Sharing Experience: Kevin Ward Conatus Financing Solutions
However, we must use technology to our advantage and with the long term in mind. An example of where technology has led to a decline in a key service, that may ultimately impact profitability and customer satisfaction is banking.
It used to be a joke that banks would plug information into a computer, and ‘the computer says no’. Sadly though, through the internal reorganisation at most banks, this is a reality for many.
This means it becomes challenging for business owners to have a proactive relationship with their bank, and in times when they need additional support with a lending request or a conversation, they’re left talking to someone at the end of a phone who is plugging some very basic details into a computer.
They have therefore lost that personal touch and, most importantly, the ability to deeply understand that business, its requirements for support and why it’s a customer that they should potentially back – or not.
No bank managers impact the business economy
As I said at the start, I have strong feelings about this, so I’m on my soapbox regarding the above example. With tough times ahead, I do fear that the lack of on-the-ground bank managers could really impact the business economy for those businesses that are under a turnover threshold around the £10M mark.
The point of mentioning it here is that you should carefully consider how you use technology and weigh up the benefits with the outcome for all parties. It does highlight an issue for us all to consider when using our own technology; not to fall into a trap where we make decisions based solely on finance KPIs and metrics.
Assessing the return on investment is always a good practice; it’s a perfect opportunity for any non-executive or board adviser to add value through feedback and challenge. But when you do that return on investment, as well as considering the possible financial return, you should also consider the more intangible elements. How complex will implementation be? What’s the potential impact on staff, suppliers and, more importantly, your customers? On balance, do the benefits genuinely outweigh any potential negatives?
The key to making these assessments is your engagement with the partners you are working with, to install the technology into your business. They can help you with these assessments, and it may be that they can overcome potential negatives using their expertise. But it does need to be a partnership, as they won’t have the understanding you do of your business.
So, embrace technology, use it to future-proof your business, and take some risks now to eliminate potentially larger risks later. But do it in a considered way and do a full return on investment analysis covering financial, tangible, and intangible impacts.