Nov 2020 | Innovation | Innovation

Already in 2019, the International Finance Corporation in an article on digital financial services predicted that if banks and other financial services providers in Africa “don’t have a digital strategy by now they are at risk of seriously depleting their value proposition to their customers and losing market share.”

The pandemic highlighted critical gaps and missed opportunities in customer service and delivery, especially for digital customers. CEOs and decision-makers are now assessing critical learnings and insights to factor into business continuity, resilience and management plans in the post-pandemic and digital contexts.

The key: Customer centricity and overcoming the obstacles to a frictionless customer experience for financial services. Consumer expectation has moved on and returning to pre-pandemic business models is no longer be appropriate or viable. Companies need to adapt and update their operations to either online-only or suitably socially distanced customer service.

To transform, companies need to invest in technology since legacy systems can impede growth and innovation – easier said than done. However, having access to user-friendly online or cloud-based systems can overcome the hurdles of software, hardware and storage. 37% of companies indicated the desire to drive process and cost-efficiency. To achieve this, it’s crucial to leverage agile systems that can adapt to your business needs.

In the 2020 South African Digital Customer Experience Report, Dane Reddy, Head of Digital at WesBank, provides a good illustration of digital engagement with customers:

“We wanted applying for finance to feel like a digital conversation, not an interrogation. Ultimately, we and our applicants want the same thing – so let’s find out if it can happen. Simple. You tell us about yourself, and the car, and we’ll immediately tell you whether you’d be approved for it or not. If not, we tell you what your options are.”

An integral part of this story is the speed and ease at which those customers are able to determine their eligibility for finance. While a seemingly simple task for the customer, the back end of this process would use a powerful platform designed for risk prediction and management, decision automation, data processing and acquisition. Risk prediction and management systems are created to identify financially at-risk customers, which 40% of decision-makers are struggling to determine.

Across Africa, it’s important to keep in mind the technological obstacles and culture around traditional versus digital business interactions. While going fully digital may not be a viable option for many companies, since telephone/mobile and in-store business interactions are still an essential aspect of doing business in Africa. That said, adding a digital option could help the 56% that expect to be trading at pre-pandemic revenue and profit levels by June 2021.

Nancy Reddy, Head of Customer Experience & Digital at Nissan Group of Africa, advises that the marriage of physical and digital needs to be in perfect harmony. This allows companies to address the traditional and digital needs of their customer base and prepares them for the growing demand of digital business engagements.

Rethinking the business of digital customers requires a holistic understanding of the touchpoints from both a customer perspective and a business perspective. Businesses that have not already embraced digital transformation or have opted to delay it all together will face significant challenges in winning and retaining market share from here on. Successful customer service and retention hinges on the fast execution of digital operational excellence.