The human touch in business borrowing

Steve Noble, Head of Operations, discusses the importance of giving SMEs access to a personal service

People buy from people. It’s an age-old adage but remains as true as ever. In this technological age, where the fintech sector is worth £20 billion, the rush to automate has seen a rise in digital-only cutting out the need – or indeed ability – to interact with customers on a one-to-one basis.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I am not a technophobe. I believe that digital services will be key to our future business model and can have a very positive impact on a business’ ability to deliver exceptional customer service. Many challenger brands – Uber or Deliveroo, for example - have risen from a purely digital offering, and are helping to reshape the customer experience in a variety of sectors.

There’s many lessons that the financial services sector can learn from disrupter companies such as these, and everyone has taken notice – including us. We’re excited about using the very best technology to help our customers and we’ve created a range of new online products that are fast, flexible and, above all, useful to our SME customers.

But, many of these customers tell us that having access to a person is really important to them. Someone who understands them, their business, their challenges and are part of their journey. Our relationship managers are close to their clients and have a complete understanding of their business. It’s that human touch, the time we take to talk through problems and seek solutions with our customers that means so much.

When it comes down to it, what’s important is offering the customer what they need to feel comfortable and clearly in the funding sector there’s not a one-size-fits solution. You’ll always have business owners who know what they need and when they need it, so a quick online application to get a loan works perfectly fine.

But, SME owners are rightly cautious over borrowing and many don’t want to be rushed into such an important decision. They want the facts in a clear and concise way, and they aren’t afraid to walk away if they don’t feel fully informed. For more involved funding such as trade finance, for example, a few FAQs may not be enough. It would be very interesting to see how many SMEs struggle with their funding because they can’t get access to a human advisor.

It might sound a bit 20th century but nothing beats a good chat, and in my years of experience I can tell you that long and strong customer relationships often begin with the physical act of shaking hands. There’s definitely a place for digital in the world, but it should be a complement to the physical and not instead of it. 

EY, Landscaping UK Fintech, June 2016.
BDRC, Financial Monitoring Report, May 2016

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