Breathing life into customer experience
Nabilah Annuar sat down with Rasool Hujair, CEO of Najm (previously Majid Al Futtaim Finance) and winner of Best Credit Card for the Banker Middle East UAE Product Awards, to gauge his views on a creating meaningful financial products for consumers.
How important is customer experience for a retail financial product?
We are at a time when the product or the service offered by a company is no longer the differentiator for customers. What truly helps brands stand out is the customer experience they offer, and how they make their customer feel. This is because consumers are changing. The challenge for our industry is to consistently provide a seamless customer experience, specifically to younger generations who will become more dominant and more demanding in the coming years.
For example, when getting a taxi, my generation would have either queued up for one, reserved one through a telephone operator or flagged one by the side of the road. These days, all you need to do is download an app and after a few minutes, a taxi will already be on the way to your exact location. This app will also track where the car is, notify you when it is approaching, allow the customer to rate his/her ride and provide an option to pay via credit card, enabling a seamless transaction and overall experience for the customer. This type of experience that we need to mirror, as it is what we are being compared to.
At Najm, it is our priority to focus more on the digital front, better understand our customers, and explore how we can best tailor our product and services to fit their needs and to make it effortless and enriching. That is what will make us stand out from other financial solutions providers in the market.
In this day and age, technology plays an important role in enabling financial transactions. How has this shaped the UAE market and how does Najm cater to this demand?
The financial services sector is going through a technological transformation, which is quickly making what used to seem impossible, possible and within reach. In the UAE, we are lucky in many ways as we are at the centre of entrepreneurial activities and technological advancements in the region, with the Government being the pioneer in implementing smarter services. The private sector is in the position of having to catch up with the Government’s efforts when it comes to providing the ideal user experience.
I believe we need to take advantage of this progress, this drive to transform into all things digital. It is both a challenge and an opportunity. It’s a challenge in the sense that if we do not act quickly, we fall behind quickly. And it’s an opportunity because if we take action fast enough, we would be able to capture a bigger market share and stand out from the crowd.
At Najm, we continuously invest in our infrastructure to meet those evolving conditions. We have partnered with some of the top technology providers to ensure that what we adopt flexible and scalable solutions that allow us to focus on providing effortless and enriching customer experiences. We started with mobile applications: 60 per cent of our customers have downloaded our Najm app, with more than a quarter of usual enquiries now done via the app. We also have an enterprise product that goes beyond a payment method: our Corporate credit card programme. This is not only a card but an entire expense management system for companies that focuses on the start-to-end process of corporate travel, entertainment planning and cost management.
In addition to this, we also have invested in Beam Wallet, a tech start-up that allows payments to be done entirely with one’s mobile phone. The more a customer uses it, the more we are able to learn about them, enabling us to push specific information to them at the appropriate time. This helps to create added value for the customer.
In your opinion, what is most lacking in the retail financial market?
I would not say there is a lack, but rather a lag. As technology advances, key bodies such as regulators have the responsibility to ensure that all processes are accurate, transparent and readily available for use for financial institutions. An example of this is Know Your Customer (KYC) processes. Some companies have already begun using electronic KYC processes in terms of gathering data about customers, whereas the regulations in place are still based on the more traditional KYC methods used years ago.
That is why I would say that the ability to keep up and ensure the regulations are up to date will be key to filling this gap.
With the different age groups in the market, how do you cater to this demographic and ensure that the customer experience is suitable for that particular customer?
I do not really see segmentation of customers anymore. On the contrary, there seems to be a blurry line between demographics, and each person becomes their own ‘type’ of customer. What technology does for us at Najm is it gives us the opportunity to personalise each customer’s experience to their liking, rather than resort to grouping them into generic demographics.
This ensures that we are able to communicate with them on a more personal level. With the use of data that we have gathered about our customers’ habits, we are able to make the experience truly tailored to them. With the advent of artificial intelligence, this process will only become more refined, more precise and much faster. Mobile penetration is at 99 per cent in the UAE, so our opportunities are massive.
What are the challenges that come with personalisation?
The main challenge in creating tailored experiences is communicating to customers that we are using their data to improve their customer experience, and not to infringe on their privacy. Once that is made clear, we instantly create a line of trust between them and us.
This also raises the question of cybersecurity: ensuring customers that their details are safe and protected is how we create value and trust. We are an institution that is using this data for to sole purpose of bettering our customers’ experience.
In terms of technological advancements, how do you see this developing over the next five years?
Digital will be mainstream, if it isn’t already. Cloud-based computing will be the norm. Artificial intelligence will be in everything, as well as the use of robotic automation. We will see mundane repetitive tasks being taken over by machines.
Moving forward, the challenge is to be able to show each customer that they are valuable and that we are still a humane company, without entirely relying on manpower, and leveraging the technologies that are made available to us. For example, this will extend to having the ability to know what the customer is looking for, and providing them with appropriate suggestions the minute they walk into a store. Essentially, it’s being able to offer the highest degree of trust and value to the customer through technology.
You recently won Best Credit Card for the Najm series of Voyager cards. What does this mean to you and what can the market expect from Najm this year?
We are very pleased to receive the award from Banker Middle East. Voyager is a product that we are proud of. We designed Voyager not to be a credit card, but a comprehensive travel programme, with a credit card as one of the offerings that the Voyager platform has. Again, we’ve kept the customer’s experience at heart, and Voyager suggests the ideal travel itinerary for the user at hand, depending on preferences and previous habits.
One of the key things for us is improving the onboarding experience for customers. In effect, within a few weeks, we will have an infrastructure in place to issue our Najm credit cards instantly, to better cater to the fast, dynamic lifestyle of our customers. Our products today cater to the different needs of society—for example shopping and travel—but there are also segments that we believe we still need to address. At the moment, we are researching and testing out a few concepts for customers. The next phase would be to have focus groups evaluate them, and share their inputs—creating products that answer our customers’ needs is the main aim of our product development process.