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An appetite for change

As part of our LEADERS IN BANKING TECHNOLOGY special report, MEA Finance Magazine talked to Ahmad Dorra, Customer Experience Solutions Sales Lead for the Middle East, Africa & Turkey about how Avaya are helping banks enhance the customer experience while taking them through the inevitable changes brought by digitisation.

Ahmad Dorra, Customer Experience Solutions Sales Lead for the Middle East, Africa & Turkey

What excites you and keeps you motivated as a regional leader in banking technology? 

Banking is one of the key pillars of the region’s economy. What keeps Avaya motivated as a regional leader in banking technology is our appetite for change and our desire to stay one step ahead with technology that enables regional banks to enhance their digital services – both for customers and employees.

Banks in the Middle East quickly adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting shift in customer preferences. They rolled out fully digital branches, virtual banking services, self-service chat bots and other innovations in their attempt to provide their customers with world-class digital experiences.

The best part is that these responses to an immediate challenge will pay dividends long into the future. Looking to the post-COVID world, Avaya’s recent Life and Work Beyond 2020 report shows that 79% of consumers expect organizations’ contact centers to do everything possible to make them a happy customer. These digital-first investments will make it easier for banks to deliver on that demand.

Describe your journey in banking technology and how this has influenced the role you are in today? 

Banking is one of the key segments for Avaya’s business. The top 10 commercial banks in the United States use Avaya solutions, and we have an extremely strong banking business in the GCC, too. With that deep experience, we are in a unique position to now help banks to navigate the uncertain outlook today and enable them to create an opportunity to reconfigure working practices, customer experiences and physical spaces. Our technology plays a pivotal role, encompassing everything from reviewing channels, digital transformation, ways of working and cloud solutions.

What does your company bring to the banking and financial sector that helps it advance levels of service and remain profitable? 

As banks continue to contend with fast-moving trends around customer and employee experience, we are working to support their success. Customer journeys and branches are changing, we are helping to provide new and innovative technology platforms that enable, for example, secure payments through smart authentication for apps and other channels, personalized experiences based on predictive analytics of customer behaviour, and meaningful customer relationships supported by video and voice solutions in bank branches.

In the light of the past turbulent year, what are your plans for 2021? 

This year we are focusing on enabling our banking customers to contend with the major trends facing the industry. We recently conducted a research study with banking executives across the Gulf, and through those interviews, identified six key trends where we can add value:

Bank branches transformed through cashless commerce: The reduced need for branches to handle cash means banks are playing catch up on customers’ payment choices, and we are working with our customers to improve their digital capabilities to fill that gap.

Banking apps as part of the multiexperience: Most mobile banking users need customer support for queries, complicated questions or just reassurance, and that’s where Avaya comes in. We are working with our customers to improve the range of functionality and customer support on their apps.

Better customer insight driving sales: GCC banks are collecting more and more data as improving customer insight in a time of great change becomes a priority. The analysis of customer feedback and its synchronization with CRM data delivers an effective CX template. We are focused on enabling our banking customers to intelligently use their data and seamlessly integrate it with the customer journey.

Hybrid working is here to stay: All the GCC banking executives we interviewed acknowledged that unified communications (UC) is a key contributor to a bank’s success, particularly as it enabled the business continuity at the height of the pandemic. Post-COVID, even if employees return to an office-based environment, there will still be more virtual calls rather than face-to-face meetings. We are enabling hybrid working so that bank employees can serve customers and collaborate wherever they are.

A cloud learning curve, enabled by banking regulators: Most bankers we have interviewed support cloud migration as it is key for agility, but some are wary of the security risks and required approvals from regulators across GCC countries. Overall, the picture is positive, and we are certainly helping banks use the cloud to increase the scalability in their contact centers.

Fintechs more likely to be partners than competitors: Because of the banks’ costs of compliance and capital requirements it is advantageous for them to partner with innovative, start-up tech providers for new and exciting services. With our open platforms, we are focused on helping our banking customers to integrate emerging financial technology into the customer journey.

Do you foresee, through changes in society and advancing technology, the traditional divisions between banking and some other industries disappearing?

The pandemic has encouraged GCC banks to commit to digitization in a way never seen before and to deliver services differently to customers. That definitely puts them on a level of competition, in some areas, with global technology giants. In some cases, the banking executives we interviewed are facing competition from, and are working with, new and global providers offering to modernize and transform banking with complementary services. It is certain, however, that banks have diversified from traditional finance business models, and we expect the industry to continue making inroads into other sectors as the world continues to digitize.