Right now, US disaster response teams are scrambling to find new ways to protect communities and businesses during hurricane season – and from the COVID-19 pandemic. Business continuity cannot persevere with outdated systems that don’t have the bandwidth to prepare their clients and employees with a scaled, immediate response when disaster unexpectedly strikes.
By implementing premium, trusted multi-channel communication and conference calling solutions, workflows will remain full speed ahead regardless of the severity of surrounding circumstances.
Weathering the Storm Through Communication
According to TIME, the 2020 hurricane season is already setting records for the earliest named Atlantic storms of their respective places in the alphabet. While tropical storms are flooding in faster than ever before and breaking 15-year-old records, early preparation for firms is key. It can be costly to rely on legacy systems that are not cloud-native and offer antiquated customer management methods of communication. To ensure productivity remains at optimal levels, firms need to employ a multi-faceted solution that offers fully-automated conference calling and large-scale operator-assisted virtual events.
CIA Omnigage’s Omnialert provides multi-channel blast communications, including email, voicemail and SMS. With the power of remote, cloud-based connectivity inherent to CIA Omnigage’s multi-channel communications platform, your firm has the ability to initiate notifications to your entire organization — no matter where they are — within seconds.
With operator-assisted conference calls, continuous, dedicated support is available to participants at all times to gather information and monitor sound quality. This fail-safe strategy assists callers in optimizing workflows and streamlining communication so that momentum is never lost and businesses can function effectively.
While natural disasters cannot be controlled, an abundance of caution can help save firms from going under during these turbulent times. A consistent, 360-degree experience for multi-channel communication engagement is one of the many reassuring benefits for firms. Disasters, from hurricanes to pandemics, should not eliminate consistent client contact and the opportunity for growth.
Keeping in touch is critical during a crisis. Firms that embrace this ongoing digital transformation with new, innovative technologies that can easily share information and ensure close communication will be those seeing continued success. Peak natural disaster season is quickly approaching and securing communication precautions early will deliver better business results when the next storm hits.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I took a job in sales at a startup teleconference company in 1992. I eventually became COO and grew the company to over $15M in sales. We had an opportunity to get into a new market, which was blast voicemail. The owners had absolutely no interest in that product, so the sales VP and I joined to form Client Instant Access, LLC in 1997. We developed and marketed the service to the financial community and within 2 years, sales were over $4M and had some of the largest investment banks knocking on our door asking for our service. Our products have constantly evolved over the past 20 years and tailored to the needs of the financial services sector.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
In the first month of operation I had a research analyst tell me that the service was so bad he would put us out of business. This happened to be on my birthday. Not a good day. I realized then that investment banks hold services to a higher standard. Because of perceived shortcomings of the service, I developed a product that addressed the specific concern of the analyst. Because of that upgrade, we had every large investment bank knocking our door to use the service. Our takeaway was to build products based on customer feedback and needs and since then this is what has separated us from competitors.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I read a lot of biographies and history novels of successful people. I like to understand successful personalities and gain insight from history.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose-driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
When we launched Client Instant Access back in 1997, the technology that companies used was far different than what we see today. The Internet was still in its infancy and on Wall Street, traders conducted almost entirely over the phone. Our goal was to help financial services and banking professionals manage their data and communicate with customers and co-workers more efficiently without having to worry about losing customer information due to security breaches.
Ultimately, our goal was to raise the bar in workflow efficiency and, as a result of our initial success, we’ve been able to expand into other industries like healthcare, legal, education and retail over the last 20 years.
As workflows have become more complex and the technology that’s being used is more sophisticated, we’ve had to stay ahead of the innovation curve and a key part of that is constantly talking to our customers to find out what they want in a communication and customer engagement solution and what things are not working for them. Knowing these things, we’re able to continuously enhance our offering to ensure we’re providing the best tools so that firms are able to provide their customers with the best experience possible.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Stay the course. Adjust to client needs and maintain the long term goals and mission of the company. Difficult to do, but we’ve weathered the Dotcom crash, 9–11, the financial crisis in 2008, and now COVID-19.
Always listen to your customers and adjust your offerings to address what hurdles they are facing in the industry ecosystem. If you’re offering the same old things that others are already doing, there’s no value-add. You have to stay creative and continue to innovate and the foundation for that is knowing what your customers want and delivering it as efficiently and seamlessly as possible.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share a few of the personal and family-related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Mostly to keep everyone safe and still provide a service for our clients. We’ve helped by collaborating with clients to develop disaster recovery efforts. Some solutions have been one-offs, but we were there to help. We planned for remote operations, but no one could have expected it to be at this level. The plans have made the transition seamless and we are fully functioning remotely while empowering our client base to do the same.
Can you share a few of the biggest work-related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Biggest challenge is to keep up with the increase in volume of business. Being a telecom company, demand for our service has increased. The challenge has been to continue to provide the same level of service. All our employees have done a phenomenal job of maintaining quality.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way professionals in every industry work and communicate. Companies ranging from major global banks to smaller mom and pops shops are becoming far more comfortable with the idea of working remotely on a more long-term basis. One of the primary reasons this has been possible is because of solutions like the one that Client Instant Access offers. Communication channels can be consolidated within a single workflow and the technology can be deployed overnight if necessary. Without the ability to webcast and send blast email messages to entire client lists, working from home would not be possible.
Not only have we been empowering business continuity over the last two months, we’re helping to change the way industries will communicate in the months and years ahead, even after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Primary concern for all is to stay healthy. Next is loss of income. No amount of words ease those stresses. However, I offer that the only thing to do is stay calm. I’ve encouraged friends and family to continue to pay service people if they are in a position to do so without anything in return. Helping those near you is the best we can all do. It’s a bridge to post-COVID.
As for clients, we collaborate to morph our services to adapt to their immediate needs and develop longer term strategies to aid in future crises.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-COVID economy will look like. But we can, of course, try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-COVID economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time, the Post-COVID growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-COVID economy?
Supporting remote operations will be a huge growth opportunity. We see that with the ways our clients are using our services. They are looking at processes in an ‘outside the box’s perspective that doesn’t occur in day to day normal times. For example, we’re running virtual roadshows for clients. They have had great feedback and this will likely be how these meetings are conducted in the future.
Since the working and the general communication dynamic will continue to shift for so many companies — with COVID-19 serving as the catalyst for these shifts — there will be ample opportunity for technology vendors to step up and improve daily efficiencies. From the way companies communicate with customers to how they manage market and personal data, the pandemic has cast a bright light on how workflows can be improved now that everyone has been forced to work outside of a traditional office setting.
There will also be opportunities for companies to reevaluate how they employ technology across the organization. Over the last two months, many back-office functions have proven to be incapable of handling the level of bandwidth that firms are seeing during these turbulent times. Companies will need to take a hard look at how they are storing data, what security protocols they have in place and how they’ve approached disaster recovery up to this point.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
Just like the experience I had in the first year of business changed my product, COVID will change some things for the better. Awareness of hygiene, handwashing, etc are things that will reduce all infectious disease. In business, the threat of a pandemic leads to a greater awareness and preparation for its effect. We will all be better prepared if and when there is another virus. People will certainly be more cautious when venturing out in public but it’s unfortunate that the loss of life and income is the price of knowledge.
From a business perspective, companies have realized that a remote work environment does not necessarily equal a drop in productivity. In fact, many companies that have leveraged the appropriate technology functions and tools have seen an uptick in productivity, largely due to the fact that the circumstances have forced them to communicate more often and provide a greater level of transparency to their customers.
Companies are finding new ways to leverage data and apply data to everyday tasks. The ability to capture data, analyze it, and make informed decisions is what will allow some companies to succeed while others will be left to reevaluate again.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-COVID economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-COVID Economy?
Mainly to strengthen the ability to productively operate remotely. For us, it’s always going to come down to how we can streamline daily workflows even better for our customers. Our Omnigage platform empowers clients to build stronger and smarter customer relationships, store and analyze data more efficiently, and remove the constraints of legacy telephony technology that firms have been using for decades. We’ve received such a massive increase in customer requests during the COVID-19 pandemic that we’ve been able to pinpoint what customers will need in a remote work setting so that we can continue to enhance our product offerings as the landscape of different industries, especially financial services, continues to shift.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Collaborate with customers and your partners. One of the things that has made us so successful is hearing what others are doing in the industry and staying ahead of what customers will want. We have a great partner network and collaboration is what drives innovation.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Not a quote, just a cliche….always look at the glass half full. There aren’t many problems that can’t be solved and I never start with ‘no’. Most times, you will not only succeed, but excel.
In the final part of CIA Omnigage’s thought leadership series on how firms can elevate multi-channel customer engagement, we’ll examine the importance of detailed and accurate reporting for improved data management and client engagement. As firms adjust to new working arrangements beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, instituting a system with strong, resilient data solutions with robust capabilities will be essential.
Data-Driven Insights & Integrity
Customers put their trust in technology providers to keep their information safe and have the ability to gain actionable insights from their data. Unless processed and presented in a succinct and streamlined way for both firms and customers, raw data is ineffective. When using a multi-channel communications platform like Omnigage, users are able to easily connect data silos and move between multiple CRMs, all while keeping information secure.
Quantifiable data not only creates more opportunities for the customer and service provider, but it helps improve automation in client communications. With comprehensive, accurate reporting, firms are able to turn intel into action and proactively address customer needs.
Customization is King
Workflow efficiency creates more room to customize and evolve client campaigns. With the ability to export data, filter on time and choose between different programming techniques, firms can take a more well-rounded and integrated approach to client relationship management.
Customer satisfaction lies within the accuracy of data and information, and relying on countless spreadsheets and lists leaves little room for organization and customization. A system like Omnigage that can coordinate everything from messaging, data reporting, and user analytics – all under one umbrella – fosters a more personalized multi-channel engagement experience and provides greater transparency into how customer engagement can be enhanced further.
As firms adjust to what life looks like beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, instituting a multi-channel communications platform with strong, resilient data management solutions and robust capabilities will be essential.
Accurate analytics and detailed data reporting for both clients and customers as regulations tighten can serve as high-level multi-channel communication tactics. These practices must be embraced to display better organization, data visualization and an even broader range of capabilities moving forward.
Customer and service provider dynamics are evolving and as a result, so must the way in which firms evaluate the customer experience. Companies are beginning to enact long-term remote working practices with the right tools in place, the customer experience can be analyzed, quantified, and improved over time to ensure workflows are always at optimal levels.
After exploring the importance of flexibility in Part 1 of our Communications and Fintech series, Part 2 will examine how to quantify the customer experience, how this can improve best practices, and how engagement analytics can help personalize and ultimately maximize every experience.
Why Numbers Matter
Quantifying customer engagement with clean data in a secure environment with a user-friendly and modern interface was the genesis of the Omnigage Platform. Omnigage’s partnership with ANALEC provides the broker-dealers and investment research service providers with an added layer of security and quality control on their client engagement activities. Numbers always tell a story. Converting interactions with clients into data-points and triggers allows far effective follow-up and greater levels of accuracy in meeting customer needs and aspirations over time. Incorporating these data-driven insights into strategies allows firms to turn intel into action and proactively address customer needs.
Through data and machine learning capabilities, a good multi-channel communications platform can suggest and create customer engagement campaigns that fit workflows and provide significant bespoke content delivery to enrich the client servicing experience. Smart analytics and consumer preferences are a key facet of Omnigage that gradually enhance its intelligence.
Quantifiable data not only creates more opportunities for the customer and service provider, but it helps foster more personalized relationships.
The Ultimate Customer Experience
Deciphering the “ultimate customer experience” can be tricky under certain circumstances, but Omnigage and ANALEC make it simple. ANALEC’s proactive management reporting and ability to tag conversations with relevant insights and inferences paired with Omnigage’s best call times and granular metrics offer a best-in-class service that fully understands the scope of any customer’s needs.
For instance, the Corporate Access process has historically been driven by in-person meetings coordinated by major banks that connect institutional investors with corporate management teams. With these events occurring in a virtual-only environment the past three months, data can illustrate which communication tools are being enacted, how long they are being used, and what facets of these tools may need to be improved so that the overall experience is more personable and efficient.
Our Bigger Picture
Customer engagement dynamics will continue to evolve as companies gravitate towards long-term remote working conditions in a post-COVID environment. Blast messaging, SMS, email, webinars, and other methods of digital communication will become integral parts of the daily workflows.
As workflows and habits evolve, so will the data. The firms that take a hard look at the details these data insights provide are those that will prosper in this increasingly remote and digital ecosystem that will undoubtedly become the new normal.
Joe Vaccarella, CEO and Founder of Client Instant Access examines how the dynamics of multi-channel communications have been impacted since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic and how this will alter the landscape for technology and cybersecurity moving forward.
What are some of the communication challenges firms across the financial sector have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic?
With nearly everyone in the global financial sector working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic, secure and streamlined communication solutions have never been more vital. Companies have been forced to rely on alternative resources for meetings, earnings calls, and customer communication. There’s an immeasurable layer of cybersecurity and protection that these platforms must provide clients in the unpredictable climate. Conversations with clients and co-workers are vulnerable to hi-jacking and other disruptive behaviors when they are not streamlined on a secure and trusted platform, as we’ve seen with a number of other providers.
A system that provides integrated and flexible capabilities through voice, email, SMS/MMS, and phone will be a major asset to firms not only with clients but internally as well. Finding a system that can be quickly deployed, while addressing cybersecurity threats and compliance parameters will be the difference between business continuity and business failure.
What are some key features that should be encompassed in a reliable and secure multi-channel communications platform?
Security and compliance have to be the top priority. Although regulators like the CFTC have loosened some of their regulatory parameters on working remotely, security around communication channels needs to perform at optimal levels to ensure that customer information and data is not compromised.
As far as specific capabilities, customers are still for the most efficient way to deliver messages with a personalized touch. Multi-channel communication platforms should offer state-of-the-art conferencing, dialing and messaging services that can connect users globally. All services should complement one another, whether it be for voice, SMS, or email blasts. A good platform will offer solutions that seamlessly integrate with CRM platforms already in place in under 24 hours and foster a customizable, advanced alert system.
A platform that is well-equipped and trusted will foster long-lasting relationships and provide the security and efficiency of automation with the attention to detail they would get from working in-person.
In the long-term, how will the pandemic impact how financial institutions approach communication technology and the surrounding cybersecurity protocols?
As more robust and secure communication tactics and strategies come into play during this pandemic, working remotely is slated to become the new normal. We have slowly seen Fortune 500 companies and institutions such as schools, churches, hospitals, and more take advantage of multi-channel communication technology and financial institutions are having to adapt quicker than normal.
Reliable technology and communication solutions like CIA’s Omnigage that can connect with client relationship management systems make all the difference right now. This transition to consistent, remote work will be aided by these tools and we expect this shift to continue in the years ahead. As communication methods become more sophisticated and the banking and capital markets landscape becomes more electronified, more of the workplace will embrace the work from home lifestyle and it will all happen under unified and nimble communication channels.