Salesforce Live – The Nottingham Building Society rethinks digital strategy in light of COVID-19

(Image sourced via The Nottingham Building Society Facebook )

The Nottingham Building Society was founded back in 1849 by a small group of Nottingham businessmen, led by local Quaker Samuel Fox. The first ever branch used to open between 6pm and 9pm on the first Tuesday of each month and the vision for the building society was to help people own their own home, as well as offer them a safe and secure place for their savings.

Since then The Nottingham (as it’s more commonly known) has grown to serve over a quarter of a million members across the UK and now has 67 branches across 11 counties. Gone too are the days of a three hour opening window once a month, with the building society expanding its use of digital services for members rapidly.

The Nottingham has had a digital strategy in place for over three years, which served it well in the initial fallout from COVID-19. But as CEO David Marlow outlined at the Salesforce Live UK & Ireland event this week, the rapid changes in consumer expectations and the workplace are forcing the building society to go deeper with its transformation.

Part of this involves moving to the Salesforce Financial Services Cloud to completely reengineer the organisation’s process for the digital, with the aim of creating an immersive experience for members.

Marlow explained that COVID-19 has shifted thinking at The Nottingham in two fundamental ways. Firstly, regarding the move to distributed working. And secondly, the additional expectations from consumers on digital services. He said:

I think the working from home element is a major item. Here I am at home, somebody who never worked from home over the last 20 years. How we make the most of that and leverage it is really important. Accommodating the changes that we see both positive and negative for people remote working. That implication has an enormous knock on effect to our business continuity arrangements, and we’ve got some big changes to put through in how we organise ourselves in business continuity terms. Just as example, historically we had a building on the outside of Nottingham that was just left empty. When we had a crisis we would all move out to that. Well, we don’t need that sort of capability any longer, we would all just work from home.

And then finally I think the major item for us has been the enormous shift in expectations from customers and members and the public at large around digital. Not only in terms of the access that they expect, but the richness of the service that they now see as the norm, not as a bonus.

A solid foundation

As noted above, The Nottingham has been working on its digital strategy for three years now and Marlow said that this put the organisation in a good position when demand for its services increased during the height of the pandemic. However, he added, that with the enormous shift in customer expectations, he soon realised that The Nottingham needed to really “reinvent” the digital strategy. Marlow said:

So whilst we were able to respond quickly and adapt to giving better digital access, it became obvious pretty quickly that we needed to start thinking about how we change our approach and our strategy for the future if we are going to meet this shift in demand.

The Nottingham has been working with Salesforce for a number of years, operating out of the Salesforce Community Cloud. However, much of the work over the years, Marlow explained, has been focused on taking the organisation’s current digital capability and adding the Salesforce capability to it. In other words, it has largely been a lift and shift. Going forward, more intense process work is planned. Marlow said:

So we made it slicker. We made it easier to use. But we were really using the same processes, the same workflows, and the same sort of capabilities that we’ve been using before. Where we really see ourselves now and the work that we are doing working very closely with Salesforce is effectively re-engineering and reorganising our processes and our workflows to ensure that we can offer the most immersive and frictionless experience.

On top of that, we’re going to have to completely adapt and change our data models. So where we hold data, how we use that data, how we use it to serve the customer better. It’s a really good example for me of moving from a functional digital strategy where you offer what you used to in a digital format, to really transforming to offering a unique 21st century immersive digital proposition.

Less intervention

One of the ambitions of this new process-focused digital strategy is that Marlow would like to introduce digital service features that require less human or manual intervention on the part of The Nottingham. For example, Marlow said:

Certainly what we found is that there were a whole raft of other requirements that we weren’t covering and that we weren’t able to fulfil. I think that one of the things that’s really testing at the moment is that our digital capability works to a point, but we still end up with quite a lot of drop out to service advisors. So what we found is that a digital experience can be of good quality, but if it requires an agent intervention you are still constrained by your capacity elements of how many people you’ve got on the phone.

As an example, one of the developments that we’re working on at the moment is that I expect us to be using bots within about the next six months and we’re using the experience that we are picking up now to put bots into our digital service experience, so that the vast majority of straightforward, simple queries that might previously have required a service agent to handle, will now be handled within the digital capability. That’s better for us, obviously. But actually it’s much better for the member because they get what they want, faster, quicker and in a seamless way.

As already highlighted, The Nottingham is going to be moving out of the Salesforce Community Cloud and into the Financial Services Cloud, with the aim of taking advantage of more industry-focused capabilities. Marlow explained:

Once we started to look at this rather more immersive experience, where we look to integrate a number of other microservices, one of the decisions that we’ve made, which we think is the right thing to do, is move over to Financial Services Cloud. That’s giving us a much greater access to a wider of range of apps and capability in a single platform that we can utilise without having to code specifically.

So we are able to use the native capabilities of Salesforce, improve that proposition to members. A good example of that would be integrating Einstein with the bots that we’re developing, which will add a greater degree of intelligence and learning into the way we serve customers.

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