Agents can add the human touch whenever needed as insurance and online broking transactions are enhanced by innovation Technology is playing a vital role in the creative ways financial services companies are promoting change, interacting with customers and delivering new services. Pointing to recent innovations, Harry Wong Kwok-tim, director and general manager of Dao Heng Insurance, said technology was particularly helpful in shortening transaction times. Customers are now able to arrange instant travel insurance by phone or over the internet; transactions are usually completed in a few minutes, then confirmed by SMS messaging and then the master document can be viewed online. 'In the areas of personal life or consumer insurance, we are developing a niche by focusing on technology implemented through our call centre,' said Mr Wong. He said the company had more than 30 years of experience in the general and corporate insurance industry, was a market leader in providing domestic helper insurance, and was particularly strong in home contents and hospital care plans. Like many other companies in the financial services sector, Dao Heng is reacting to new demands and changing customer behaviour by making better use of technology. The traditional insurance agent might be able to see eight or 10 clients a day, but call agents can handle closer to 50 daily transactions. For many customers, the call centre was their only point of contact with the company, said Mr Wong. Therefore, it had to provide not only excellent customer service and secure control of personal data, but also be a platform for brand building and market differentiation. Job seekers hoping to become call-centre agents are first interviewed by phone before being invited for a face-to-face interview. If subsequently recruited, the training concentrates on teaching them to be attentive, helpful, informative and in control of their emotions. 'We need people who can project a professional and customer-friendly image when they talk to customers,' Mr Wong said. A key challenge is using call-centre technology to enhance the customer experience. One possibility under review is to display the agent's image on screen when a customer calls in using a 3G mobile phone. But the underlying objective of any such move would be to enhance three distinct areas of product and services: the initial experience, ongoing customer satisfaction and longer-term loyalty. 'We rely heavily on our call agents to deliver first-class service and to meet our customer expectations,' said Mr Wong. He said customer satisfaction was about callers receiving the service in their preferred format and whenever needed. Technology is also a key driver behind initiatives offered by Dao Heng Securities, a sister company in the Guoco Group. The fully fledged brokerage provides equity trading, margin financing, advisory and initial public offering services in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. Angela Yau Shing-yam, general manager of Dao Heng Securities, said: 'In addition to our traditional services, we use modern delivery channels such as the internet and an automated trading hotline, which enables clients to access a wide range of trading tools to manage their portfolios.' Ms Yau said successful investment required accurate decision making with efficient and reliable trading channels. The company now had the technology to offer subscribers 'eAlerts' to check stock prices and receive price alerts and trading ideas. Clients could also view their daily transactions and receive trading confirmations by e-mail. To support these services, Dao Heng Securities has an experienced research team providing advice on the impact of placements, trade recommendations and other information. The company also recruits IT experts to develop interactive online systems.