It is clear that the run up to providing stakeholder pensions is already stretching the resources of IFAs and the industry as a whole. Since the FSA was established, the bureaucratic and legal demands on the industry have threatened the livelihood of many organisations which have had to introduce radical cost-cutting measures to survive.
New legislation in the shape of stakeholder represents the latest challenge for businesses, so how should they prepare themselves when resources are already scarce? Technology could provide a relatively straightforward and inexpensive solution.
Most of an IFA's time is spent on customer relations, a large part of which focuses on setting appointments and identifying new business opportunities. This is typically done in an ad hoc fashion with little centralisation of database information. But by addressing the problem of resources with technology, organisations can reach twice as many customers with half the amount of manpower. What kind of technology is this and how does it work?
By automating outbound calls to potential customers, you can place the onus of customer contact on a dedicated telemarketing team, leaving IFAs to concentrate on visiting existing and prospective clients. The latest call management software will centralise all customer contacts in a single database. Contacts can then be split using pre-defined criteria such as geographical location or type of product.
Using predictive dialling techniques, the software will queue calls automatically so no manual dialling or look-up is required. Agents can then approach customers using on-screen scripting, providing quality assurance throughout the organisation. Agents can even access the internet to give them a wealth of online information at their fingertips.
Not only does this technology provide web-enablement but employees could even have the facility for teleworking, using the internet as a medium for internet protocol telephony so they can be based literally anywhere.
An industry example of this is illustrated by the National Deposit Friendly Society. Amcat was responsible for automating its outbound telemarketing operation and the mutual saw a 300 per cent increase in productivity in the number of customer contacts it was able to make. Other financial services organisations such as Norton Finance and Wilmslow Financial Services are also adopting this type of technology.
But how easy it is to implement this technology, what are the real business benefits and, more important, how much does it cost? Most automated solutions will work with your existing Windows-based PC network and conventional telephone systems, so there is no need to invest in new equipment. Once installed, it takes less than an hour to become fully conversant with all the features.
Some packages can be bought on a pay-as-you-go basis so there is no up-front capital investment. So not only can smaller companies benefit by spreading their resources further but they can effectively compete on the same level as their bigger counterparts, delivering a comparable level of service.
Not only does this kind of technology increase overall productivity but it also gives you a digitised recording facility and compliance built in. In an age when the internet permeates every level of business, the economical arguments for using new technology are persuasive. IFAs should grasp this opportunity soon if they want to penetrate and profit from the stakeholder market.
Marcus Robinson is UK managing director of Amcat (American Computer & Telephone)