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According to a Gartner report on the future of work, more than 60 percent of financial services employees say a lack of work flexibility would impact whether they stay at their current jobs. Following forced remote work during the pandemic, workers in many industries — including financial services — became accustomed to working with no commute and flexible schedules. Remote work models have become a competitive battleground in the escalating war for talent in the financial sector.

Meanwhile, economic uncertainty is putting increased pressure on financial services firms to provide customers with a more personalized and customized experience. Some see a total return to the office (and to the way things were) as a path toward reassuring and retaining customers.

The answer likely lies somewhere in the middle. Hybrid work allows employees to split their time between working remotely and being in the office. In fact, of the nearly 1,500 global business leaders surveyed, close to 96 percent of decision makers in financial services believe that hybrid work environments help recruit top talent and remain competitive in the market.

Creating a successful, high-performing hybrid workspace requires the right technology. Let’s lay out the case for one: Unified Communications (UC).

The Impact of the Pandemic on Financial Services Firms

Like other verticals, the financial services industry went virtual during the global pandemic, with in-office work mostly suspended following the lockdowns designed to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus. This rapid shift has impacted the financial services industry in many ways.

Customer service was disrupted. Restrictions on personal interactions and the shuttering of many brick-and-mortar offices pushed financial customers toward digital and voice channels for their experiences. While these digital and online experiences are not new to the finance industry, institutions needed to accelerate their digital sales and service offerings while establishing protocols for their now-remote workforce.

Add to this digital transformation the evolving expectations of employees, talent migrations and shortfalls, and the new skill sets demanded by the industry, and you have the potential for customer service to be disrupted.

The digital-first customer experience. Customers want to know that their financial institutions are stable, even if their finances are not. Frequent and honest communication is central to that reassurance. This communication needs to be personalized to the customers’ needs, served in digestible ways, and paired with excellent and responsive service.

A superior customer experience (CX) is at the heart of any industry, and financial services is no exception. This customer-centric mindset is not new — it has been shaping the delivery of financial services for years. The heightened presence in the digital space has only amplified the need to do more and better as customers can shop businesses with a few keystrokes if they don’t “feel the love.”

The digital-first employee experience. The same can be said for employees in financial services. After more than a year off-site, many managers were eager to return to the office, but many in the workforce were not. The Great Resignation demonstrated that employees were willing to leave for more flexible employment opportunities. While productivity remained steady, other concerns in the financial sector shed doubt on the sustainability of a permanent remote model. Employees began questioning the “always-on” aspect of fully remote work: their workdays were often artificially extended by the need to spend hours in video meetings to simulate an in-office experience while juggling a hodge-podge of applications that weren’t designed to work together efficiently. “App fatigue” was a common self-diagnosis.

After many months in this “living laboratory,” human-centric work models rather than office-centric ones are becoming the new norm. Investing in employee satisfaction and growth helps elevate a brand because happy employees equal happy customers. This is where the hybrid work model comes into play.

A hybrid work model seems like the perfect compromise, but it’s not without challenges. According to the IT decision-makers who were surveyed, several barriers exist to the success of the hybrid model. Near the top are:

  • A lack of efficient technology and equipment in the home office (31 percent)
  • A lack of efficient technology and equipment in the traditional office (26 percent)

The “Right” Technology for the Hybrid Workforce

A hybrid work model is not setting up your laptop and keeping your cell phone on hand for those days when the office is the kitchen table. Capturing the tangible experiences and “creative collisions” of the in-person workspace while also providing the flexibility of remote work takes more than a virtualized office or a dizzying array of productivity and collaboration tools that often provide conflicting or not enough actionable data. It’s about having the right tools — and using them correctly.

All-in-one communications for employees. The ideal hybrid setup provides employees with collaboration tools and connections that work seamlessly — device to device and location to location. These communication tools must be efficient and connected for interoffice collaboration and responses — even more so for outbound and inbound communications with clients.

Unified Communications tools are a great way to address client expectations, continue the digital transformation, and enable an agile hybrid workforce. UC is an umbrella term for combining multiple channels, such as voice, video calling, instant messaging, content sharing, and more, on a single platform. Cloud-based UC, or UC-as-a-service (UCaaS), moves the intelligence from the office and into the cloud, making it accessible from anywhere on any internet-enabled device. This means employees can use the same tools in the office, at home, or on the go; it also means that financial services firms can continue to communicate with customers even if their physical offices are compromised or inaccessible.

Secure technology for IT. Combining all your communications and collaboration tools on a single platform gives your IT department greater control over infrastructure and applications licenses, costs, and security. A comprehensive and integrated collaboration suite means that employees don’t need to download unsecured, consumer-grade apps and connect them to their network to complete their work. They’re also not sharing company and customer files on unsanctioned file-sharing applications. This so-called “Shadow IT” opens the door for cybercriminals to exploit IT systems and steal or ransom sensitive data. Instead, UC offers a unified login with a single sign-on (SSO) to boost security and reduce risks. Built-in two-factor authentication can strengthen security even further.

A personalized experience for customers. Personalized customer service is non-negotiable for financial services firms. Advanced call routing capabilities ensure customer calls are routed to the correct department or agent. UC also integrates with customer relationship management (CRM) software to enable inbound record matching and screen pops so that customer service reps can provide a more personalized and optimized customer interaction.

Human-Centric Investment Pays Off

Retaining and recruiting talent is crucial for future-proofing the financial services sector. With the right investment in policies and technologies, hybrid work models are likely to pay off. While there are many ways financial firms can create a human-centric hybrid workspace, investing in the right UC technology should be a priority. UC enables employees to work smarter, deliver an improved customer experience, and see higher financial returns.

Contact us to learn more about how Broadvoice can help your financial services firm realize a higher return on its technology investments with the Broadvoice b-hive all-in-one communications platform.

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