Insights for Banks and Credit Unions

Fintech Horizons Media Article – Q&A with SilverCloud’s D.J. Haskins

Fintech Horizons Media Article – Q&A with SilverCloud’s D.J. Haskins

Fintech Horizons Media Interview that ran September 29, 2020 by Kevin Nafziger
View the full article here

Haskins is VP of Marketing at SilverCloud, a Portsmouth, New Hampshire-based company that has provided its knowledge management solution to banks and credit unions for over 15 years. In the interview, Haskins discusses the new challenges FIs and their customers face because of the pandemic, its interest in partnerships with both software and solutions providers, and potential paths it is exploring to further accelerate growth.

Can you talk a little about SilverCloud’s history, offering, and when you started with the company?

SilverCloud has been around as we know it today since about 2005, selling exclusively to banks and credit unions. I started working with Scott, our owner, in 2017 doing consulting and joined full time in 2018.

SilverCloud is best described as a knowledge management platform for banks and credit unions that helps customers/members find information via digital channels.

The platform is also used by employees to find information related to how to do their job, such as policies, procedures, and product information. Beyond finding information, SilverCloud helps customers and employees act based on the answers they find.

What are the issues faced by customers of banks and credits unions that SilverCloud helps solve?

A number of issues have come to light during COVID-19 particularly related to the push to digital on the customer/member side.

A big misconception is that customers are interested in having another channel to conduct transactions, that they, for instance, might want to check their balance while they are using a chat app.

The reality is that customers and members have a lot of questions. How do I do this? Where can I find this? The questions are not only support-related, like what is my account number, they often are product-related as well. Right now we are seeing a huge increase in questions around refinancing as well as related to how to apply for different kinds of loans.

Customers’ questions are also often technology-related. How do I deposit a check? How do I use Zelle? Some too are account related, like what to do when you suspect a fraudulent charge was made on your account. So we see that digital self-service is something that goes well beyond support. It encompasses a variety of areas and is an important part of creating a better customer experience.

During the pandemic, call volumes have spiked as fewer people are visiting their local branch. Making it easy for customers to ask questions through digital channels, giving them good answers, and helping them act quickly on those answers, alleviate many of the concerns that are driving the spike in calls.  While there always is going to be some call volume, SilverCloud takes care of the more basic or tier1 questions, so the questions handled by the call center are higher value ones.

What types of issues does SilverCloud help with for employees?

For employees, a lot of issues are also being illuminated from COVID-19. With more people working remotely, surveys are showing that the biggest issue bank employees face is finding information they need to help customers in a timely manner. As a result, they may find themselves more frequently asking for help from a supervisor or co-worker. It is not that questions occur all the time, they tend to occur almost randomly. We pulled the data from July and found that ACH is a common search topic for employees. Questions tend to go up too for any process that has a lot of steps and SilverCloud helps break those steps down so they are easy to act upon.

Has demand changed due to COVID-19?

There is both greater demand and greater awareness of the need. Many banks and credit unions already realized the importance of digital knowledge management before COVID-19, but the pandemic has brought more of these issues to the attention of all parts of the organization, including the boardroom, CSOs and within the contact center. Banks and credit unions recognize now that they need more than just to provide self-service, they need to connect together the customer’s digital experience in a cohesive way. So we see more understanding both around the problem and around the opportunity.

How much customization is required for answering FAQs and how do you help with customization?   

What makes our core knowledge management system unique on the customer side is that we create all of the content for them. It is really plug and play. For many FIs, it would be hard for them to know where to start. Because we have 200 plus banks and credit unions, we know the questions that are being asked, and our platform offers answers for the top 100 plus questions. In addition, we regularly update those questions based on the analytics. In the last six months, a lot of new questions have emerged for both customers and employees that didn’t exist before, with questions related to PPP being just one example.

On the delivery side, it is about offering different interfaces. We have chat and we also provide search, which is still very popular. We also offer contextual FAQs, so if a customer visits a page on loans the customer sees answers to the five most common questions customers have about loans.

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Does SilverCloud look to serve a certain size bank or credit union?

We work with credit unions with 25-30 employees up to a few that are $10bn plus in asset size. The majority fall somewhere in the middle. The reality is the small credit unions and banks know they have issues with employee knowledge management, but those issues often become more pronounced when an institution has 100 or more employees. Institutions of that size have more problems with information silos and experience more issues related to contact center volume and employee turnover.

On the customer side the need is there, big or small. I would say our average customer probably has about a billion dollars in assets, but we work with a number of much smaller institutions too and our solution serves them well.

What are your top goals for 2020?

Our primary goal is to help customers understand what has changed in the last six months, and to help them make the changes required to deliver better customer service. One area that is important for us is to continue improving our technology. We find that a lot of companies with remote teams use Slack and so we are looking into whether to integrate our platform with their offering. AI remains an important focus as well, as we continue to build models to improve the answers we provide customers when they perform a search or interact with our chat app.

What is a favorite customer success story you can share?

It seems the favorite stories are often the recent ones. We had a great story with a customer that just launched with SilverCloud in under four weeks. They launched on a Monday and saw a significant reduction in call volume by Friday. While they knew we would help them over the long-term, they were excited to see the benefits take place so quickly.

On the employee side, we have a lot of banks and credit unions that tell us that they are grateful that they had our platform in place because it made it easier to pivot to working remotely. We’re seeing a lot of FIs tell us as well that they no longer have the bandwidth to update content changes on their own, particularly with the pandemic and new programs like PPP.

Is the company looking for venture or growth financing over the next year and are their market segments where SilverCloud is most focused for growth?

We are very unique. We are 100% owner owned and have not taken a cent of debt or outside investment. We have been bootstrapped and we are now at the point where we are looking at options for growth capital to accelerate things, such as to expand operations outside the US and Canada. There are different regulations in other markets, but we can get up to speed on those quickly. The other piece is that right now we work exclusively with banks and credit unions and it would make sense to enter adjacent verticals where customers have similar issues, which could potentially be in areas such as insurance or wealth management.

Does the company have interest in partnerships?

We are interested in two types. The first is with technology companies who have offerings that can be integrated with our solution. An example might be in mobile banking or digital banking, where our chatbot can sit behind those applications. Right now, we also partner with LivePerson, where our chatbot sits in front of their solution, and the customer does not have to switch between interfaces.

Another area where we have interest in partnerships is with consulting solutions providers. Those partnerships are much more of a referral type relationship where those organizations see value in our platform and look to bring that value to their customers.

What activities do you do at SilverCloud as a team?

We do a lot of philanthropy, including work with the area food bank and women’s shelter.

We have a strong culture, although we have had to make certain adjustments as a result of the pandemic. We recently started doing virtual brown bag lunches around topics of interest including fantasy football, baking, and dungeons and dragons. So instead of 60 people staring at Zoom, you have 3-6 people across departments who discuss a shared interest. We are also continuing our efforts to promote employee appreciation. Culture is important to us, and we also think it is important to make changes when circumstances require it, as sometimes what worked six months ago may no longer work today.

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