Most professional services firms have been of the most high-profile examples of a banking giant scores and comments, and suggest an approach—slow to embrace the full range of innovative technological solutions available to them.It may be true that there is no single technological substitute for the unique skill-set possessed by seasoned staff, yet advanced digital tools are able to automate repetitive tasks and in turn free-up valuable time to focus on core competencies.
Evaluating the myriad options available in the digital ecosystem is understandably complex for professional services. Compared to just a few years ago when advanced technological innovations were in use at the top-tier firms, artificial intelligence (AI)tools, machine learning solutions, and cognitive technologies are rapidly becoming integral parts of the modern service offering for firms of all sizes and in all sectors.
The practical benefits of machine learning are experienced by hundreds of millions of consumers on a daily basis. These digital solutions that are so prevalent in the business-to-consumer space are transferring to the expectations that clients hold of professional services firms.
Firms are now becoming aware of the immense benefits offered by emerging technologies and innovations, with 73% of these firms believing that digital technologies will bring benefits to customer experience, according to CBI’s Embracing Digital in Every Sector report.
As an example, JPMorgan Chase’s machine learning based Contract Intelligence solution (COIN) was one of the most high-profile examples of a banking giant utilising burgeoning technologies to improve their operations. This service is able to instantly review commercial loan agreements, in a process that before would take 360,000 hours of work by highly-paid lawyers and loan officers per year. Mistakes due to human error have also been stopped, thanks to COIN interpreting some 12,000 credit contracts each year.
Today, only a handful of leading banks and consultancies have the financial resources to create solutions like COIN, but this is unlikely to remain the case for long.
In the legal field, law firm DLA Piper is using anAI-based solution to review documents in the mergers and acquisitions due-diligence process.The AI tool, constructed by Kira Systems, searches text in contracts and analyses important contact provisions to quickly create summaries for users.Clients will see the due diligence procedure become faster, as well as risk being reduced.
Many firms have implemented a client feedback loop that uses intelligence to prompt project managers on how to respond to clients based on their individual feedback.
It’s clear that digital advancements are challenging the status quo at firms across the country. According to Ryan Suydam, co-founder and Chief ExperienceOfficer at Client Savvy:
“Machine learning is already in use at many professional services firms. For example, many firms have implemented a client feedback loop that uses intelligence to prompt project managers on how to respond to clients based on their individual feedback. Almost like a personality assessment—tools like the Client Feedback Tool read clients’ scores and comments, and suggest an approach—whether it’s to solicit a referral from a raving fan, or tweak a process for a client needing some attention.”
A central benefit of machine learning tools is that they’re able to continually improve as they’re used, resulting in better service quality for clients. Thanks to its ever-evolving nature, machine learning is able to match client expectations which takes the pressure off firms to actively catch up on emerging trends and technologies.
Learning from experience is basic human nature but extending this type of understanding to computers has been an extremely difficult process– and one that is far from being fully achieved. But the advent of complex algorithms that can allow computers to independently identify patterns in data and improve their performance, without being specifically programmed to do so, is slowly bringing elements of cognition to machines.
Truly understanding what professional services firms’ clients expect both now and in the future is an increasingly complex task. In the age of technological disruption, even long-established firms are at risk of losing customers to unconventional start-ups that are better equipped to meet their needs. Client experience is a key differentiator for professional services firms but it’s hard for them to offer market-leading services when they don’t have a complete picture of what exactly it is their clients want.
There is no shortage of data available to professional firms, that regularly collect data from clients through emails, surveys, unprompted feedback and call notes. But, this type of data isn’t easy to search. This has long made interpreting and performing analysis extremely difficult on huge data sets that could potentially provide actionable business insights.
Firms can feed unstructured text into tools likeIBM’s Watson Natural Language Understanding platform to receive feedback on client sentiment and extract key concepts from large amounts of text. Gaining a more detailed view of client satisfaction levels allows professional firms the power to discover areas where improvements need to be made and then act on the weak spot sin a precise manner.
Strategic advice must be based on a data-driven approach
There has been a great deal of research and investment in the area of cognitive technology over the past decade but, like most other recent innovations, there is still a long way to go until it reaches its full business potential.
Reuben Barry, Head of Data Analytics at Ecovis Wingrave Yeats says “The most progressive firms will have realised the opportunity for providing a consultancy service to their clients that makes use of all of the available tools in order to bring genuine strategic value. Genuinely valuable strategic advice must be based on a data-driven approach and by utilising these techniques the value proposition can be taken even further.”
When modern digital tools work well they eliminate unnecessary and mundane tasks that not only waste valuable time for staff at professional services firms, but also reduce the time staff can spend interacting with clients. Although this new suite of technologies is already beginning to have an unprecedented impact on professional firms, they will still remain only one part of the picture. Talented people are still vital to interpret complicated financial data, discuss potential tax implications and, of course, establish strong personal relationships with clients.
“Over the coming months and years, more and more intelligent machines are going to be working alongside humans to augment, not replace, the jobs they are doing, adding greater business efficiencies and job satisfaction as a result,” saysJohn Everhard, Chief Technologist at Pegasystems, a provider of customer engagement software.“There are solutions available to professional services organisations and their I.T. teams that allow them to collaborate in real-time, using visual models to capture business requirements, quickly iterate and scale apps while ensuring nothing gets lost in translation.”
New digitally-focused business approaches that fully embrace AI-backed innovations and, in turn, elicit the move to a more client centric strategy at many professional firms, are set to become commonplace.
“In this age of increasing automation and self-service, technology will enable the instant ‘I need an answer now’ capability for clients. Front-line staff will then spend more time handling the human aspect of building relationships and discovering new problems to solve – all to create value for their clients. Technology will be the enabler in the race to create value faster than the competition,” says Suydam.
Ensuring the right balance between traditional talent and digital technologies is on course to be a defining challenge for professional services firms over the next five years.
As the number of successful AI projects grows and the technology supporting them matures, professional services firms must seriously consider the impact they will have on all areas of operation. It is no longer the case that machine leaning technologies and digital innovations can be ignored by firms that view them as either unnecessary or unduly complex to implement.Increasingly discerning clients will demand more personalised and relevant services, with those firms that fall even slightly behind the curve being unlikely to lead the market as it embraces digitally-enabled business models.