mission critical industries like healthcare, transportation and equipment finance require a level of trust in technology that generative AI presently does not provide. But generative AI can “think of new ways” to look at data and solve problems. Innovation is driven by new ideas, so if generative AI can establish trust, it may become an important part of both organizational productivity and customer satisfaction, which, in turn, drives more empathy.
Technology has been changing lives since the development of the wheel and continues today at the greatest pace ever seen. ChatGPT as an application saw the fastest rate of adoption — including number of users — of any other technology deployed to date. But technology is only a means, not an end, for users and customers. Technology only improves their experiences when empathy is applied and problems that matter are solved. •