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Maintaining credit health during this pandemic is key

When borrowers honor their obligations, there’s no reason to see credit in a bad light, especially as it helps the economy grow faster this way. But how do you manage credit in the middle of a pandemic?

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Keeping your physical and mental health in check during the COVID-19 pandemic is crucial, but global information and insights provider TransUnion emphasizes that financial health must not be set aside. For most people, this generally entails having a steady flow of income, looking after any savings, and maintaining bill payments and other financial commitments.

But with the severe economic impact of COVID-19 globally, this isn’t always possible and it is vital that consumers truly understand how certain aspects of finance work to find or even create opportunities amid these difficult times.

There is no standard measure of financial health as each person’s circumstances are unique, but there is one aspect to finance that is often misunderstood, and that is credit. Credit is an important part of the economy because it allows entities and consumers to engage in transactions now that may not be possible if they only rely on their current capacity.

Anyone who has a credit card, loan, bank overdraft, or other similar credit agreements has a credit report – a record of how they manage their credit obligations, collected and aggregated by credit agencies like TransUnion. When borrowers honor their obligations, there’s no reason to see credit in a bad light, especially as it helps the economy grow faster this way. But how do you manage credit in the middle of a pandemic?

“A healthy credit history can help determine a consumer’s ability to access financial products and their ability to get competitive deals. At TransUnion, we are working with financial institutions to help them better understand consumers so they can continue to provide them with the financial services they need. TransUnion’s data quality assurance team stringently reviews credit data contributions and ensures that consumers are being accurately represented so their access to financial services remain unhampered during the challenges presented by COVID-19,” said Pia Arellano, TransUnion Philippines president and CEO.

Regulatory and institutional safeguards notwithstanding, there are a number of habits that consumers can practice to maintain good credit health even amid a pandemic.

1. Pay bills on time

Make it a point to not miss any payment deadlines, even if you can only pay the minimum amount. Automate it if possible or set alarms if you must. The purpose of a credit report is to help lenders see whether or not you miss payments and predict a behavior pattern for the future.

There are grace periods accorded to consumers during the pandemic, so it’s best to be aware of the policies implemented by your bank or financial institution for your convenience. Depending on your case, you may need to contact them directly to arrive at a repayment plan that suits your needs at present. However, if you can pay as soon as the bills come in, do so and you’ll have less to worry about.

2.  Set a budget and stick to it

The economic impact of COVID-19 is likely to extend over many years and having the discipline to stick to a budget and not over spend now will benefit you in the long run. In addition, do not apply for several new accounts at a time. Having a lot of simultaneous inquiries on your credit report worries lenders as it is a sign that you might be using credit and loans to supplement your income because you are spending beyond what you can actually afford.

3. Maintain low balances

Credit cards are considered “maxed-out” when you have spent 90% or more of the credit limit. When you maintain lower balances, lenders view you as someone who uses their credit responsibly. To achieve this, you should be able to pay your bills in full, on time, every time.

4. Build a strong relationship with lenders by being a responsible borrower

Lenders recognize that with higher credit limits comes increased responsibility. Credit limits tend to be reflective of both your wider financial standing as well as historic account conduct. A high credit limit reflected in your credit report can signal to lenders that you are a trustworthy candidate for new lines of credit. Should an unprecedented event such as this pandemic arise, you know that you’re in a position to access financial products at competitive interest rates if you need to.

5.  Beware of phishing and other scams that proliferate even during crises

A recent TransUnion report found that fraudsters are decreasing their schemes against businesses but increasing COVID-19 focused scams against consumers online. With the rise in digital transactions in banking, make sure you do not fall victim to fraud activities like account takeover or unauthorized account opening schemes that can taint your credit report. As a general rule, steer clear of offers that sound too good to be true. Legitimate financial institutions can never provide miraculous results in the short-term.

Other precautions include doing a regular review of your bank accounts for any suspicious activity, never providing sensitive information such as PINs and One-Time Passwords, and keeping your information secure against phishing attacks. It’s worth looking into password managers and updating your passwords on your bank accounts every so often. If you need to communicate with your bank, stick to its official channels.

6. Contribute to a savings fund

Building an emergency fund is generally considered good practice in your overall budgeting and serves to keep your credit health in check as well. Having enough funds on hand will help cover credit obligations, keeping you in good credit standing until you recover and things stabilize again.

Navigating the road to economic recovery

Build and keep the above-mentioned habits and you’ll maintain a good credit standing and overall financial health. Now, what should you do if you still cannot pay your bills at this time due to sudden loss of income or other extreme circumstances?

Consumers should coordinate with their bank or financial institution to explain their situation. Generally, consumers can request a payment holiday, lowering of monthly payments until they have fully recovered, or restructuring of a loan or credit facility for a smaller payment amount and longer tenure. Needless to say, it helps if you are in good credit standing to begin with.

As a seasoned and trusted global data steward, TransUnion recognizes its unique position to help consumers as they pursue economic recovery by helping financial institutions address current uncertainties using the power of information. Building on its database of 25 million account points that features a more holistic and insightful view into consumer behavior, TransUnion has started harnessing trended data that looks at richer information from a longer period of time (24 months payment history) to determine a consumer’s current and likely future financial situation. This, in turn, gives businesses quality information to continue supporting customers even in uncertain times such as the pandemic. When done right, everyone contributes to helping the economy bounce back stronger.

“We’ve been called to do bayanihan to recover as one, which essentially recognizes the need for us to work together to fully address current financial challenges. Our mission at TransUnion is to use the data that we have to help businesses and consumers make smarter finance decisions, especially during difficult times like this pandemic. We hope to continue creating a virtuous cycle of empowered businesses that empower consumers to gain access to financial services which can uplift their lives and financial health, as we believe this contributes a great deal to their physical and mental well-being too,” said Arellano.

Strategies

5 Tips for small business owners to help grow their business online

Choosing and registering a domain name for your business that’s memorable is increasingly important in an expanding digital marketplace, as it helps to shape your online business identity.

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Small businesses are embracing digitalization and catering to their customer needs through a variety of online channels. With new technologies emerging such as artificial intelligence, there is no time like the present to help your small business grow by taking advantage of the online world.

A GoDaddy 2023 global survey examined the status of small businesses including their ways to reach customers and survive in highly competitive markets. APAC countries surveyed, including Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, showed use of a business website, online store, ecommerce or a combination of them ranking at 57% of survey respondents. These results support having a strong online presence with multiple complementary channels can be vital for businesses to thrive and grow in today’s competitive digital environments.

With this in mind, GoDaddy shares five tips to help your small business grow with an online presence.

1. It starts with a domain name

When getting started, check availability of domain names for the desired name. A domain name can be considered a business’ piece of real estate and identity on the internet. It is a way for customers to easily find a business online.

Choosing and registering a domain name for your business that’s memorable is increasingly important in an expanding digital marketplace, as it helps to shape your online business identity. If the .com extension is not available, there are many new extensions available, such as: .shop; .co.; .photography; .tech, to name a few, for you to consider which can help define your business.  After choosing a domain name register it with a reliable hosting provider right away.

2. Build a website 

Websites help create visibility for small businesses and acts as a home base for your business on the internet, even if you have a brick-and-mortar store.  A website can help consumers easily find your business, learn about your product offerings and services, and contact you for more information.

A well-designed professional looking website can offer an engaging customer experience with the use of text along with photo images and video.  Having a website gives you control over the messaging about your business and can serve as a hub by linking with your social media channels.

3. Listen to your customers

The growth of your business is directly related to customer satisfaction. Listen to your customers and pay attention to the needs of your target market. Identify their problems and pain points. How can your offerings act as a solution? Is it possible to develop new products to help solve these problems?  Engage for customer feedback and keep an eye on customer behaviour changes and audience interests.

4. Develop a business support system

By developing a strong business support system, entrepreneurs can benefit from new ideas on ways to address a particular issue or ideas for growth. In addition to close family and friends, consider mentors and business coaches who can provide relevant insights into your business.

5. Review your business plan

Many entrepreneurs make a business plan at the beginning of their business journey, but do not take the time to revisit it from time-to-time. So, analysing aspects of that business plan like target audience and competitors, examining cash flows and what can make the business profitable, while also checking timelines to reach business goals is all equally essential to help ensure continued growth of your business.

For more information on how GoDaddy can help your small business: Domain Names, Websites, Hosting & Online Marketing Tools – GoDaddy PH.

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BizNews

Sticking with old technology can be a strategic move

As competitors adopt new technology in some markets, firms that stick with the old technology may experience an initial decline before actually rebounding and even reaching new heights.

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Technological innovation — especially disruptive innovation — is often heralded as the best strategy for a company. But new research published in Strategic Management Journal found that as competitors adopt new technology in some markets, firms that stick with the old technology may experience an initial decline before actually rebounding and even reaching new heights. While the rise of a discontinuous technology does pose a substitute threat to the old technology, it also further exposes niche segments where companies can gain a foothold with customers who favor the old technology.

The analysis by Xu Li, a professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science, used archival data from the traditional Chinese medicine industry in China during the 1990s. In his interviews with managers in the field, he found that some chose not to innovate along with their competitors. In many cases, Li found these companies were performing well, if not sometimes better, by not making changes. Inspired by these conversations, Li chose to study under what conditions a firm may benefit from not innovating.

Li found some prior research on why companies would stick with older technology, but none explored why — during times of disruptive change in the market — sometimes firms are able to survive and even perform better within a small niche with old technology. What Li’s paper showed was that adhering to the old technology can, in some cases, be an effective strategy that ultimately improves firm performance.

The data showed a U-curve effect for traditional Chinese medicine firms that chose not to adopt new technology: The decline in performance began as a few competitors started launching a new technology, but later recovered and reached new heights as most competitors had adopted the new technology and exited the old technology market. But a lack of competition within the niche group of consumers who prefer older technology essentially gave these firms a monopoly within a smaller market as fewer competitors remained.

“Even though the new technology is often superior in terms of functionality, it doesn’t mean that every single customer or customer segment will be willing to move to the new technology,” Li says. “It’s important to understand what customers like about your product. We tend to assume that if a firm introduces something new, then customers must appreciate the new thing or the newness of the offering. But that’s not always true. The emergence of new technology can actually reveal people’s preference for something older.”

The research also refutes the idea that when the market is small, a company won’t perform better — but that depends on how many firms are still serving this niche. If only a few firms are left to serve this market, a company has far more power to charge higher prices among loyal customers with few other options.

“When you see a firm that is not actively innovating, we tend to believe the firm must be either incapable or is suffering — it’s always a bit of a negative tone,” Li says. “Sometimes staying with old technology might actually be a strategic choice, because by doing so it might also lead to better performance.”

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BizNews

Customers prefer text over video to provide service feedback

More people indicated they would likely leave written compliments or complaints about service on a restaurant-provided tablet powered by artificial intelligence. A video message option appeared to discourage leaving feedback.

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At a time when one viral video can damage a business, some companies are turning to their own commenting platforms rather than letting social media be the main outlet for customer feedback. Only one wrinkle: in this context, customers appear to prefer writing a message rather than leaving a video.

In a recent study, more participants indicated they would likely leave written compliments or complaints about service on a restaurant-provided tablet powered by artificial intelligence. A video message option appeared to discourage leaving feedback.

With more restaurants and hotels turning to AI to enhance their service, the findings indicate that methods that require “low self-disclosure” would work better, meaning ones that don’t require customers to provide very much identifiable information.

“Some restaurants and hotels actually ask customers to create video testimonials that they can share, but for general customers, it seems they feel more comfortable with low self-disclosure. This is probably because people still do not trust AI to that level,” said lead author Ruiying Cai, a researcher in Washington State University’s Carson College of Business.

With a lot of hype around AI technology, many people have misperceptions about what it can do, Cai pointed out, perhaps believing it is capable of a lot more than simply recording a message.

The study participants reported being concerned about what would be done with their information in all the scenarios, but this was heightened with the option to leave a video.

For the study, published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management, Cai and her colleagues presented different online scenarios to a total of 439 people. The participants were first asked to imagine a restaurant where they had either good or bad service. Then they reported how willing they were to give the server compliments, or complaints, with either text or video on an AI-enabled tablet.

The researchers found that the participants were more willing to give feedback using text, whether positive or negative.

The scenarios also had participants receiving a theoretical immediate or delayed reward to provide feedback, namely a 5% discount of their current meal or a future one. For complaints, the reward timing did not appear to make much difference, which the authors said was not surprising as people tend to be more highly motivated to complain than compliment.

For compliments, the researchers found an interesting connection: with more participants choosing the delayed reward over the immediate one. This may indicate that giving the compliment itself is its own reward as it makes the giver feel good, Cai said.

“It’s a good start to think about how to encourage customers to leave more compliments which could be very important for frontline employees. It could also be beneficial for the customers themselves,” she said.

Even complaints are important to encourage, Cai added. As her previous research suggests, restaurants and hotels should make it easier for customers to complain to them directly rather than go elsewhere to air their grievances.

“There have been episodes when customers were not afraid of posting angry videos on their own social media,” Cai said. “If restaurants and hotels can encourage customers to complain directly to them, then they may be able to recover and solve that service failure before it goes viral online.”

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