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Customer onboarding in a Covid-19 world

Updated: Sep 29, 2023

Move beyond digital facades on top of analogue systems to gain and retain customers

By Dirk le Roux, CEO at SprintHive

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted several glaring problems in most South African enterprise customer onboarding processes: while many may have digitised some parts of the process, they are not fully digital processes. Despite the fact that the onboarding process is an important introduction to the level of efficiency and care customers can expect, many enterprises still fall short when it comes to the onboarding experience. In many cases, enterprises have what are essentially digital façades on top of analogue systems. Customers might apply for a product on a digital application form, but behind the scenes, thousands of contact centre agents still complete time-consuming manual checks and data capture, with all the associated error and fraud risks. Customers are also required to download, print, scan, sign and submit reams of documents. The more onerous the process, the more potential customers are lost: Deloitte research reveals that at least 38% of customers drop out of the onboarding process, often as a result of frustration with the sheer volume of touchpoints, processing time and paperwork involved. Empirically, this is also true in the South African context whenever qualified applicants are asked to go away and come back with additional paperwork such as identification and proof of income.

During the pandemic, new trends are emerging that are making these traditional paper-based approaches to customer onboarding redundant.

Customers have quickly adapted to one-click digital transactions, and these behavioural changes are here to stay. With growing public concern about the risks of human-to-human contact, fewer would now be willing to undergo time-consuming processes that require presenting themselves in person for identity checks, document signing and product collection. The pandemic has changed the market, and financial services will have to follow. Amid economic constraints and increasing unemployment, financial services can expect a growing number of applications for credit. Managing these with fewer staff will increase risk and slow down processing. In addition, the agents who once handled verification, background checks and data capturing are no longer based in densely-populated contact centres. The time has come for all financial services to fully automate customer onboarding, using intelligent systems that reduce risk and minimise the routing of exceptional cases to manual processing. The technologies and methodologies are proven. Moreover, it is possible to transition in months, not years, without increasing risk or being held back by legacy systems and processes. Ordinary automation does little to prevent fraud – it simply reads and inputs characters. However, fully-digital systems harness more flexible workflow technology, artificial intelligence like machine learning and scalable cloud infrastructure to manage the bulk of the work and hand over exceptional or high-risk cases to agents. These systems detect fraud attempts and reduce risk by obtaining the necessary data from the source in seconds. For example, identity data is verified against multiple trusted sources including national information systems, bureaux and specialist data vendors; addresses are verified against multiple sources and fast income verification is conducted by analysing transactional bank account data to determine income and match that against declared amounts. All of these activities produce a granular set of fraud indicators for decisioning on routing to manual processing. Enabling customers to complete an omni-channel digital application process with all the necessary internal, regulatory, fraud checks and verifications in a matter of minutes greatly reduces drop-offs and risk in the process. Smart, automated customer onboarding not only attracts new customers – it helps enterprises retain its high-value existing customers. Traditional processes might not recognise existing customers and could make their experience in applying for additional products as cumbersome and frustrating as it is for new customers. In contrast, intelligent digital onboarding makes it quick and easy for them to transact with the enterprise, by creating bespoke digital customer journeys based on the various customer personas. The market has changed forever, and enterprises that make it easy for customers will be the winners that retain existing customers and acquire new ones. Intelligent, fully-digital customer onboarding is the only way to speed up and simplify the process for customers, while still remaining compliant and mitigating risk.


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