PLAN Australia’s CEO on the importance of being deliberate about engaging with technology
PLAN Australia CEO Phil Quin-Conroy would be well acquainted with the company’s technology platforms. Before taking over as chief executive at the aggregator he was head of broker services for Advantedge, and oversaw the back-office support for PLAN, Choice and FAST. But Quin-Conroy says technology is moving out of the back office and in front of the consumer.
Quin-Conroy said technological offerings in the broking industry will increasingly become less focused on the back office and more focused on providing brokers with tools to engage with their clients.
“The impact of technology is evolving, and the focus of technology is changing as well. A classic example of this is some research Gartner released recently about chief marketing officers spending more money on technology than chief information officers. We’re seeing a real shift in the focus of technology from back office efficiency to the customer,” he said.
Technology has long been a cornerstone of PLAN’s offering to its brokers. The company has invested heavily in its CRM, and Quin-Conroy said a recent brand refresh highlights the aggregator’s commitment to providing its brokers with business building tools.
“We believe technology is vitally important. We’ve invested heavily in Podium 2.0, and that is really an end-to-end client business management tool for brokers to run their whole business. Technology can be a game changer,” Quin-Conroy said.
PLAN’s investment in Podium 2.0 has been well documented. Last year, the aggregator released major enhancements to the platform in response to broker feedback. And Quin-Conroy has said the CRM would continue to evolve to suit the needs of brokers. Part of this evolution, he said, will be delivering tools that not only drive process efficiency, but help brokers better engage their customers.
“We’re spending a lot of time thinking about how we can provide technology solutions to brokers that not only improve their back office efficiency, but help them be more effective in front of the customer to deliver a better customer experience as well.”
Quin-Conroy explained that PLAN’s technology offering delivered integration between devices via cloud computing.
“We’ve really embraced cloud technology and the benefits that can bring to the table. Brokers can get a lead via their smartphone with information to connect with the customer straightaway. They can sit down with the customer, log into Podium with the iPad app on their tablet and do some quick modelling with that customer demonstrating the benefits they’re going to bring. That data that’s going to be sitting in the tablet for them to commence that modelling exercise won’t need to be re-keyed. It’s already there based on the lead that’s been entered in,” he said.
And once the data is entered in, Quin-Conroy said brokers could continue the loan process without even returning to the office.
“They’re able to get on the phone to their administrator to say that the appointment is completed, they’ve got the paperwork and have them commence taking this application through to approval via the desktop.”
Ultimately, Quin-Conroy said he believes this will deliver a better client experience, and therefore yield benefits for brokers.
“At the end of the appointment, we believe they’ll have a higher conversion rate because the broker is using really engaging tools to assist the customer in understanding what the broker can bring to the table,” he said.
STRATEGISE FOR TOMORROW
While Quin-Conroy said PLAN was committed to delivering its brokers tools to enhance their business proposition, he urged all brokers to think proactively about how they engage with technology.
“I think customer expectations are changing in relation to technology. My advice to brokers is to have a technology strategy, and to observe what is happening in regard to the main technology trends,” he said.
In particular, Quin-Conroy advised brokers to pay attention to three major technological trends: cloud, social and mobile. Cloud technology enables data to be shared across multiple devices, which Quin-Conroy suggested would drive efficiency. Social media would also continue to grow in importance, he said. While some in the industry have written off social media as a sales or marketing tool, Quin-Conroy said evidence shows its growing importance.
“Social is increasing in importance. Around 20% of users of social media are using it for product and service research. If you’re ignoring what’s happening in the social space, you’re going to potentially be blindsided by a major trend that’s occurring,” he said.
Social media also plays a role in consumers finding brokers in the first place, he argued.
“Google have actually changed their algorithm recently, which means that social media has greater importance in regards to search engine optimisation. Lots of brokers are focused on ensuring their website appears well in searches, but if there’s no activity in the social media space they could be missing a trend.”
With the ubiquity of smartphones in Australia, Quin-Conroy said brokers also needed to be deliberate about their mobile strategy.
“Everybody’s using mobile. Most brokers have websites, and they’re good websites. But research out of the States suggest that nine out of 10 websites aren’t mobile compatible. They haven’t been developed using modern responsive design.”
For consumers, this means some brokers could be ruled out.
“A broker might have a fantastic website. The typical prospective customer will be searching for information on that broker on their smartphone, and the website typically won’t be compatible,” he said.
However they choose to address the challenges of a changing consumer landscape, Quin-Conroy urged brokers to put thought into the strategy they employ.
“There’s an opportunity to have a deliberate technology strategy, and to address some of the trends that are happening around cloud, around social and around mobile.”