Multichannel service is an imperative for travel money retailers looking to drive growth and customer loyalty.
Digital technologies have reshaped consumers’ expectations of the organisations they do business with – and that includes retailers of foreign currency and pre-paid travel cards. Thanks to the rise of the Internet, and later, smartphones, consumers have come to expect that they can access nearly any service and product wherever they are and at any time.
In addition to these channels, new ones are rising all the time. For example, social media platforms such as Facebook are becoming an increasingly important part of the mix for the financial services industry as a marketing, service and even transactional channel. Few travel money firms have started to think about how these should be built into their customer propositions.
Electronic channels could even facilitate new business models and partnership opportunities for travel money retailers. Why shouldn’t their customers, for example, be able to buy foreign exchange at a till in Tesco’s or Walmart, or place an order for a pre-paid card when they purchase their air tickets?
All of this means that it is more important than ever before for travel money retailers to have the ability to transact and interact with customers across a wide range of channels – from the traditional physical branch and the contact centre, through to digital channels such as Web and mobile. They need to be able to offer customers access to their products through convenient channels for ordering, settlement and fulfilment.
Herein lies a complex challenge as well as a wealth of potential. For the travel money retailer, the rise of new digital channels has created new opportunities to get to know more about customers, personalise services around their needs and build customer satisfaction that leads to repeat business. All of a sudden, reach is extended beyond the retailer’s branch networks to any place the customer has access to a network connection.
The possibilities that the mouse-click convenience of digital technology present are near boundless. For example, once the travel money operator has a sound e-commerce infrastructure in place, it can allow clients to place orders online and access information. That already builds a platform for repeat business. Then, the retailer could integrate this platform with travel agency, travel insurers and retailer partners to gain access to additional customers.
Throw mobile technologies – ranging from simple text messaging to sophisticated smartphone apps and location data – into the mix and the possibilities become even more exciting. These mobile channels empower travel money providers to communicate with customers and offer them access to a full bouquet of travel money services and information wherever they are.
For example, users could pre-order currency and pre-paid cards online and the travel money retailer could use location-based features to alerts users when they are near branches. Or it could push relevant information and messaging to business travellers as they pass through international travel hubs.
In the background, the organisation is able collect data from all these different channels, and then use tools to analyse the customer and marketing intelligence they have gathered, enhancing decision-making and allowing for better personalisation of service. The more data the business can collect and access, the better it can understand the customer’s buying profile. The more data available on a customer, the more effective a travel money business can be in delivering a story that resonates with him or her to build loyalty based on service and convenience.
Data – from new electronic and partner channels – could empower travel money providers to sharpen their focus on granular details they never even considered before. For example, they could market products according to the customer’s context – geographical location and time of day; his or her age; and the travel destination (how about bundling forex with specialised travel insurance such as volcano insurance for those travelling to Iceland?).
The platform modernisation imperative
The challenge that most travel money operations face is that they do not yet have the technology infrastructure in place to offer seamless, multichannel service to their clients. Most still run aging and inflexible legacy systems and many even have a range of manual business processes.
Given massive changes in the industry in recent years, any forex solution built over five years ago when smartphones and social media weren’t even on the agenda, is effectively out of date and ineffective for today’s market.
Since the pace of change is showing no sign of slowing, only with a specialised, global solution can a business be truly effective in staying ahead of the evolving market. Trying to keep up with software developed in-house seems futile.
That means travel money providers need to put an architecture in place that enables them to bring multiple channels together, automating the whole order process whilst integrating customer data across them all. This is the major factor contributing to the move towards platform modernisation in this sector as companies seek competitive advantage.
Creating the right underlying platform – though not without expense and risk – can yield dramatic rewards. Indeed, investing in a new solution is the only cost effective way a travel money provider with a legacy environment will be able to grow its businesses while reducing operational costs.
It becomes a foundation for delivering a consistent experience with customers across all channels, underpinned by a single view of the customer. Suddenly, customer information is available in real time from a multitude of channels whenever it is required. Customers benefit from convenience, simplicity and speed in their interactions with their travel money providers.
And by offering a seamless and differentiated multichannel service, travel money providers become able to create competitive advantage and encourage loyalty, a commodity often missing in the travel money market. They can seek out new opportunities to sell their services where these might not have been accessible before.
To that end, providers need to grasp the opportunity and be pioneering in the multichannel space to make sure they are at the forefront of the market and not playing catch-up.