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The rise of digital self-service and e-commerce platforms in telcos, financial institutions


Johannesburg, 10 Dec 2021
Read time 8min 10sec

As a whole, society has evolved. Digital technologies have advanced more rapidly than any previous innovation in our history and it is these technological advancements that have given rise to huge opportunities for organisations. Leveraging as well as adopting these advancements are crucial to continued success.

The most recent trend and technological advancements in the market that have completely changed the landscape of how companies operate and contribute to their success is the use of self-service and e-commerce platforms, specifically in the financial and telecommunication sectors. These platforms became even more popular around the time COVID-19 first appeared, when social distancing was of the utmost importance. These platforms work in tandem with each other. On the one side, self-service platforms have enabled customers to control their accounts and services without having to go into a physical branch, and on the other, e-commerce platforms have made it easier for customers to browse and purchase goods using their digital devices in the comfort of their own home. However, due to ongoing changes in consumer behaviour, implementing these platforms is not undemanding.

The forces of change

Starting in the late 1980s, the digital revolution transformed the economy and society as a whole. What started out as the development of a connected economy, characterised by mass adoption of the internet, soon led to the development of a digital economy boasting an increase in digital platforms for the supply of goods and services. Following this was the more recent move towards a fully digitised economy where production and consumption models are based on digital technologies in all economic, social and environmental dimensions. “This move is driven by smartphones, faster and more reliable communications such as 4G and fibre and COVID-19,” says Maxime Papazian, a BBD Director and account manager within the telecoms space. The rapid shift towards digital everything has resulted in consumers placing greater demands on their financial institutions and telecommunication providers – partially due to the abundance of information made available to consumers everywhere and at any given time. Papazian goes onto explain that this demand is accentuated by the need for these platforms to not only be easy to use, but for them to also look great, which is where UX and UI come into play, and to work seamlessly for payment and delivery.

These changing behaviours have triggered a transformation across whole industries as well as in customer expectations and their readiness to adapt with the tech.

Ultimately, consumer demands have led businesses to change their strategy, metrics and often the way they operate and deliver services. More than ever, companies are now having to be proactive in how they evolve their online customer experience to meet these demands. Add in the remote working modus operandi on top of the move towards contactless services and you have a landscape where banks and telcos are reducing their physical branches and encouraging consumers to go online.

There is a decided need for effective and efficient software solutions in this ecosystem where, more than just providing products and services, but opportunities within digital platforms and e-commerce, a space is created for tailored customer experiences, technology and often cloud to work together to enhance what businesses have to offer their customers, entrenching customer loyalty. It is this pursuit of becoming a platform business where BBD, an international software development company, has extensive expertise.

The rise of digital self-service

So why is digital self-service so on trend? Well, from a customer’s point of view, interacting with customer care through service representatives either in person or via a call centre can be time-consuming, inefficient and expensive. Think about the last time you had a question or small query you needed to resolve with either your banker or telecoms provider. How did you feel after going through the long process of trying to unriddle the small query you had? Frustrated? Probably.

In an age where opinions and experiences are freely shared and supported across social media channels, companies are needing to ensure positive customer experiences and quickly mitigate any negative ones.

Once they realised that operations could run efficiently and effectively for both the consumer and business, companies quickly jumped on the bandwagon and adopted digital self-service across their platforms. This has broadened the horizon for many banking and telecommunications providers, enabling them to deliver new engagement models that transform simple calls into powerful visual and digital interactions that are accessible anywhere and at any time, resulting in major cost savings on call centres and staff.

With customer satisfaction and experience being well established terminologies often sitting at the core of any retail/services business (because a satisfied customer = a loyal customer), companies are continuously on the lookout for customer-orientated technologies that represent innovative solutions to enable them to provide a consistently higher level of customer experience. Shep Hyken, a customer experience expert, says it best: “Customer experience is the new brand.”

“And the goal is to fundamentally delight the customer,” Papazian adds.

Software solutions can enable, create and facilitate differentiating customer experiences that propel businesses forward. Digitally enabled companies create more customer engagement, and more engaged customers are said to be six times more likely to invest in services as well as recommend them to family and friends – a win-win situation. As technology is a key customer experience driver, companies within the telecoms and financial services spaces have gotten in on the act, re-evaluated their KPIs, strategy and infrastructure and are slowly making the switch to automated services with the help of self-service software solutions and platforms that enhance efficiency, streamline processes and systems for both the consumer and the company, and ultimately drive customer satisfaction.

An example of such solution is BBD’s Vanguard accelerator, which uses flexible technology frameworks to empower businesses to provide reliable and consistent digital experiences for their customers and employees. The power of Vanguard is in its interchangeable and customisable building blocks that give businesses the flexibility to develop an overarching system that suits the way they do business. In essence, Vanguard provides the framework, workflow, case management and orchestration capabilities so that businesses can quickly and efficiently build a self-service platform. By implementing and customising the relevant Vanguard building blocks in your existing environment, your business will benefit from speedier development, increased productivity and standardised workflows. This solution is suited to any organisation looking to reduce costs in the long run, eliminate queues and customer wait times – it’s all about the customer convenience.

As businesses prepare for the present and future, digital self-service is the way to go. The benefits of offering omnichannel experiences are endless – human errors are eliminated, long queues are a thing of the past, operating times are 24/7, and businesses can reduce their physical branches and staff – ultimately saving a huge chunk of money while doing so. Papazian notes that now that you have an engaged and empowered customer that can service themselves, they are then able to partake on the e-commerce side by exploring other goods and services. Platforms invoking both sides of this coin are booming.

Not a set and forget activity

The rise in self-service platforms is not only critical for mitigating call centre costs, it’s also an essential element of the customer experience. Consumers want answers immediately, not tomorrow, and expect companies to attend to their every need. The longer it takes to respond, the higher the chance of them finding another supplier/provider – it’s no wonder companies are needing to implement effective self-service platforms quickly, giving customers the fast response time they demand.

Companies realise that self-service is not a nice-to-have but a necessity in providing a positive customer experience. However, due to customer and digital expectations constantly adapting, implementing self-service platforms is not so simple. There are a lot of aspects and implications to consider, from maintaining bridges to assisted services and integration into support strategies, while having these platforms frictionless: Simple with self-service touch-points where possible. And as consumers want to do everything online and via their mobile, it creates opportunities as well as challenges for companies. Companies need to remember that customers want to be able to easily and as rapidly as possible search for products and services, pick what they want and complete transactions without ever having an in-person meeting with a sales rep. It is said that 55% of customers find web self-service portals difficult to use, so keeping these self-service platforms streamlined, personalised and easy to use is essential in retaining customers.

Choosing the right software partner, with the experience and expertise to meet the evolving requirements to continuously personalise, optimise and modernise is crucial to ensuring a speedy implementation of your self-service platform that reduces costs while uncovering valuable customer insights and delivering end-to-end personalised service. If you’re looking for such a partner for your business, reach out to BBD. 

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