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INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY | Staff Reporter, Singapore
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How digital document processing boosts customer servicing, business output

Two in five APAC business leaders said this has improved customer experience during the pandemic.

Digitisation has long been touted as the future of servicing, with the COVID-19 pandemic widely said to have accelerated the technological shift. Even before the pandemic begun, however, clients already expect to experience fully automated processes in accessing much-needed services, especially in banking and financial services.

A recent Forrester study found that close to three fifths of APAC decision-makers report that customers want improved digital alternatives and interactions and 40% of APAC decision-makers linked digital document processes with improved customer experience during the pandemic, up from 28% pre-pandemic.

To learn more about digital document processing as well as other related trends, Singapore Business Review spoke with Chak Ming Fai, head of solutions consulting at Adobe Southeast Asia.

Adobe has worked with many large institutions to help them in their digitization processes, chiefly: DBS Bank, which adopted the data-driven operating model (DDOM) introduced by Adobe and built its customer experiences on Adobe Experience Cloud to provide deeper personalisation for every customer; and Hong Kong virtual bank Mox, which makes use of Adobe solutions to connect its ecosystems and touchpoints to anticipate their customers’ needs.

Another of Singapore’s big three banks, UOB, leverages Adobe’s deep data and analytics capabilities to serve customised content to users. For example, if a customer has been researching mortgages, as soon as they log into the UOB app or website, they receive helpful information on the latest home loan rates, said Chak.

We often see digital document processing as something that is tied to the remote working setup and back-office work—but what does it offer to customer servicing and digital services?
It’s all about customer experience today, and digital document processes play a pivotal role in enabling that. In times like now where many businesses are unable to interact face-to-face with their customers, digital services naturally take precedence – and this includes self-service digital solutions.

With more customers now seeking self-serve options for their banking and insurance needs, a smooth digital document process is critical for financial services institutions (FSIs) to ensure satisfactory service standards. This ensures that customers can complete important applications and transactions online without having to mail in any forms or visit a physical branch. Only with a digitised workflow that effectively connects both departments can the benefits such as real-time, uninterrupted processing and secure e-signing be realised.

How has the importance of digital document processing risen in the past few years?
The way businesses operate has changed dramatically this year. While the shift from paper to digital has been steadily ramping up over the last few years, 2020 has accelerated that to unprecedented levels.

With more businesses and consumers exchanging digital documents online, we have seen a significant increase in PDF creation and its use across all segments in the economy – with Adobe Acrobat DC monthly active users more than doubled in 2020.

Prior to the pandemic, digital document solutions were often seen as operational tools with the primary benefit of reducing printing and storage costs. Now, they are a strategic imperative to keep business moving.

During the Circuit Breaker in Singapore, for example, many important legal and financial transactions had to be put on hold as people could not meet up to sign documents in person. To mitigate this and to encourage greater adoption of digital processes across all industries, GovTech Singapore recently launched a new “Sign with SingPass” feature to enable SingPass users to electronically sign contracts, agreements and other legal documentation. Whilst spearheaded by the government, this initiative not only supports efforts to further digitise government services but also allow private organisations to unlock more services for their consumers with greater confidence and convenience.

Many banks and financial institutions still do not have a fully digital sign-up process and still require documents to be submitted physically. What are the pitfalls of maintaining this?
According to the Forrester study, APAC organisations report that 31% of their customers are at risk due to the lack of digital alternatives to service them, with an alarming 43% of revenue at risk as a result.

Financial institutions that have not already implemented digital document workflows will struggle with business continuity in an increasingly volatile operating environment. They will also find it challenging to attract and keep customers who increasingly prefer the convenience of interacting with their financial service providers online and on mobile.

Not only does this impact the front office customer experience, the lack of a fully digital process also slows down data collection and integration into the customer data platform, which in turn impairs the organisation’s ability to personalise its communications and cater nimbly to changing customer demands.

What are financial institutions getting wrong in their digitalisation strategies, particularly when adopting digital document processing? 
Whilst adoption varies from one organisation to another, one recurring issue that we’ve observed is that many organisations are not adequately addressing the skills gap. They start the transformation process without providing employees with the right resources and education to make the transition from paper-based work to digital.

Implementing the technology is just one aspect and it’s an easy one. Improving digital fluency is what must be prioritised across all corners of the FSI. This could mean hiring and training for digital skills, and making digital processes easily understood, implemented and adopted across teams internally. Leaders have to create the environment and culture for change to happen and sustain.

How can financial institutions ensure that their platforms are secure and efficient for digital processing? How does Adobe support your clients in this regard?
Security is top of mind for financial services providers, and the security of Adobe customers’ digital experience is our priority. As the industry moves towards connecting with customers and stakeholders via digital processes, document-level security becomes more important. Choosing the right partner is paramount.

Industry standard security practices are deeply ingrained into Adobe’s internal culture, software development, as well as service operations processes. Adobe Document Cloud offers proven document security solutions and a broad range of functionality that can be used to meet specific objectives. For example, documents can be protected by passwords or certificates, and senders can be confirmed by digital IDs.

Adobe Sign employs industry standard security practices to protect our customers’ documents, data, and personal information. It meets or exceeds stringent security and legal compliance standards. Additionally, Adobe Sign can be configured or used in a manner to allow organisations to meet industry-specific compliance requirements such as HIPAA, FERPA, GLBA, amongst others.

Can you tell us more about the strategies that companies have employed to offer effective digital financial services?
To build trust with customers, financial services companies must provide meaningful advice and specific solutions to each customer they interact with. This of course becomes harder as interactions increasingly move to digital touchpoints, and customers expecting to do more than banking with their providers.

Given the nature of their business, FSIs already have access to a wealth of customer data that would allow them to provide a high level of personalisation to cater to customer needs and to build trust – they just don’t always know what to do with that data.

Adobe works with some of the region’s biggest brands in the FSI industry – DBS, UOB, and also Rabobank, Standard Chartered Bank and many others – to help them aggregate and segment customer data from silos across the organisation; continually test, measure and recalibrate the customer journey to deliver the best experience.

This could be through sharing the right financial products with customers or providing potential customers with relevant content at the right time on the money matters that are on their mind at that very moment. It could also be value-added lifestyle tips and rewards for customers based on their consumption patterns and preferences. Thoughtful, timely content not only drives response and conversions, it also strengthens the bond between institutions and customers that in turn leads to trust and long-term loyalty.

How do you help merge traditional document processing and digital document processing with digitalisation as the end goal?
Some simple steps that IT and business leaders can start with to modernise existing legacy systems: pick the right processes—identify a few processes that could benefit most from the digital transformation. Start from key use cases that are slowing down operations and delaying business value due to manual or paper-based steps.

Engage stakeholders—ensure that all stakeholders, not just department heads, are on board with the change and understand its potential benefits for the organisation. All employees need to understand how the solution will improve the specific day-to-day pain points that they face so that they too are determined to be change-makers in the organization.

Think long-term—chart out short and long-term digital maturity milestones and start working towards them. Look for solutions that can integrate well with existing technology investments and start phasing out old and inefficient processes; and leverage technologies like ML and Analytics—machine learning can speed up the conversion of paper forms to digital forms and analytics can help to identify parts of the forms where the form filler gets stuck.

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